When you get paid should determine how much you charge.

Getting a dollar today is not the same as getting a dollar next month. Getting a dollar six weeks from now is like getting 75 cents, just because it’s irritating. (And, maybe because you had to use your VISA for the electric bill in the meantime.)

Sometimes we get to decide when we get paid. Those are good and satisfying days.

But often, client usually tells us when they will pay. And we are pretty much stuck with it. Especially when they are big companies or frequent buyers of our stuff. (So, we price accordingly.)

The general rule is:  Get paid sooner rather than later. (Duh.)

And the longer the wait for the money, the bigger the fee must be. This is a law of nature, mind you, and perhaps a law of physics as well.

So before we quote something for a new client, before we send a proposal to someone we haven’t worked with before, let’s find out what timescale we’re working on. Is this geologic time? Glacial? NASCAR?

Early in the conversation, probably by email, we do this. As if it is the most natural thing in the world.


I’ll be happy to work out a budget for you.

Just for reference. On projects like these, only half the fee is due when we start. The rest can be settled once your work is delivered and approved.

Is that okay with you? Let me know.

Yes. We start with the terms most favorable to us. Why not?  This way, the client might say, “Sure, that’s fine.”  Or they’ll have to say “Um, well, our company policy is to pay in invoices in XX days. And I can’t change that.”  They have to say “Do the work now, we’ll pay for it whenever.”

You can vary this, of course.

Just for reference. On projects like these, the fee isn’t due until ten days after the project is delivered.

I trust that is okay with you. Let me know.

Yeah, this puts the burden on the client to talk about their payment processes. Which are almost never flattering. They look like the pikers.

But their answers will tell you how to price this client.

“Sure, half in advance is fine. And half on delivery.”

The terms are good. The freelancer’s optimum. Use your base price.  Say $1000.

Um. . . I really have no way to do an advance payment, but we can probably settle this within ten days.”

Okay. I’m thinking 1130 now. Because 10 days is almost never 10 days, actually. There are a lot of smaller companies here. Maybe some big companies with special arrangements for contractors and freelancers. Maybe.

“Well we customarily pay freelancers within 30 days.”

Ah. This 1000 becomes 1250.  Just because. This is big-company baloney. Maybe universities. Some government agencies.

“Sorry. The company pays in 45 days. I really have no say about that.”

The ultimate suckage. We’re looking at 1425. Or more. This 45-day thing has been the bane of my career. Oddly, it’s the companies with the MOST money who delay the longest.

A $9 billion corporation getting free credit for 45 days, from me a lone freelancer. Sheesh.

So, we quote way up the ladder. $1425. 45 days is an eternity. We can breed chickens in 45 days. We charge like hell.

If we have to wait for checks, might as well wait for bigger ones.