How To Get Paid On Time As A Freelancer In 2022 and Beyond

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Arguably, one of the hardest parts about being a freelancer is knowing how to get paid. This is true especially if you’re an agreeable person or haven’t been in a sales or negotiation role prior to starting your freelancing journey. 

To make things a little more difficult, you’ll find that there is no right or wrong way to get paid and many different freelancers and solopreneurs have their own preferences. 

One thing is true though, you’ll reach a point where you have to ask for your first payment for your first freelance job. At that moment it’s good to have your process in place beforehand so it’s as smooth as possible. 

Or, if you’re already on your freelance journey but don’t like your current system of getting paid, know that you aren’t trapped. It’s never too late to make a change. 

So without further ado, let’s walk through how you can reliably get paid, on your own terms, every time. 

The challenges of getting paid

For those of you who haven’t started freelancing yet or haven’t got your first client, you may have accidentally stumbled upon this article and are thinking “why are they making such a fuss about payment, it’s simple right?”

Oh young padawan…I wish it were so. 

Yes, it’s true that some freelancers don’t have this issue. They might be using a platform like Upwork, or Fiverr where payments are pretty straightforward and the money is held in escrow for you by the platform until you’ve submitted a job and it gets deposited directly into your bank account. 

However, when you’re not using a platform to handle everything but the work, you’re going to have to handle the other aspects of getting paid. 

Here are some common challenges.

Scope of work misalignment.

One of the most consistent reasons I experienced and see other freelancers not getting paid for, is due to the scope of work not being clear or agreed upon. 

This can happen with or without a contract set up. 

The trouble is in the details, the fine print, the particulars, the…well you get where i’m going with this. When you don’t have every specific deliverable and sub deliverable scoped out, it will cause problems. 

Take a web designer for example. They tell a client they will “build them a website” to completion and launch for $1800. The freelancer thinks it is a sweet deal and won’t be too big of a lift since the client’s site only has 12 pages. That being said, a week before the project is set to launch, the client changes their business name and branding, requiring the web designer to effectively redo a good portion of the work. 

In this situation, does the web designer have the right to say no to the request? It depends. 

If the contract didn’t specify revisions or what would happen in the event of new branding, they are in a legal pickle. 


An invoice is an official notice for your client to notify them of work completed and payment due. It’s also how they will have a record of payment to serve as a receipt when you’re done. 

The challenge here can be both in sending the invoice itself and in the client paying. 

If you’re manually invoicing clients, a lot can go wrong. You might send the invoice to the wrong address, it might get lost in their inbox, or they might just forget to pay. 

Receiving payment

Most of your clients will probably like working with you. Most will also appreciate the services you deliver to them. However…

Almost none of your clients will want to pay you. 

At Least when they pay, they’ll want to take as long as possible and will almost certainly not make it a priority every billing period. Don’t be alarmed though, this is normal. 

Cash flow is queen when running a business, especially a larger business, so the financial department isn’t incentivized to spring into action or respond to your invoice payment requests. 

Some companies might also want to pay by check, which is a nightmare in and of itself. 

Payment timelines (Net30,Net60, Post submission payment, etc)

Not only is getting paid in the first place a challenge, but once a client has successfully paid their invoice, you’re going to be introduced to payment terms. 

What is that pesky little “Net” part you ask? 

Great question. It’s the amount of days that a client has to actually give you money that lands in your bank account after your invoice is due. 

You thought you were going to get paid right away huh?

It’s common for most companies, especially larger ones, to have Net30 and Net60 payment terms once you’ve invoiced them. 

You need to be extremely aware of these up front and plan accordingly so you don’t finish a bunch of work for multiple clients with these terms and end up in a personal cash crunch. 

Unpaid invoices

There will come a time when a client not only doesn’t want to pay you, but actually takes it a step further and doesn’t. 

Like, not by accident or out of neglect. 

These are the unforgivable clients and these situations are extremely rare. But you have to be prepared for this to happen to you at least once. 

Firms go out of business, people within the organization get fired, and life happens that takes the humans behind the business away from their work for long periods of time. 

