If you are looking to start a solo career or smooth out your income as an independent contractor, you may be wondering how to get paid as a freelancer.
Negotiating rates and finalizing payment will be a regular process, and it will improve your bottom line to optimize it at every stage.
While conversations about money can be difficult, if you want to go out on your own, you should know how to approach the topic.
Knowing how to advocate for yourself and staying organized will help you stay compensated for your work. Plus, it will help maintain a healthy relationship between you and your client!
But, what exactly does that process look like?
This article covers everything you need to know about how to get paid as a freelancer, including invoicing software, online payments, and making sure you get paid for your work.
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How Do Freelancers Get Paid?
First, let’s talk about the timeline. Freelancers can get paid in a variety of ways.
Freelancer Payment Schedules:
- Pay immediately upon project completion
- Regularly scheduled invoicing (biweekly or monthly)
- Pay every week based on hours worked
- Pay a flat retainer fee every month
This is one of the first conversations you’ll have with a new client. Ideally, it isn’t something you work out on a case-by-case basis. You should have a well-established format that maintains a consistent income.
Second, let’s talk about rates and expectations.
It’s a good idea to come up with a list of your services and their costs. At the very least, you should know the range of your abilities and their price tag. This way, clients know what to expect.
Without knowing your rates and setting expectations both for yourself and the client, you open yourself up to miscommunication. If you have to negotiate every bit of work you do, you’ll waste valuable time and always have income uncertainty.
Every freelancer agreement is different. Retainer pricing, for instance, is a bit different from on-time or as-needed pricing, so be sure to set clear parameters and expectations.
Even though you have options, getting paid as a freelancer is similar to getting paid in other jobs. Your client should pay you according to your payment plan and method.
Most of the time, you’ll need to set up a freelancer invoicing system.
How to Invoice as a Freelancer
Dealing with unpaid invoices is extremely frustrating. Before you start closing deals with clients, you should have an invoicing process in place.
Some freelancers just send an email with the balance owed. While convenient, this is not necessarily effective or enforceable. When planning out how to get paid as a freelancer, it is best to maintain an invoice template, where you can detail your services and costs.
When you send an invoice as a freelancer, here are some things to include:
- The balance that is owed to you and a breakdown of the completed work. Some clients want this itemized by hours, tasks, charges, etc. Depending on how you set rates and what you bill for, there should be some detail about the work you have completed.
- A payment timeline so that the client knows exactly when to pay you. This due date is important, and you should set a precedent of enforcing it from the outset. If they don’t pay, say, in 14 days, you should send a follow up message or reminder. It’s essential for them to pay you on time everytime.
- Payment terms, including penalties. This could be a late payment fee or a hold on providing services. During the early, honeymoon stage with a new client, you may think you don’t need this… until you do. It is just best to put it in black and white so that there is no confusion and you know that you are covered.
Freelance Invoicing Software
Invoicing software can help you keep track of what your clients owe you.
With invoicing software you can set up automatic billing and set unpaid invoice reminders. This way, you don’t have to do the heavy lifting.
Here are some methods of freelance invoicing:
Check The Fees!
Check the fees, both per transaction and monthly, before you activate any of these. While freelance invoicing software can be helpful, it is important to research how much you’re paying for the convenience.
It can be uncomfortable to ask for money, but remember that even these conversations can be professional and courteous.
Ultimately, business and business.
Best Freelance Payment Options
When you aren’t paid by direct deposit, a whole world of alternative payment methods is available. Some freelance payment options are great, while some have tons of hidden fees or unforeseen logistical challenges.
While this may seem overwhelming, we are here to clear up the confusion. Take a look at some of the best ways to collect payments online:
Get Paid by Check Online
Did you know that you can get paid through a digital check? There are a bunch of digital check services that freelancers can use to get paid.
Paynote is one of the most popular forms of e-check collection. It is easy to set up and allows for quick and easy payment.
PayPal for freelancers also offers a digital check option. When your client goes to pay you, they can select the “eCheck” option. It works in the same way as a physical check, where the transaction will pend until it has cleared.
Many freelancers choose to get paid by check online for its ease and accessibility.
PayPal for Freelancers
If you are a remote agency or freelancer, then PayPal is probably one of your preferred payment methods. PayPal is a great way to collect payments from your clients anywhere in the world.
One of the reasons why so many freelancers use PayPal is because of its “request” option and built-in invoicing.
Using either of these features alleviates the discomfort of having to ask your client to manually send a payment. They can just click and pay the invoice through PayPal. As long as you follow your payment plan, then there should be no problem using PayPal requests for your clients.
