How to Gently Push Clients Without Being Annoying

Chasing down clients for needed information can be a touchy situation. Most freelancers feel awkward about pressuring clients to move things along or pay that overdue invoice because we don't want to seem pushy or annoying.  These situations are usually uncomfortable because we aren't sure how the client will react. But, this is business and you are entitled to the compensation for the work you carried out. 

Set expectations from the beginning

  • Don't use business jargon: Avoid using words like "net total" and just use "days" instead. Keeping it simple is usually a good idea.
  • Be nice: Being polite by saying "please" and "thank you" can go a long ways in helping push the payment process along. Showing appreciation should be something you do with every client. 
  • List late payment fees: Fees can vary from freelancer to freelancer. Some charge 2% every 30 days, some charge more. Whatever you feel is appropriate, just make sure you describe it in detail on the invoice or in an e-mail. You don't want to be threatening, but you need to set expectations and consequences for late payments. 
  • Invoice often, get paid often: The quicker you invoice, the faster you'll get paid. Try to invoice as soon as the work is completed so it's fresh in both your minds. Plus, most businesses cannot pay you until they have an invoice for their records. 
  • Describe all work completed in detail: If the client doesn't understand what they are being billed for, the less likely they are going to pay for it. Again, avoid tech jargon and breakdown your hours and associated tasks. 

Don't feel awkward about it

You're looking out for yourself. Nobody likes to ask for money, but when you have bills to pay, this is necessary to keep your business running smoothly. Generally when things go off-track during the course of a project, it's due to miscommunication. And for whatever reason, the client hasn't informed you of when payment will be made or they haven't sent over content for the website which is 3 weeks behind schedule.

First step is to contact them after a week to gently remind them of what you need. Another week, another e-mail. You want to make sure you get progressively get more aggressive with each e-mail and remind them that deadlines are a mutual agreement between both parties. 

Being pushy in these situations can be tricky, because sometimes things happen that are out of your control. One thing I recommend is try to have more than 1 contact at the company you are doing business with. In the weird scenario that your contact falls off the face of the earth, at least you have a backup you can reach out to to hopefully get some answers or to pay your final invoice. You want to be patient and persistent, but not annoying to the point where your client gets turned off.

In the rare and extreme case where the client refuses to pay or agree to your deadlines, it may be time to get external help (such as a collection agency) or to fire the client altogether. But most often, if the client has invested time and money into the project, they are likely to respond after a little push.