Are you waiting for a check right now? Here’s a guest post from a freelance User Experience consultant who has waited too long, too often, for clients to pay. Happens to be my brother.


By Chris Kania

I never understood the logic of doing work for a large company, and then waiting 30 days to get paid.

I am one person. My clients are BIG companies, with lots of people, assets and financial resources. Why do I need to extend 30 days of credit to a big company? Or 45 days of credit? Or 60 days?

Fortunately for freelancers, this 30-day crap may be going the way of the typewriter and fax machine. Most of my clients over the last couple of years have been 15-day payers, and a few 7-day payers.

When companies call me for hourly consulting work, I explain my 7-day terms. Usually, the more nimble, smarter companies agree to pay on my terms. They get my best work.

The stodgy old-line companies start hemming and hawing about “30 days is our company policy.”

To those companies, I politely say  ”I’m not your guy.”

Am I stupid to be turning down work? I don’t think so. If my clients can’t meet my terms, they are not my market, not viable clients.

Worse yet, 30-day payers don’t actually pay in 30 days. Their “goal” is to pay 30 days, unless day 30 happens to fall on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday. Or, they simply MAIL the payment on day 30, and it arrives on day 35.  And then you deposit the check, and the bank hold the funds for a number of days.

Some younger, smarter companies have figured out that it’s more efficient to hire freelancers than to take on staff. Which is good. And many have figured out that the faster they pay, the better the work, the more responsive the freelancer. And they get their pick of the top talent.

If I have a choice between two projects, one that pays in 10-days, and one that pays in 45 days, it’s a no-brainer. And in my book, the 45-day company is not really a customer of mine anyway.

The infamous “Net-30 days” needs to die. Do your part. Just say no.


Counterpoint and commentary:

No argument here.

Better yet, let all clients pay in cash, upfront, before we begin.

Sure, that will be the day.

Problem though. What if you don’t have a choice?

What if your biggest, most profitable, or only markets are thirty-day, or 45-day laggards? Like big publishers, big marketers, agencies, government organizations?

A bunch of us freelancers standing resolutely with arms folded and shaking our heads ‘no’ won’t change a thing.

What to do:

1.  If the company pays only in 30 days, or 45 days, your fees go UP. To do 1000 worth of work in March, to get paid in May, it’s 1500. Or more.

2. Set yourself up to take credit cards. Like through PayPal, or others. (Slight pain in the ass.)  Because sometimes, not always, some executives can ‘expense’ certain types of work directly on a company card, usually for less than $1000 or so here in the states.  You get paid right away.  Worth a try.

3. Tell your client that you ‘customarily’ submit the invoice when you begin the project. That can take a week or two off the payment cycle, compared to waiting until you’re done.  It’s a week to do the job, a few days in review, a few days for fixes. First-time clients might not agree, until they know you will deliver.

This has been going on for centuries. Pope Julius was reportedly slow in paying Michelangelo his ducats for painting the Sistine Chapel.

But Michelangelo got the best of him anyway. Millions of people have been awed by the Ceiling. No one remembers that Pope.