The life of a freelancer offers big perks—full control over projects and client approval, the flexibility to work from pretty much anywhere, and the ability to set your own hours and rates. 

But in order to experience the full range of benefits, you need to make sure you’re getting paid on time and getting paid what you’re worth.

The most successful freelancers stay on top of invoice deadlines and client relationships, keep a steady stream of work coming in the door, and constantly monitor their cash flow. That’s a lot of work. You’ll need to automate some of it with better processes. 

Start with your emails. 

Email conversations with clients are the most direct path from pain point to profit. They can help you learn what’s holding your business back and develop better workflows. 

How studying your emails can help you

1.) Figure out what isn’t working—Recurring friction points are probably already documented in your emails. Does it take too long for you to get paid? Are you dealing with repeated scope creep? Identify the biggest problems holding your business back. 

2.) Put better responses into practice—Email comms are the main artery connecting you and your clients. Figure out the areas for improvement (Do you want to do fewer revisions per project? Do you want to engage higher paying clients?) and start sending clearer, more effective emails to get there. 

3.) Build automated workflows—Identify successful client relationships and project experiences and replicate the processes that are working. From there, standardize the emails and policies that are producing ideal outcomes. 

4.) Grow your business—When you have a better operating system (e.g. standard invoicing and bill pay, client intake, or pricing methods), you can focus on revenue-generating activity rather than losing hours every week to tedious admin tasks. 

Need inspo? 

Check out these templates based on six real-life client scenarios. You’ll learn how to successfully navigate some of the most common freelancer friction points, get access to customizable templates, and improve processes for your business. 

Late payments and cash flow issues 

This section can help you navigate tricky conversations about money and develop better habits when it comes to payments, timelines, and client relationships.  

1. When you’re worried about getting paid on time

Questions about money can feel uncomfortable, but fumbling questions about money can jeopardize your relationship with clients and undermine your business. 

Your onboarding process is the best opportunity to outline preferred payment terms/conditions as well as accepted payment methods. Ideally, you’ll share expectations about the scope of work, align on the budget, and cover costs for any additional revisions (more on this below) before starting to work with a new client. 

But things don’t always go to plan—you might deliver the work and then stop hearing back; you might have multiple points of contact giving you different answers about your payment timeline. Here’s what to do if you want to know when you’re getting paid but don’t want to come off as desperate or risk souring the relationship.

Pro tip: Make it about policy/process rather than personal need. One way to do this is by reducing the amount of first-person pronouns in your message. Less “Where’s my money 😡” and more “See payment terms below 💅”

What to include:

  • Assumption of positive intent
  • Summary of work delivered to date  
  • Offer of further revisions at an hourly rate  
  • A gentle reminder that invoice is unpaid
  • Clear call to action 

2. When you lose touch with your point of contact

When communications peter out, it’s natural to put your guard up! But assuming positive intent will help you protect the client relationship. After all, there are dozens of variables that could be contributing to the lack of response—internal team shake-ups happen all the time.

If you get a courtesy warning that your point of contact will be leaving the company you’re contracting with, make sure to get a comms handoff before they depart. 

If you simply stop hearing back or get an auto-reply with no useful info, try getting in touch with someone cc’d on past email threads or sending a message to the generic team email.

What to include: 

  • Summary of your contract/role
  • Details about any work in progress
  • Clear request and call to action 

3. When you need to get paid early

Freelancers don’t always have the luxury of consistent cash flow. Unlike salaried employees who get paid every 2 weeks, freelancers know that their payment amounts and timelines can vary month to month. If a project falls through or an invoice gets delayed, it can create unexpected financial strain.  

Luckily there are ways to nudge client payment along (and strategies to prevent this scenario from happening in the future). 

What to include:

  • Good vibes intro with a personal note if possible
  • Soft reminder about the invoice due date 

If a friendly note doesn’t work, consider taking proactive measures in the future. You can include late payment fees in your contract to incentive punctual payment, or offer discounted rates for early payment. 

Cash flow management tools like Hopscotch Flow are also available for scenarios when you just need to get paid on-demand—before a client pays you. The service is completely private and there’s no credit check required.

Rate-setting and scope creep 

This section can help you get better at clearly articulating the value you bring to the table upfront and defining what’s included in your agreement with clients so they understand costs and deliverables.   

4. When the scope of work increases 

One-off requests for revisions beyond the scope of your initial agreement with a client are a slippery slope. What seems like a “small tweak” from their perspective can easily mean hours of extra work for you. This can put you in a position where you’re not being fairly compensated for your work, and it can also ruin your relationship with a client. 

Here’s how to handle requests for additional revisions or rounds of work that aren’t included in the brief.

What to include: 

  • Polite refresher on the original SOW terms
  • Pricing details about your hourly rates 
  • Time estimate when further work can be completed

5. When you get asked about your hourly rate 

Getting connected with a potential client is super exciting. But before you commit, make sure your cost expectations match their budget. And remember that hourly rates aren’t always the best way to price your projects. 

For example, an expert copywriter might be able to create copy for a website in 5 hours. Even at $200/hr, they would only be getting paid $1000 for a deliverable that will improve acquisition and drive revenue for their client. Therefore the impact of the work can’t be accurately measured by an hourly rate. Base your pricing on the outcome you deliver, not the time it takes you to execute. 

What to include: 

  • Warm icebreaker intro 
  • A brief explanation of pricing philosophy
  • Breakdown of how the cost is determined 
  • Connect rates to results

Pro tip: Hourly rates can be useful in some circumstances. If the project deliverables are clear from the outset you may want to estimate how much time it will take you to do the work and multiply that by your hourly rate to get a ballpark figure for the flat project fee. If the scope of work is loose and/or seems like it might shift, sharing your hourly rate and submitting time sheets each week might be the best way to get compensated fairly. 

6. When you need to raise your rates 

When clients are used to paying a certain rate, it can be difficult to grow your revenue. If they locked you in at a lower price point, can you really expect them to pay more for the same services over time? The answer is most definitely yes. 

If you worked for a full-time employer, you’d likely expect to get a raise every year. It shouldn’t be any different for freelancers. As you advance in your career, you acquire new skills and levels of expertise—and your rates should reflect that. 

What to include: 

  • An introduction outlining past achievements
  • A brief explanation of what’s changed and why 
  • A reminder of the measurable results from your work to date 
  • Explanation of how the new rates translate to more value for them 

A slow but steady rate adjustment may be more palatable to some clients depending on their budget. If you’re worried about creating friction, offer to raise your rates incrementally month-over-month instead of all at once. 

Downloadable email templates for freelancers 

Want to use any of these templates? Access (and create a copy) of the Notion file below!
Get a head start on troubleshooting common freelancer problems and start building better workflows for your business. And if you want to instantly improve your invoicing process, create a Hopscotch account today! Get paid faster and keep all the money you earn.