Being a video producer can be a really busy job. Not only do you have to juggle every aspect of shooting, editing, and delivering to your clients, you may also have to manage the business side of things. That means, making sure you get paid.
Sometimes getting paid is the hardest part of the job, but it doesn’t have to be. Use these tips to make getting paid easier, so you can spend your time producing great videos and not chasing clients.
Before we start, remember that these are just tips for helping the process along and should not be considered legal advice. If you feel like getting paid is a legal matter, contact a lawyer for the proper advice on taking action.
How to Get Paid on Time
1. Set the Terms
The most important step in making sure that you get paid for your work and on time is to make sure everyone knows the terms before you start.
Begin with a formal estimate or quote that gets approved in writing by the client. This way, there will be no confusion on what the project will cost and you’ll have proof that the client is aware.
In your estimate, set expected payment terms. This may include a percentage or flat amount paid upfront with the remainder due upon completion. Setting an amount to be paid upfront will ensure some payment, even if the client flakes at the end of the project, and it will give you more confidence to do the best job possible.
Discuss payment terms with the client to better understand their accounting process. Some clients can pay immediately while others might have to go through a 15 day or 30 day process, known as Net 15 or Net 30 before they can make payment. Knowing this upfront will help you better anticipate when payments should arrive and keep you from pacing the floors when your check isn’t there the next day.
Consider additional conditions in the estimate like a “kill fee” that will allow you to get paid a percentage if the project gets killed midway through, and terms outlining overages in the event that the project changes in scope or requires additional resources.
The more details the better, when you set terms. This will leave virtually no room for the client to complain or be surprised when the final invoice comes in.
2. Do Your Job
This may sound like a no-brainer, but one of the best ways to ensure you get paid is to do a job worthy of payment.
Once the project scope is set and everyone is on the same page, do the absolute best you can to deliver a product that not only meets but exceeds the client’s expectations.
Consistently check in with the client to make sure they are happy with the process and the results throughout the project.
Also, hit your deadlines. And if you have to miss a deadline because of changes or production issues, be in contact with the client as quickly as possible to explain and manage expectations. Most clients understand that things happen as long as they are informed and as long as they feel like you are doing everything you can.
Be polite, listen to the client, and try to make them feel like they are part of the process as much as possible. Making them feel involved will help them take ownership of the project and feel like you are partners.
If you don’t act professional, you are hard to work with, or you don’t deliver on time, clients will be less likely to make your payment important. They’ll have reason to argue the terms and make payment harder.
On the other hand, if you do everything you can to make a great product that they love, they’ll want to work with you again, and they’ll get you paid on time in order to keep the relationship in good standing.
3. Remove the Friction
Sometimes, getting paid on time comes down to making it easy for the client to pay you.
Don’t send a random e-mail requesting payment that may get lost or overlooked. At the very least, create a professional invoice template that can be easily printed and sent to the appropriate channels.
When sending invoices, ask your contact if there is a specific person in charge of “accounts payable”, meaning the person in charge of sending out payments. Copy them on invoice emails to make sure they get what they need.
Consider online invoice services that make sending and managing invoices easier. Services like Harvest, FreshBooks, Due, and Xero are just a few of the many online services that will help you generate and send out professional invoices. They also make it easy to remind clients of past due invoices and sometimes even handle payment.
As with the above point, make it easy for the client to pay you. If checks are hard to get or take too long, consider adding a credit card payment option for quick payment. Credit card services do charge processing fees, but it may be worth it just to get paid quickly and consistently.
You can set up credit card processing online with services like Stripe, Braintree, or PayPal. Many of these services integrate with the above invoice services, allowing clients to receive the invoice, and pay immediately through an online credit card link.
4. Know Your Client
Before beginning work with a new client, do some research on their background. Look them up online and try to gain insight on how large of a company they are. Look at their past and current clients or vendors for a frame of reference.
If you have any concerns, try to contact past vendors to ask about how the client was to work with and if they paid on time. Look for anything online related to complaints about their business practices or payment issues. Check their rating with the Better Business Bureau for further information.
The better you understand the background of the client, the more confident you can be starting work. If you aren’t sure about their ability to pay, incorporate the upfront charges, or set terms to deliver upon payment so as not to get stuck working for free.
Most clients understand business, and they don’t want to get a bad rap, but there are a few bad apples out there, so always do your research.
5. Use Your Leverage
In the vast majority of projects, work will go relatively smoothly, as will payment. But, if you run up against one of those bad apples that doesn’t make payment a priority, find your leverage in pursuing payment.
Start simply, with follow-ups and reminders. If you aren’t getting anywhere, try to contact a higher-up in the company that may be better suited to resolve the payment issue.
If you have a client that works with you over and over, but doesn’t pay on time, halt work on further projects until they get caught up. Sometimes, slowing down the next project will help them get on track. Don’t be rude or manipulative. Just let them know that you need to be paid in order to continue a healthy working relationship.
If you have files or assets that they want, but they haven’t paid, don’t give them the assets until they catch up. You have an agreement to deliver in return for payment, so make sure they hold up their end of the bargain.
In the worst cases, you may find it helpful to share your experience publicly for advice or to see if others have had the same experiences. But be careful not to say anything that isn’t true, or to say anything libelous in your statements. Remember, you want to solve the problem, not make it worse. Trash talking could put you in a bad legal situation or make it harder to get paid.
Getting paid on time and fairly is simply a matter of good communication with clients. If you do great work, set clear terms, and make payment easy, you’ll relieve a lot of the headache of collecting money and be able to focus on being a video creator or editor.