Getting paid as a freelancer means you’ll need to learn how to create and send invoices, follow up with payment reminders, and find the best apps and tools to help you save time. Learn the steps you need to take, PLUS my #1 tip on how to get paid as a freelance copywriter.
Getting paid as a freelance copywriter
If you’re used to living in the world of weekly pay slips and regular income – one of the big questions you might have when starting out on your own is how to get paid as a freelancer.
I’m a full time freelance copywriter, so getting paid on time is the difference between life being awesome, and life being a massive pile of 💩
There’s nothing more frustrating than not getting paid on time – or not getting paid at all. Even if you’ve had years of experience as a freelancer, this can still be a problem from time to time – but by having good systems in place for invoicing your clients, you can minimize this risk.
In this blog, I’ll be talking about my favourite online tools to make invoices and reminders quick and painless for both you and your clients, plus the best practices for getting paid on time.
The steps you need to take to get paid
The basic steps look like this:
- You and a client agree to work together
- You agree on a price
- You create and send your invoice
- You get paid (woohoo! money!)
If you get work through job boards and platforms like Fiverr or CloudPeeps, you don’t need to worry about getting paid, as these platforms will handle your payments for you, and the money will go straight to your nominated bank account.
How to create a freelance copywriter invoice
There are a few different ways you can create invoices for your freelance copywriting business.
I started with making my own invoices, but as I got busier I needed to save time and automate my invoicing and payment processes. Now I use an all-in-one platform called Bonsai which is much easier.
These involve typing out or creating your invoice from scratch, or from an invoice template. You can use programmes like:
- Google docs
When you use manual invoices, you need to keep a good record of:
- Projects you’ve completed
- Whether you’ve created an invoices for these projects
- Whether you’ve remembered to send the invoice
- Dates that you’ll send invoice reminders
- The date you go paid for every project
Once you’re in the swing of freelancing, it can be easy to overlook your invoices. Which means you don’t get paid. Which is not cool.
I’d recommend you start the way you mean to go on – with a tool that does all of these things for you!
The best tools and apps for getting paid
These are the three online tools I recommend for freelancers to create invoices and get paid on time.
When I started using them, I realized just how much time they saved me every week, and how much faster I was getting paid. I was also happy that I never had to create a manual invoice ever again 🙂
Using freelancer apps also makes you look like a serious professional writer to your clients!
Hello Bonsai (or Bonsai for short) is what I currently use in my business to invoice my freelance clients.
It also helps me create proposals and legal contracts quickly. Things that used to take me hours now only take minutes for me to prepare and send!
The dashboard is super simple to navigate, and it’s easy to get set up and start using it – even if you’ve never used apps like these before.
Bonsai has a free trial, so you can test it out and see if it’s right for your business.
It’s a popular app for freelancers, with 250,000+ users. Bonsai does a lot of research on their users, and on average the freelancers who use this app get paid 13 days faster than people who send manual invoices.
Who doesn’t want that!
And.Co lets you manage all your paperwork and invoicing free for your first client.
I used this tool for a couple of years until I found Bonsai. It’s a solid app, simple to set up and start using, and it’s a great first step if you’re looking to streamline your invoicing and payments processes. I loved how it showed you a tally of the invoices you’ve sent out for each month so you can see your business growing.
Freshbooks was the first invoicing tool I tried in my business when I was exploring freelancing tools online.
It’s both powerful and functional. You can create and send an invoice at lightning speed – which means your client gets the invoice faster…and can pay you faster.
But Freshbooks just didn’t feel like “me” somehow. Software can be like that sometimes!
Even though I decided this was not the best freelancer app for me, I recommend you take the free trial and see what you think.
It could just be the perfect app for your business.
Decide how you want to get paid
The benefit of being a freelancer is that you can get paid by anyone from anywhere in the world, often in a matter of minutes.
I travel full time, and work with freelance writing clients all over the USA, Europe, and the UK. So I need to make sure they can easily pay invoices to my New Zealand bank account (which is where I’m from).
Luckily with all the online banking and finance apps and tools around – this is super easy, and there are a few options for you.
You can offer one of these, or all of these, as payments options. You’re the boss now, so it’s up to you!
Bank or wire transfer
Clients can pay straight into your regular bank account with a wire transfer. All you need to do is include your bank details on your invoice somewhere.
If your payments are coming from outside the country where you live (or pay your tax), make sure you include the relevant Swift/Bic code or routing number on the invoice. You can find these details online by searching for things like “[your bank] + international payment details”, or “[your bank] + swift bic codes”.
