Thousands of modern professionals are embracing the freelancer lifestyle with each passing month, yet many long-time corporate professionals are grappling with first time workplace independence. Some struggle when it comes to invoices, client communications, and keeping track of billable hours.
Many freelancers have worked tirelessly only to discover that they kept an improper tally of the hours they’d been working. As a freelancer it’s important to know how to measure your time and worth.
What are your billable hours as a freelancer, anyway, and how can you guarantee you’ll be paid what you’re owed? Here’s how to approach billing your clients, and how professionals navigate payment crises whenever they arise.
Effective time-keeping is essential
The most important thing to understand as a freelancer trying to bill their clients is that effective time-keeping is essential if you want to get what you’re owed. After all, even close clients who you’ve been working with for a long time can’t just fork over huge sums of cash without verifying that you’ve put in the work.
That’s why you’ll want to closely monitor how you use your working hours, as having a written record that you can display to curious clients will help you avoid any hassles while ensuring you’re legally covered in the event of a serious dispute.
Freelancers who are foraying into the gig economy for the first time should understand that this means more than keeping track of things in your head. As a matter of fact, you’ll need a concrete schedule to call upon time and time again if you want to accurately record how you’re spending your time.
Whether you choose to record your hours the old-fashioned way by using pen and paper or whether you’ll opt for a more modern, digitized option is your choice. For tech-savvy freelancers who are open to the idea of using apps to catalogue their working hours, it’s worthwhile to review some reliable options, which many freelancers are already making use of.
Sometimes, however, an app alone won’t cut it. For freelancers who are forced to contend with jam-packed schedules, you’ll want dedicated software to keep track of your appointments, deadlines, and of course the billing schedule that ensures you get paid. Scheduling software comes in many shapes and sizes, but as long as you can easily navigate the software and back up your information, you can be content that you’ve found a reliable tool.
What’s billable and what’s not?
One conundrum that frequently frustrates freelancers, especially those who are working their first gigs, is which hours are billable and which aren’t. Furthermore, some freelancers are allotted expenses, so they can write off certain things like meals or travel costs if they’ve previously arrived at an agreement with their client.
Always ensure that you don’t stiff yourself, as freelancers who put in the work but don’t demand to be fully compensated aren’t likely to endure in the competitive marketplace for long. Similarly, clients who understand they can walk all over you and lowball you time and time again will seldom gain enough respect for you to entrust you with big, important projects that demand high quality work.
Time and time again, self-employed creatives undercharge their clients because they fear losing work to competitors. This leads many to consider getting a fulltime job, which is easy with the help of employment solutions. Often, it may simply be the case that the creative freelancers in question doubt their own abilities, particularly if they’re youthful entrants to the industry who haven’t yet gained crucial experience (and made a few lesson-teaching mistakes along the way).
In order to guarantee you’re getting what you’re owed, you’ll need to keep a clean record of the hours you spend producing content for your clients. Anytime you’re working in such a fashion that the client is benefiting financially from your hard work, you can bill them appropriately.
Never permit yourself to forget that time is money. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how close you are to any given client, as it’s not their responsibility to hover over your shoulder and ensure you’re billing them for every little thing you do. Rather, you need to present them with the work you’ve accomplished and clearly explain what you did and why it warrants your requested fee.
For some wanting to offer the best SEO company, that means showing them the difference you made in their search rankings. As long as you have a robust paper trail to rely upon and can prove that you really did the work, your clients will be more than willing to pay up when you bill them for half an hour of consulting or include your travel expenses in the invoice.
Know how to protect yourself
Finally, freelancers should understand that some less-than-ideal clients will attempt to stiff you no matter what. While the vast majority of businesses and entrepreneurs are happy to pay you for a hard day’s work, some disreputable businesses or shady individuals may attempt to steal your work or otherwise deprive you of credit.
Knowing how to protect yourself is essential, so don’t be afraid to brush up on some common sense tips that will keep you legally and financially secure in the face of a recalcitrant client.
Sending clean, easily-understandable invoices on a regular basis will help you in this regard, as clients will find it difficult to avoid paying you if you’re consistently billing them with evidence of your hard work attached to the invoice. If you’re spending time working for a client and find yourself producing valuable content or insights for them, don’t be afraid to bill them fairly.
Soon, you’ll discover that the freelancers who fairly invoice their clients consistently are the ones who succeed more often than not.