Not being paid on time clearly has an adverse effect on everybody but, unlike permanent employees, freelancers are usually much more at risk of unpaid or delayed invoices. The best way to avoid that happening to you is making sure you identify risky clients and taking measures to protect yourself in your dealings with them. How to protect yourself when dealing with risk clients will depend on what form those risks will take.
It starts with a simple enough project. Then there's a request for something else, small, to be added. Then another one. Then another one. By the time you notice that you should have said no the project is orders of magnitude more complex than what you are being paid to do and working overtime to meet the deadlines. While being flexible is a benefit of freelancers over big companies, being too flexible can cause clients not to take you seriously or take for granted that you will do any extra they ask for. The only way of avoiding this is by clearly documenting what is the initial scope of the project, and what is the procedure for any change. Every time there's a new request, document it explaining how it will affect the scheduling and budget of the project, and make sure the client understands that. If you still want to go ahead with the change out of good will, make sure the client knows it's you doing him a favour.
Missing information or assets from the client
Sometimes clients need to provide the freelancer with assets or information needed for the completion of the project. And sometimes they forget to hand in those deliverables on time or do it at the last possible minute without noticing how much it affects the deadlines and the freelancer's calendar. This causes stress and the typical last minute rush to have everything done on time, or extends the life of the project delaying payments and conflicting with other events on the freelancer calendar.
To avoid this, is necessary to educate the client on the economic costs and risks of not providing the freelancer with everything he or she needs to do her job. Make sure to detail, in writing, what is expected from the client and when are the deadlines, and add a clause to the contract that explains what will happen if the project is delayed because of the client. The freelancer may need to move on to other projects and potentially any money owed needs to be paid after a certain time has elapsed. Sometimes penalty fees need to be paid for the project to be restarted. It all depends
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