Freelancing is a career choice that is often considered a labor of love. Clients are flaky and exploitative at their worst; accommodating and communicative at their best. Have you ever invoiced for a project you completed months ago without receiving payment? Were you able to follow up without the residual sinking feeling that you didn’t sound too demanding?
This is an issue many have encountered, but few have found ways to combat. Because over 70% of freelancers encounter tardy payment at some point in their career, you can never be too safe when rehearsing what to do in the likely case that you, too, will experience this.
One must remember that the representative that they are emailing with re: the project is inevitably dealing with a behind-the-scenes process we often forget about. The person commissioning your work has to go up the chain of command in order to approve your final product (with art directors, editors, etc.), and then rendezvous with accounting in order to get you paid. This is no excuse for delayed payment, but it does explain why there is so much room for error.
So how can you, a lowly freelancer, follow up without biting the hand that feeds? Of course you want to avoid sounding like a complete and total jerk asking for the money that you are owed in exchange for your goods and services! You’ve proven you’re capable of doing a kick-ass job on the project, but now it’s time to prove that you truly deserve compensation by being diplomatic and tactful.
Here are a few simple suggestions that will save you from months of waiting forlornly by your email box for a direct deposit that may never come.
1. Deliver a note via carrier pigeon
Pigeons are basically doves with a work ethic, just like the modern freelancer. Your client will appreciate your commitment to tradition through this laissez-faire homage to capitalism.
2. Send them an Edible Arrangement
There’s nothing classier and more un-intimidating than a beautiful assortment of cubed fruits. Be sure the card doesn’t focus on the invoice, but merely mentions it as if it were an afterthought. Close with “best” even though you’re hoping karma will make its rounds.
3. Say it in skywriting
It seems like an aggressive tactic, but it’s kind of romantic, isn’t it? When the big boss looks out from their corner office and sees your imaginative request for payment, they will surely whip out their checkbook. Who knows, maybe they’ll ‘gram it and you’ll gain a reputation for being the creative who invoices with chemtrails. That would be neat – the exposure may even get you paid on time in the future!
4. Hire a barbershop quartet to sing “Please compensate me for my work, I’m not going to make rent this month”
Though the message is somewhat dark, the wrinkly old men with their cute little hats will be sure to charm even the greediest of clients. This should be a last-ditch effort for when it begins to feel like you’re being ignored by a Tinder date as opposed to a professional associate. Though at the end of the day, several unanswered emails is equivocal to being ghosted.
5. Rent a blimp
You’d be surprised to learn that there are only 20 to 25 blimps in the entire world, so in order to successfully carry out this mission you definitely need a connect. If you do have the social capital to pull this one off, the client will know and they will be impressed.
6. Send them a “Bag of Dicks”
This one might get you blacklisted from the industry entirely, but it also might be the most satisfying option.
7. Write a vague ultimatum
Let’s face it, you’re probably not going to choose any of the aforementioned methods. Instead, you’ll craft a succinct email that alludes to the possibility of “contacting your lawyers,” even though you and your client both know you can’t afford one. You’ll blast out the message into the WWW ether, say a little prayer (even though you’re spiritual, not religious), and promise yourself to require a deposit next time.