PayPal takes 2.9% of the payment and 0.30 cents per transaction. While this may not matter to some, if you are transferring large sums of money then the percentage can quickly add up.
Upwork Payment Methods
Many freelancers, and now agencies, utilize Upwork to attract clients and apply for jobs. Upwork has a bad rap for fees, but it is a secure payment option.
Take a look at some of the different payment methods offered:
- Direct to U.S. bank: direct deposit from one bank account to another.
- Direct to local bank: direct deposit for Upwork to a bank account.
- PayPal: third-party payment method.
- Payoneer: transfer your earnings to a Payoneer Debit Mastercard.
- Wire transfer: international transaction from one bank account to another.
While Upwork payment methods do make it easy to get paid for your services, they take a big cut.
- 20% cut after $500 earned with a client
- 10% cut for lifetime billings earned with a client between $500 and $10,000
- 5% cut for lifetime billings earned with a client over $10,000
Although Upwork is convenient, the fee structure is a trade off.
How to Get Paid Online Without PayPal
If you don’t want to set up an account with PayPal, there are a few other payment options you can try:
- Venmo: This works similarly to PayPal, however, Venmo only takes a cut if you request a direct transfer to your bank account. There are no fees involved if you decide to do a regular transfer, but it may take 1-3 business days.
- Google Pay: This allows for money transfers to “family and friends” without a fee. Otherwise, there is a 2.9% fee.
- Skrill: Similar to PayPal and Venmo, though it is built for U.K. residents.
There are many other ways to get paid online without PayPal, but these are the most widely used.
Choosing a more popular payment method is ideal, since clients may not be willing to set up accounts with other platforms.
Transferwise is a digital wire transfer for international payments. It is an excellent way to send and receive payments from around the world. It also has surprisingly low fees.
Transferwise is a great option if most of your clients are international or if you are not living in the United States. Their low fees and worldwide accessibility are the main reasons it is popular among freelancers.
How to Make Sure You Are Getting Paid as a Freelancer
While we all want to think the best of our clients and hope that they will pay up when it is time, sometimes you need to put more effort into managing this business process.
An essential part of knowing how to get paid as a freelancer is advocating for yourself and your work.
There is no need to be uncomfortable asking for your pay. Here are some steps to take to make sure you are getting paid:
- Be upfront about how much your services cost. The last thing that you want is to provide a service, send an invoice, and find out your client was expecting a lower price. The cost of your services should always be one of the first things you discuss when client onboarding.
- Decide on a payment plan. You can either provide a payment schedule for your client or work with them to find what works best for both parties. Some freelancers request the first half of their payment upfront and the second half after the services have been provided.
- Write a contract. Type out a contract for yourself and your client to review and sign. This way, you have an easily accessible place to answer questions or handle disputes about payment.
- Remember –– you have the upper hand. While it may feel like your client is in charge, you are the one who is providing the services. You have the ability to charge as much or as little as you want. It is on you to come up with a plan that works best for you.
As a freelancer, you need to operate professionally and be a good judge of character. If you feel like a client is untrustworthy, it is probably best not to do business with them.
You Have The Power To Say No!
Your services are valuable and your client knows that — you can use this to your advantage and ensure that you get paid what you’re worth.
If you feel like you’ve reached the upper limit of what you can get paid as a freelancer, it’s time to think bigger. Starting an agency is the best way to scale your service-based business, attract higher-paying clients, and free you from the hourly billing cycle.
Read our answers to common questions about how to get paid as a freelancer.
Does Being a Freelancer Really Pay?
Your success as a freelancer depends on your work ethic and willingness to connect with clients. When you first start out as a freelancer, you’ll have to learn how to build a client base. It can be tough in the beginning when you only have one or two clients, but if you really work at it, you can become just as successful as someone working a traditional job.
How Much Money You Can Earn as a Freelancer?
The sky’s the limit when it comes to freelancing! Money may be tight to begin with, but you can earn big once you have a solid client base.
Some freelancers easily replace corporate incomes and, with the agency model, it’s not difficult to scale to six figures. If you put the effort in, you will reap the benefits.
How to Get Paid With a Credit Card as a Freelancer?
All you have to do to get paid with a credit card as a freelancer is set up an account with an online payment platform. PayPal and Stripe are examples of this, and you can invoice directly within the platform. With these payment methods, you can receive payments from any type of bank account, including a checking account connected to a credit card.
How to Get Paid as a Freelancer Without Fees?
The best way to collect payments online without fees is to use Venmo. This online payment tool allows you to transfer money into your bank account for free.
However, you do have to wait 1-3 days for the transfer to complete. If you are in no rush, this is an excellent way to receive payments as a freelancer.