The downsides to wire transfers is that they can be slow, plus they can incur extra fees for transfers and currency exchange.
Make sure you check what your bank’s fees are if you’re receiving overseas payments, so you can budget for the amount that actually lands in your bank account when you get paid.
Formerly known as Transferwise, Wise is my absolute favourite app for getting paid as a freelancer.
This is because:
- It’s fast!
- It’s got lower fees than any other payment method
- The currency exchange rates are super low, which means you save money
- You can accept payment in multiple currencies
- Did I mention it’s fast?
Plus – it has a Mastercard debit card that you can use all over the world with your borderless account.
You can set up wallets in your account for individual currencies to avoid hefty fees at ATM’s and in store when you’re travelling. This alone has literally saved me hundreds of dollars over the last few years.
For clients to pay you with Wise, you just give them the bank account details that Wise generates for you in your chosen currency. The magic here is that you can set up bank accounts for yourself in multiple currencies.
Got a client in the USA but you live in Australia? Just click a button to get your own USA bank account. You get paid in USD, to your Wise USA account. Then you can click send, and have this paid out fast to your local bank in Australia, in your local currency – or, you can keep it in your Wise account to pay for things online or with your Wise debit card.
Whether you’re at home or on the road, it’s all too easy to leave your card in an ATM, at a store, or have it fall out of your pocket. We’ve all been there.
Wise’s handy mobile app lets you turn your card off when you need to. So whether you’re a bit paranoid about your bank account (like me), or you notice your card is missing, you can lock your card whenever you’re not using it.
Pro tip: If you use a debit card and travel – make sure you transfer only what you need onto your card for the day when you’re out and about.
Thieves are everywhere, and their tech is getting smarter. By keeping only a small amount available, if your card does get skimmed somehow, you’ll only lose a small amount instead of your entire (hard earned) bank balance!
This means that a client can pay you with just a couple of clicks using their credit card. It doesn’t get easier than that!
Stripe charges around 2% for this service – but it’s the fastest way to get paid.
You can choose to either wear this percent cost as part of doing business and getting paid as a freelancer, or factor it into your invoice amounts.
Stripe is my first choice for clients that want to pay by credit card. It’s fast, easy, and secure for them – and for you too.
Occasionally you’ll get a client who still lives in the last century and wants to pay you by check.
Whether you accept this or not is up to you, but I advise that you try and negotiate another method of payment if this comes up.
If you can afford these delays in your business, checks are okay, but only as a last resort if your client refuses credit card or wire transfers.
Getting paid by check as a freelancer means you need to wait for the check to arrive, take time to go to your local bank branch, then wait again for your funds to clear (this can be anything up to a month for an international cheque).
I only accept payment by check from one agency that I trust, and only because I’ve been working for them for a long time. They pay at the end of each month, the check takes around 3 weeks to get to New Zealand from the USA, and 21 days to clear into my account. A bit of a pain!
Why I DON’T recommend Paypal for getting paid
PayPal is literally my last option for payment. Their fees are pretty high, you need to wait days for your payment to show up, and you’re vulnerable to chargebacks.
A chargeback is where a client can request their money back through Paypal – for any reason. And once this happens, it’s almost impossible for you to get it back, because as a freelancer, your work is counted as an “intangible service”, and you’re not covered by any of Paypal’s policies.
Plus, you might end up with extra fees to pay for your inconvenience.
After hearing multiple horror stories about unreasonable chargebacks from fellow freelancers, I decided that PayPal was a big NOPE for me.
Tips for getting paid fast as a freelancer
Now you know how to create a freelance invoice, and you’ve seen the tools and apps I personally recommend for invoicing your clients, let’s look at some best practices to ensure you get paid quickly.
Find good clients
Finding clients that understand your value as a freelance writer or copywriter is essential. These people know that your work can help them grow their own business. They’re happy to pay you well, and quickly, for what you do.
Clients that don’t value freelancers as much will be much slower to pay you. And the harsh reality is they may never pay you at all.
I’ve had this happen to me a few times. The amounts were small, so it wasn’t worth getting a collections agency involved. After sending a few increasingly annoyed reminders to pay my invoices – I let them go and made it my mission to get better clients as my business grew.
Get a 50% deposit before you start any freelance writing work
Learning that I could get paid 50% up front before I started a project was a complete game changer in my business. It meant my cashflow actually started flowing instead of being random lump sum payments.
