Not Getting Paid for Work You Have Done? Tips for Freelancers

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Getting paid as a freelancer is essential for several reasons. Unlike traditional employees, freelancers rely on multiple clients and projects for their income, making timely and accurate payment crucial for their financial stability and professional success. Here are some reasons why getting paid is important for freelancers:

  • Financial stability: As a freelancer, your income is directly tied to the projects you complete and the clients you work with. Ensuring you get paid on time and accurately is critical for maintaining financial stability, covering living expenses, and planning for the future.
  • Cash flow management: Freelancers often have variable income, making cash flow management a vital aspect of their financial health. Timely payments help freelancers manage their cash flow, pay bills, and invest in their business, such as upgrading equipment or pursuing professional development opportunities.
  • Professional reputation: Receiving timely payments from clients reinforces your professional reputation and credibility. It signals to potential clients that you are a reliable and trustworthy service provider, which can lead to more projects and better opportunities in the future.
  • Resource allocation: When you receive payment for your work, it enables you to allocate resources to other aspects of your freelance business, such as marketing, networking, or expanding your skill set.
  • Work-life balance: Timely payments can help freelancers achieve a healthier work-life balance by reducing financial stress and allowing them to focus on their personal lives, hobbies, and self-care.

Why Freelancers Don’t Get Paid

Freelancers may not get paid for various reasons, some of which stem from an imbalance of power between the client and the freelancer, the nature of traditional payment methods, and the way in which organizations manage their freelance workforce.

One reason freelancers may not get paid is that the client holds too much power in the working relationship. In some cases, clients may feel that they can take advantage of freelancers, who often work independently and do not have the backing of a larger organization. This power dynamic can lead to clients withholding payment, delaying it, or underpaying freelancers for their work. Clients might lack the motivation to prioritize payments to freelancers, as their primary focus could be on their own business and financial goals.

Traditional payment methods can also contribute to the problem of freelancers not getting paid. These methods often require initiative from the client, which can lead to delays or non-payment if the client is not proactive. For example, a client may need to manually initiate a payment via bank transfer or write a check, which can be easily postponed or forgotten.

Another risk for freelancers is doing work based on the promise of future payments. Sometimes, clients may ask freelancers to complete additional work or extend the scope of a project with the assurance of payment later on. While a contract might seem like sufficient protection, enforcing it can be challenging, time-consuming, and costly, especially for freelancers who may not have the resources to pursue legal action.

To mitigate these risks, freelancers should establish clear payment terms and expectations with freelance clients upfront, including milestones, invoicing schedules, and late payment penalties.

Key Steps to Make Sure That You Get Paid as a Freelancer

Freelancers can take the following measures to ensure they get paid.

Vet the Clients

Freelancers can vet clients before taking on assignments by conducting a background check through the following steps:

  • Research the client or company: Use search engines and social media platforms to gather information about the client or their organization. Look for a website, online presence, and any reviews or testimonials.
  • Check their reputation: Search for feedback from other freelancers or professionals who have worked with the client. Online forums, freelance job boards, or social media groups can be valuable resources for gathering insights.
  • Verify contact information: Ensure the client’s contact details are legitimate, including their email address, phone number, and physical address.
  • Request a work agreement: Ask for a written agreement or contract outlining the project scope, payment terms, deadlines, and any other relevant details.
  • Assess communication: Gauge the client’s responsiveness, professionalism, and clarity during initial interactions to determine if they are trustworthy and reliable.

By following these steps, freelancers can reduce the risk of working with unscrupulous clients and help ensure a more positive working relationship.

Only Work with a Signed Contract

Having a signed contract is crucial for freelancers because it serves as a legally binding agreement between them and their clients, providing protection and clarity for both parties. Here are several reasons why signed contracts are essential:

  • Clear expectations: A contract outlines the project scope, deliverables, deadlines, and payment terms, ensuring that both parties understand their responsibilities and expectations.
  • Legal protection: In case of disputes or non-payment, a signed contract serves as evidence of the agreed-upon terms, making it easier to enforce your rights or pursue legal action if necessary.
  • Avoiding misunderstandings: Contracts help prevent miscommunication or misinterpretation of project details, reducing the likelihood of disputes and fostering a more harmonious working relationship.
  • Professionalism: Presenting a well-drafted contract demonstrates your professionalism and commitment to the project, which can enhance your reputation and credibility as a freelancer.
  • Financial security: Contracts stipulate payment terms, including milestones and deadlines, helping freelancers secure timely compensation and avoid potential financial losses due to non-payment or project cancellations. 

