All developers have experienced clients that procrastinate. When a client delays the delivery of content or login information, you can push them along because there’s something at stake for them – the completion of their website. When a client doesn’t pay you on time, the only leverage you’ve got is to suspend their website, provided you still have administrative access.

Late payments – or getting completely stiffed – is common in the freelance world. A recent Paypal study confirmed this, as 58% of freelancers in four major countries in Southeast Asia have experienced not getting paid. The reason? Clients don’t take them seriously as professionals.

The study conducted in Southeast Asia represents one small sample of freelancers, but the problem of not getting paid happens all over the world. Chasing down invoices online is difficult because emails and phone calls can be ignored.

The gig economy is growing, and clients want to tap into the buffet of talent available to them via the internet. That means freelancers need to step up their game.

You probably don’t want to resort to website suspensions and lawsuits to get paid, so here’s how to embody a level of professionalism that will get you paid on time:

Dress professionally at all times

You might work from home in your pajamas, but don’t show up to meet your clients in your PJs. Although a client may be casual in the way they speak with you, they could show up to your meeting in a suit and tie. If you’re underdressed, they won’t take you seriously and you’ll feel a bit awkward.

You may want to adjust your attire depending on the client you’re meeting with. For example, if your client is an artist, you can probably wear nice slacks and a button-down shirt, or jeans and a polo shirt. If your client works in the financial industry, wear slacks and make sure to wear a tie and jacket.

Make your paperwork professional

Whether it’s a contractual agreement, a work plan, or an invoice, your paperwork needs to be professionally formatted and branded.

Make sure your invoices are readable. Don’t just write a paragraph of text with a “total due” at the bottom. Create or get a professional template you can brand with your logo and customize to your needs. Fresh Books, a popular invoicing software company, offers free invoice templates designed to be easily read by the recipient. Unless you enjoy creating templates, it’s easier to download them.

Typography is a major element that makes a document look professional or not. Everything from line spacing, letter spacing, line height, and the space between paragraphs and headings matters. It only seems like minutia when you’re adjusting it, but to the human eye, sometimes a tiny adjustment makes all the difference.

Don’t undervalue your work

If you’re willing to develop an entire website for $300, you’re undervaluing your work. Even if you can build the client’s site in four hours, you’re undervaluing the asset you’re building.

If you didn’t go into business to provide charity designs, don’t discount your rates and fees for businesses that claim they don’t have a budget. If they didn’t have a budget for a website, they wouldn’t be talking to you.

Don’t brag about getting work done in super human record time

Every developer knows what it’s like to whip out a project in record time. Those projects are rare, so it’s probably not wise to tell your client about the time you launched a full website in four-and-a-half days.

Be wary of working for free (or little pay) for non-profits

When a non-profit organization asks you to build their website, they’ll probably want you to donate your time. Don’t believe for a moment that a non-profit organization doesn’t have money to pay you for your work. Most non-profit organizations have plenty of money to pay for services. Many simply want to get something for free.

It’s easy to find gigs for non-profits, but if you consistently build sites for non-profits without being paid what you’re worth, you’ll develop a habit of undervaluing yourself.

Be consistent from the beginning

Whatever your approach with clients, be consistent from the moment you first connect. If you’re on the dot for your 3pm consultation, make sure you’re precisely on time for all future calls. If you lay down the rules in your first meeting, don’t change them later. If you can’t help but change your rules, make sure the client understands you’re making a rare exception.

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