Why getting paid reliably and on time is important

It seems like a no brainer, do work = get paid. In an ideal world, that’s exactly how things should work. 

However, it’s not always that smooth in reality. 

At the start of your freelancing journey, you might be tempted to be lenient on payment or some of the above friction points because you’re excited to be getting paid in the first place. 

I want you to strongly resist the urge to be amicable and overly understanding for not getting paid what you’re owed or what you’re worth. 

Of course things happen and you want to treat your clients and partners well, but you shouldn’t sacrifice your integrity for a few late dollars and cents. 

Here’s why. 

Your well being

The first and most important reason that you should get paid what you’re worth, reliably, and on time is because it’s good for your mental health and well being. 

Now hear me out on this…

It’s not all hippy dippy to say that. If you’re discouraged and burnt out because you’re stressing about your finances, you’re not going to last long as a freelancer.

Financial worries are consistently rated as one of the top sources of stress for Americans in particular. 

There’s already so many other factors that really need your best effort in freelancing. Not having to worry about your money coming in and getting paid shouldn’t be on that list. 

You’ll maintain higher work quality

Naturally, if you’re healthy, mentally and emotionally stable, you are going to have more energy to put towards every aspect of your life. 

That includes your actual freelance deliverables, aka the lifeblood of your business. 

If you aren’t getting paid regularly, or are worried about finances, your work can also suffer over time. It’s possible that you’ll start to subconsciously develop resentment for the devious non-payers and that could show up in your work as well. 

The projects will be smoother

You know what doesn’t help a project go smoothly? 

Not getting the money you’re owed. 

Ultimately, spending time going back and forth with clients, debating on what is owed to you, or halting work takes a toll on the efficiency of the project implementation. 

When you have a clear payment structure, you get to do better work more quickly. 

How to get paid properly for you hard work 

Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for. 

Here are the most useful strategies to get paid properly for all of your hard work. 

Something that you should all strive for from the first moment you start freelancing and do any work. 


Because you deserve it, that’s why. Let’s dive in. 

1. Have a crystal clear contract

The first and most crucial step to getting paid for your brilliance is to have a cast iron contract in place. 

This is a simple step, but not always one that every freelancer abides by in their early stages. 

A verbal confirmation, an email, a handshake. These are all nice, but are not substitutes for a proper contract and scope of work. 

You don’t create and sign a contract to put shackles on yourself or your client. It’s not for you to be greedy and trick them. The contract is for both of you to think of the worst case scenarios, talk through them, and agree what you want to happen in each case. 

If all goes well, you won’t even have to invoke or use the contract. 

Here is an excellent free contract template just for freelancers from the good folks over at Pandadoc (who I use for all of my agreements”.

I’m not a lawyer and can’t give legal advice, but here are most crucial elements of my service agreements that ensure I get paid every time:

  • Each deliverable broken out in the scope of work with exact quantities listed
  • Timeline of implementation 
  • Limitations, revisions, or special considerations for each deliverable
  • Service level agreements for each portion of the work and what is expected of me and the client 
  • Clear description of what happens when payment isn’t made in agreed upon time frame or other breach of contract happens
  • Payment schedule 
  • Signature directly underneath scope of work, payment terms, and overall document to reinforce understanding

2. Get paid half or full cost up front

The second most important consideration here is for you to get paid up front. 

Yes, get paid before you’ve done any work at all. 

This concept tends to be the hardest for most new freelancers because they are used to working at a job where you get paid after doing days and weeks of work. 

Your mentality shift should be that you’re now the business and need to look after your own revenue, profit, and cashflow, just like your previous employer. 

A simple and fair way to handle this aspect of payment is by requiring 50% of your project payment upfront (and written in the contract) and 50% upon completion of the project. 

Or if you produce deliverables regularly, like ongoing blog content, you can request payment up front each month for the upcoming month’s work. 

If this is scary to you, don’t worry, new things are always uncomfortable. But rest assured that this is a normal way to operate and most clients aren’t going to blink an eye at those terms. 