Get Partial Payments Upfront 

Requesting upfront payments, such as a 25% or 50% deposit, can help weed out bad clients by ensuring a financial commitment from the client before work begins. This demonstrates the client’s seriousness and willingness to invest in the project. 

Clients who are hesitant or refuse to provide an upfront payment may be more likely to delay or withhold payment later on, posing a financial risk for freelancers. By establishing this payment structure, freelancers can filter out potentially unreliable clients and focus on those who value their work and are prepared to pay for it promptly.

Track Your Working Hours

Using a time tracker to record work hours is beneficial for freelancers for several reasons:

  • Accurate billing: Time tracking ensures that clients are billed accurately for the hours worked, preventing undercharging or overcharging, and promoting transparency in invoicing.
  • Productivity analysis: By recording work hours, freelancers can analyze their productivity, identify patterns, and pinpoint areas for improvement, leading to better time management and increased efficiency.
  • Accountability: Time tracking holds freelancers accountable for their work, helping them stay focused and disciplined, ultimately leading to better project outcomes. 
  • Client communication: Sharing time tracking data with clients can instill confidence, demonstrating that the freelancer is organized, professional, and committed to delivering the project on time and within budget.

Set Shorter Invoice Timeframes

It is important for freelancers to have short timeframes for receiving invoice payments to maintain a steady cash flow and minimize financial risks. Setting a shorter payment period, such as 7 or 14 working days instead of the standard 30 days, can offer several advantages:

  • Improved cash flow: Shorter payment terms ensure that freelancers receive payments more quickly, helping to cover ongoing expenses and maintain financial stability.
  • Reduced risk of non-payment: Prompt payment deadlines can deter clients who may be more likely to delay or withhold payment, minimizing potential financial losses.
  • Enhanced client commitment: The terms signal the importance of timely payments and can encourage clients to prioritize settling invoices.
  • Quicker dispute resolution: If any issues or discrepancies arise, they can be addressed and resolved more swiftly, ensuring smoother project progress.
  • Better financial planning: Receiving payments more frequently allows freelancers to plan their finances more effectively, making it easier to allocate funds for business development, taxes, and personal expenses.

Give the Clients an Easy Way to Pay

The payment mechanism should be as frictionless as possible to avoid delays and allow clients to fulfill their payment obligations easily. Freelancers can make it easier for clients to pay by offering multiple, convenient payment options and leveraging popular payment platforms and transfer applications. This flexibility can improve the payment process, increase client satisfaction, and ensure timely payments. Some methods to consider include:

  • Payment platforms: Utilizing widely-used platforms like PayPal, Stripe, or Square allows clients to pay using their preferred method, such as credit cards, debit cards, or direct bank transfers. These platforms often have built-in invoicing systems that facilitate payment tracking and reminders.
  • Transfer applications: Services like Ria Money, TransferWise (now Wise), and Remitly enable clients to send payments quickly and securely, especially for international transactions where currency conversion and lower transfer fees may be important considerations.
  • Mobile payment apps: Freelancers can accept payments through popular mobile payment apps like Venmo, Cash App, or Zelle, making it convenient for clients to pay directly from their smartphones.
  • Flexible invoicing: Creating clear, professional invoices with various payment options and easy-to-follow instructions can simplify the payment process for clients.


In conclusion, not getting paid for work can be a significant challenge for freelancers. However, by implementing the right strategies and safeguards, freelancers can minimize the risks of non-payment and maintain a healthy cash flow. 

Key tips include vetting clients before accepting projects, always having a signed contract, requesting upfront payments, using time tracking tools, setting shorter invoice payment terms, and offering convenient payment options for clients. By following these recommendations, freelancers can better protect themselves, foster stronger client relationships, and enhance their professional reputation, ultimately leading to a more successful and fulfilling freelance career.

Also Read: The Reasons for Hiring Freelancers: A Guide for Businesses



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