Ever noticed how however happy the customer, that smile turns upside down when the final bill comes through? For some reason people seem to have a problem with paying web developers - even big companies who should know better. The simpler you make the content management system (more work for you, less work for them) the less they seem to appreciate it - after all it seems so straight forward obviously it can't have taken long to produce. Here are some tips to ensure you are paid for your hard work.
Check out your customer. I little light googling to see who you're dealing with can't go amiss. It could also help win you the job.
Stage your billing. Agree on stages of delivery and get some money at each step. Get a deposit. Asking for some money up front is perfectly reasonable. By this stage you will have already put some work in, and may be even turned down other prospects.
Have a contract, include delivery stages and sums due, ensure this is signed and in your possession before you start work. The contract should make it clear that the work is yours and won't be released until its paid for.
Invoice promptly - Do invoice. Its amazing how often this slips to the bottom of the list. A lot of companies have set payment schedules, and they only start counting days from the day they receive the invoice. The sooner you invoice, the sooner you'll get paid or be able to spot a problem. Invoice clearly and precisely, ensure all the relevant information is there, including who to pay! and name your terms.
Do chase. Check who has paid and who has not regularly, if you can't get on top of who owes you what, how do you expect the customer to. A polite reminder on the expiration of the expected payment date is often all that is necessary.
Keep control of your work. Develop on your own server, and only put the site live when you have payment. You can give your customers working urls so they can see how things are getting on.
Do reciprocate. Pay your invoices on time, other people need to be paid on time just like you.
PS This is common sense stuff - I'm not a lawyer ;)
Originally posted by the same author on Cybersundae.com