How to get paid quicker: a copywriting tip

If you’ve ever been a freelancer, you know how important it is to get paid quickly. You don’t mind slogging your guts out for a client who pays within 30 days, but you’ll quickly resent the ones who sit on your invoice for two or three months.

Of course, it can be well-nigh impossible to get the accounts department of a vast corporation to cough up in time. If it’s policy to pay in six weeks, that’s exactly what these firms do. Getting them to change is like asking an oil tanker to swerve round a jellyfish. It won’t happen.

It’s different with smaller businesses. They tend to get their accounts done by human beings. As such, you can appeal to their better nature – and get paid quicker. Here’s how…

Rethink your invoice ‘\-’” and give clients a reason to pay quickly

Here’s a quick story to explain what I mean.

Over the last few months we’ve been managing a huge copywriting project for a well-known online retailer. It’s a company that sells thousands of products on its website, and it needs accurate, persuasive descriptions for every single one.

We’ve been writing them – with help from some excellent freelancers.

Every freelancer invoices us for the work they have done, and most write something like this at the bottom of their document:

Terms: 30 days

Then a new freelancer helped us out. Her invoice read:

Thank you for paying within 30 days

Of course – talk directly to the accounts official! You’re much more likely to get paid if you appeal to their better nature (if they have one).

So I asked the freelancer how quickly she normally got paid. Her answer:

Most people pay within the week

Not exactly split testing, but I know roughly how long it takes our clients to pay us. And on Monday we’re changing the way we add our terms on the bottom of each invoice.

I’ll let you know whether it makes a difference. Why don’t you give it a try yourself?

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5 Responses to “How to get paid quicker: a copywriting tip”

  1. I am so going to try this!

  2. I saw a recent tweet suggesting that ‘people pay color invoices 30% faster than black and white ones’. There was no story to back this up, so whether or not it was a legitimate claim, I don’t know.

    I cynically suggested that what that actually meant was that people paid red invoices faster than others, but I think there may be something behind this. A few too many years spent designing electricity and phone bills have taught me a few tricks about how you can emphasise and recede information, tricks I’ve used in the design of my invoices.

    From my point of view, I don’t leave the 30 days to chance, and include an actual date ‘Please pay this by 18th August’ In fact it’s the equally largest thing on the invoice, along with the ‘Thank you’ at the bottom. Giving an actual date gives no room for interpretation, and is also doing a tiny piece of work for the accounts person.

    If I’m honest, the detail on my invoices is just black text (because that’s the printer I have) but I make sure it goes out on my letterhead which has a strong band of my identity colours on it. So while it’s not technically a colour invoice it does have some visual impact.

    Whether or not this affects how quickly it gets paid, I don’t know, but someone recently said it was the nicest looking invoice they had ever seen. So at least it means I can do my job well, if not get paid quicker.

  3. Great thoughts there Robert. It would be fun to do some proper testing on all these elements. One variable at a time, though, or we won’t have a clue what we’re measuring!

  4. I signed up as a supporter of Pay On Time ( They explain clearly the legalities around late payment and what you can do. I now include these details in my terms of business (I don’t start work until the client has officially agreed to these), including the interest rates which can be charged on any late payments.

    I place the Pay On Time logo at the bottom of my invoice together with the exact date by which the payment has to be made. The only late payment I’ve had was from someone with whom I actually have a working relationship, thus making it all a little more awkward! Everyone else, no problem.

    Linking yourself to a larger body like this and introducing clear financial penalties can be effective.

  5. How did it go with changing the wording/colouring on the invoices? I’ve always said ‘please’ on mine, but I’m not sure how much difference it makes. Will consider colour ones though.

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