Freelance work is a great way to supplement your funds especially when you have a regular 9-5 job.
Some even decide to go freelance full time when their loyal clientele has grown too huge to manage on a part-time basis.
Becoming a freelancer, however, comes with risks, including not getting paid by your client. Here are some ways you can avoid this scenario.
Choose Risk-Free Certified Freelance Sites
When you’re just starting out as a freelance writer, choose reliable sites that are risk-free and have earned a good reputation among other freelancers. You can start small on sites like fiverr.com , where all sorts of services are being offered, at the starting price of $5. If you want to flex your creative muscles more and find out if you have naming skills, pickydomains.com  is a good place to start practicing.
You can also try elance.com  and odesk.com  for your first freelance work. A word of warning though, expect starting rates to be low since you are starting from square one and also because Elance and Odesk are sites where you bid to work on a project. The lower the bid, the better the chances that you will be chosen by the client. But when you gain experience and your reputation grows, you can gradually increase your rates and demand higher pay for your quality work.
As your client list grows, some will try to get in touch with you outside of the freelance site where you first made contact. This is a boon for you since you’ll no longer need that site to act as a middleman and take a percentage of your earnings. You can receive your full professional fee straight from your client. The only downside to this is the chance that you might not get paid for the work you do.
Many a freelance friend of mine has experienced frustration at a client’s nonpayment. I often read Facebook statuses lamenting this fact. So how do you protect yourself from this scenario? Having a formal agreement or an e-contract will help clearly define the terms and conditions of the project at hand. Here are other things that you need to define in your business contract.
- Project Description
Here, the project will be described including the coverage and duration. To be more thorough, you can present a project plan that will detail the weekly/daily actions you will take in order to finish the work in the required span of time. You may or may not include the project cost breakdown but it will help you be more transparent to the client and offer a guide on the services you provide in a particular package.
- Payment Scheme
Your contract must contain a feasible payment scheme. The most common method which my friends–and myself included–have used is the 50-50 installment pay. Fifty percent of the agreed fee serves as down payment and triggers the beginning of the project. The remaining half will be paid once services have been finished and the goods have been delivered.
Another popular term of payment is 50-25-25. Fifty percent will be paid upon project approval and 25% will be given after 14 working days. The remaining balance will be paid upon presentation and final approval from client.
A Few More Reminders
A contract, even if it is the electronic kind, is legally binding. Both you and the client are accountable to the terms and conditions of your agreement. If you don’t deliver on time as promised, the client will see that as a violation and can choose to pay you a lesser amount than the agreed fee. If the client fails to pay you even after you have delivered the final output, it is considered a breach of contract and you can choose to sue him or her. If you plan to file a complaint, consult legal advice on how to proceed. If you find lawyers expensive, you can avail yourself of prepaid legal plans  instead, which has affordable monthly rates.
Don’t be Hasty and Jump into Conclusions
If a client’s payment is delayed, don’t panic right away and plunge headfirst into legal action. Give him or her the benefit of doubt and some time to settle his remaining balance. You can send an email to follow up on the payment. Sometimes, clients are just busy and don’t have time to check their emails all the time. Maybe they recently had a health or family emergency.
If after repeated emails, they still do not respond, then you can consider legal action. You may send an email informing them of your intention and perhaps this will merit a faster response.
How do you protect yourself? Share your advice!