Most freelance writers charge a non-refundable deposit to their clients. This can be anywhere from 20% to 100%. But 50% is the most common, and the most fair to your client. It also means that you and your client both have ‘skin in the game’ to make sure a good job is done on their project.
You might feel uncomfortable asking for money in advance, but clients that hire freelancers are used to this. It’s common practice in the industry.
The only time I’ve found clients object to paying a deposit is if they’re new to hiring freelance writers, or they have no intention of paying you at all. Stand your ground and get a deposit! That way if you don’t get final payment for any reason – at least you got some money for your time and effort.
When you invoice for a deposit, make sure you state on your invoice that this is a deposit on the [summary of work you’re doing] and that the final amount is due when you hand over the finished writing.
And don’t forget to send that final invoice afterwards!
Exceptions to asking for a deposit
Agencies: they probably won’t pay you a deposit. This is normal, and nothing to worry about. I’ve never had a problem getting paid at the end of a project by an agency.
Retainers: you might ask for an initial deposit at the start of your agreement. Otherwise you’ll typically get paid each month until the retainer contract ends.
Trusted clients: you have a good relationship with these clients and know they’ll pay you when you complete the work.
Net 30, 60, and 90 payments
Some clients will pay you immediately after you send your invoice (these will rapidly become your favourite clients!). Other clients might pay within 7 days, 14 days, or one month. Always ask what your client’s payment terms are in their business so you know how quickly you can expect to get paid once you’ve finished the work.
“Net” payments are common, especially if you’re writing for agencies, so don’t let them put you off taking a job. You’ll just need to factor in this payment delay and budget accordingly.
“Net 30” means a client will pay you thirty days after your invoice date. For example, if your invoice is dated March 1 and your client’s payment terms are Net 30, then they will pay you on or before March 30.
Net 30 payment is the most common, but Net 90 does exist. And it’s horrific. I’ve been there once, and never again, honestly.
When you do work, and then have to wait 90 days to get paid for it, this can seriously impact your cashflow – especially if it’s a large project and you have no other freelance writing work going on at the same time to keep cash coming in.
This is why I recommend freelancers have several months of savings on hand at all times. It will help you cope with unforeseen payment problems like this.
What you need to include on your freelance copywriter invoice
My #1 tip for getting paid as a freelancer is: Make it as EASY AS POSSIBLE for your clients to pay you!
This means making your invoice clear and including all the necessary things your client needs to see. Depending what sort of clients you write for as a freelancer, your invoice might get sent straight to their accounts payable team. These people don’t know you, so you need to make sure they have all the details they need to process your payment quickly.
All your invoices need to include:
- Your name and address
- Your client’s name and address
- Your tax number
- The word “Invoice” at the top of the document
- A unique invoice number
- The date the invoice was created
- The payment methods you accept
- Your bank account or alternative details on how to pay you
- A summary of the work that you’re invoicing for
- The total amount due on the invoice (plus/including taxes if relevant)
- The due date for payment (I typically make my due date 14 days from the date of the invoice)
This is a ton of stuff to remember – which is why freelancer tools like Bonsai and And.Co make your life a lot easier. Most of these details are taken care of automatically by the app – all you need to do is select the client you’re invoicing, enter the work you’ve done, punch in the amount due, and hit send. So much faster!
Don’t forget to send reminders about unpaid invoices
Sometimes clients miss your invoice email. Or they get busy and forget to send it to accounts. Or it falls off the account team’s radar.
All of these things are normal!
It’s important that you follow up when you notice that your payment is taking longer than expected. Make sure you have a good system in place to remind you when to follow up on your invoices.
The freelancer apps above, like Bonsai, have built-in reminder systems. When you send your initial invoice, the app automatically starts sending reminders at regular intervals if a client hasn’t paid you. It’s another huge time-saver, and one less thing you need to worry about as a freelance writer.
Now you know how to get paid as a freelance copywriter
You’ve read about how to get paid as a freelance copywriter, and the best apps and tools I recommend to send invoices for your work, so it’s time to go and find those $$$ clients and put everything into practice.
Learning how to invoice and get paid on time for your freelance work is all part of creating the systems you need for your freelance business to grow and thrive.
If you’ve got more questions about getting paid as a freelance copywriter, leave a comment below 🙂
Rachael is a full-time digital nomad and freelance copywriter for B2B and SaaS companies. She’s worked with brands like Unbounce, Biteable, Datacom, Viddyoze, and Owler.