If they do, that might be a red flag and a reason not to work with them in the first place. 

3. Use automated invoicing and follow ups

A simple but effective way to make sure that your invoices are paid is to follow up. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking “Ken, that’s all well and good, but I don’t want to be annoying…” 

To that I say, I understand where you’re coming from. We are conditioned that way and socialized to believe that following up is a bad thing, and in the real world, it  can be. 

That being said, this is business and if you’re dealing with a busy businessperson a follow up might be welcomed with open arms. 

The easiest way I’ve found to improve your rate of invoice payment is through automated invoicing and automated follow ups. 

There are two main ways you can do this:

  • If you have two total payments, schedule your  email or invoicing software to send out the invoices on set dates so you don’t forget. Same with three, four, or monthly recurring payments. 
  • Send follow ups at set periods to your clients. One can be a 3 day reminder of an upcoming invoice, a 3 day reminder after it’s been sent, or even weekly follow ups. That’s up to your preference and knowing your client. 

4. Give discounts for clients who keep CC or ACH on file and charge directly

One easy way to ensure that payment comes swift in the night (or daytime) is to negotiate better pricing with clients for favorable payment options from them. 

If you tell your clients that you’ll give a $150 discount if they keep a CC or ACH (direct bank transfer) on file, and discuss clear withdrawal terms, then when payment is due, it will be automatically withdrawn at the agreed upon time. 

Simple right?

Despite so many services and products that we use in our day to day life using this method, freelancers are often hesitant or uncomfortable with doing the same. 

To you I say, don’t be. It’s normal and can be a win-win for both you and the client. 

5. Sync up with the client’s accounting to reduce delays

Sometimes your client isn’t trying to be the worst when they are late to pay or forget to pay. 

In the case of larger organizations with a CFO and a controller they will have certain days when money goes out of their accounts or certain days they review all invoices from vendors. 

So it’s wise to ask about this at the start of your project before you get started and before the contract is signed. 

If you  can sync up with their accounting practices and payment schedule from the start, you’ll reduce the time and effort you spend chasing down invoices or following up with their finance department. 

6. Be direct and firm if clients are not paying and don’t work until the money comes in

The last and extremely important strategy might be hard for some of you, but it’s so crucial.

You’ve got to be direct with someone when they haven’t paid or aren’t paying you. It’s not rude, and you’re not being pushed to ask for what is owed to you. 

In  fact, not only should  you be upfront with them not paying and needing your money, you should halt work if payment is past due beyond the agreed upon grace period.

This ensures that you’re using your time effectively for paying clients but also doesn’t completely end the relationship if they are taking abnormally long to pay but still plan on paying. 

Best software for invoicing and receiving payment as a freelancer

At this point you’re a professional payment requester and collector. 

Congratulations, truly. 

The next step in your journey is to utilize tools and processes to make getting paid even easier for both you and your clients. 

A great way to do that is by using the following software. Each of these has an industry wide reputation as being tailored to the unique needs of freelancers and small business owners. 

When you’re ready, choose the one that best matches your needs. 

1. Freshbooks


Price: $15/month

Best for: Freelancers who are new to payments and invoicing management who want a simple and intuitive accounting interface from an industry trusted brand. 

2. Wave



  • Invoicing & Accounting: Free
  • Payments – 2.9% of transaction amount + 60¢

Best for: Freelancers who need to send out invoices before they are ready to buy a software or if you’re receiving payment via check. 

3. Bonsai


Price: $24/month

Best for: Freelancers who want to manage invoicing and payments along with other non accounting tools in one place (time tracking, contract management, etc).

4. Bonus: Stripe


Price: 2.9% of transaction amount + 30¢

Best for: Freelancers that want to create their own platform or scale financial operations with programmatic billing. 

Ken Marshall

Ken Marshall is the Founder of Best Freelancer Tools as well as a husband, former freelancer, recovering foodie, mini Australian shepherd puppy dad, and serial entrepreneur (mostly failures, lots of lessons). He is passionate about helping others achieve their full potential.