Okay, I’ll admit it, my onion analogy in my previous article was rather absurd—and I use this word strongly, not loosely. Yes, it’s ludicrous to believe that a client sees a freelancer as a physical consumer good and not an “intangible service” which can’t be detected by any of the human senses. 

Or is it…? (in your best gruff movie trailer voice)  

Upfront freelance payment

How about imagining something a tad less silly? Instead, how about the everyday scene of being in the household item aisle at Tescos, and trying to decide which stain remover is best equipped for battle against that nasty spillage of red wine over your white carpet.

You scan the shelves for the right spray bottle, look immediately at the price before anything else (because you’re human), then proceed to pick the bottle up, turn it over, and read the “How to Use” guide on the backside. Finally, to do your due diligence as a self-styled informed consumer—you’ll quickly compare with a few other bottles to make sure that this bottle is in fact the one you want to spend your hard earned money on. There are no guarantees here that this stain remover will win the war, it’s just the bottle of your choice. 

Do me a favour— swap the word  “bottle” with “freelance videographer” in the above scenario and then tell me it no longer makes sense.

Why will this consumer happily pay at checkout for this stain remover before even testing it out, but expect the freelance videographer they’ve booked to shoot their party to deliver the job that’s been agreed first, and then they’ll earn the right to be paid all based on the consumer’s personal satisfaction and their company’s accounts payable terms? 

I’m going to lay out 3 typical client concerns we as freelancers will always face, and will give counter-arguments against each one. 

But first, some consumer psychology…

Paying freelancers upfront

Before we can expect change to happen, we have to first change the way people think. We need to understand how the consumer thinks upon everyday purchases.

When we buy an airline ticket, we are aware the plane will fly at half or full capacity no matter if we decide to show up at the airport or not. Both parties are in control of their own destinies each side of the transaction. Whatever happens, you bought a ticket upfront and reserved a seat, the airline gets their money, and the plane will still fly whether you’re onboard or not. Nobody loses. 

Similarly, when we pay upfront for a movie or concert ticket, the event happens regardless of us being in the audience or not.  The seat is ours, the theatre/band gets paid, and the show will always go on no matter what. 

But, somewhere in-between the purchasing of a ticket and the booking of a videographer, the concept of “control” is lost—and the freelancer becomes an intangible service unworthy of upfront payment who is expected to eat the cost of the client’s cancellation or disapproval of the work.

Let’s look at 3 common client concerns…

  1. “I can’t afford to pay upfront.”

Sorry—I didn’t realise you were buying a house here, or a brand new ‘beamer’ that needs to be paid off in monthly instalments. You’re booking a videographer to shoot your swanky event in central London (of which you paid thousands upfront to organise), but you’re telling me you don’t have the resources to pay their £300/£400/£500 day rate and editing costs upfront after accepting their quote that met your budget? This says a lot about you and your company. 

  1. “What if I don’t like it?”

When was the last time you went to a restaurant and didn’t like the food? Did you still settle the bill? When was the last time you went to the cinema and didn’t like the movie? Did you get your money back? Also, can I ask, who exactly are you hiring to do this job? Old Barry down the local boozer who will film on his Nokia, or a professional videographer with a brilliant portfolio and trusted testimonials? How bad can the work really be, minus finding an alternative option to the stock music the videographer decided to use in the video? 

  1. “What if you take the money and run?”

When I hear this one, I’ve already got a phone to my ear calling HM Courts & Tribunals Service Money Claim hotline to ask how many cases in the past year were to do with a client paying money to a freelancer who never delivered any work, and simply disappeared. But, I don’t have enough fingers on both hands to count all my stories around money chasing with clients, let alone my soul-destroying tale in 2018 where I took a client to small claims court because they refused to pay their bill. It’s us innocent freelancers who get legal with our clients, not the other way around.

Freelance instant payment

Full payment upfront establishes credibility and trust 

Just like a shopper showing loyalty to a fabric softener brand or someone in need of a haircut always returning to the same barber, it should be no different for us freelancers. Full payment upfront is about telling our clients that we are the best at what we do. Anything less, i.e, asking for a 50% deposit or waiting to deliver the work first before billing, is a way of saying… “Hey, I ain’t that serious about my work and there’s every possibility that this could go wrong. So let's hold off paying me for now.”

So, can I ask, reader of this article—are you serious about your work?

If you are, stay tuned for my last piece in this payment practice series where I’ll offer some advice on how us freelancers can get more comfortable talking about the subject of money itself, which will set a precedent to get paid upfront.

Photographer credits:

Preview Photo: Pavel Danilyuk
Image 1: Anna Shvets
Image 2: Kelly L
Image 3: cottonbro