Accounting for designers – Part 1

Accounting for designers | Zorb Designs

Designers in general are not known to be particularly very business savvy people. They love what they do and they do it well but when it comes to getting paid, it might sometimes be too awkward,uncomfortable or be just too late!

If you are a freelancer or a small business, making relationships and creating clientele is very important and sometimes that comes in the way of getting paid and running a business. Being friendly and available for your client is one thing but when do you draw the line?

Here are few ways to to ensure you get paid for your design work.


This document cuts the tension like a hot knife through butter. Stating your payment methods, instalment timelines and terms and conditions paints a perfect picture of what the project is. There’s no scope for argument when everything is on paper and signed before commencing the project with a mutual agreement. It keeps you legally in place and also sets the tone of your business. We recently wrote an article about How to write a contract for your business – Have a quick read to learn more!

Laying down your TERMS AS A DESIGNER


It’s hard to get paid when you first start off because you’re asking for money for an “intangible” item that you don’t know will turn up to client’s satisfaction. And if you don’t have a massive portfolio to show, this can make it even more complicated. But whatever said and done something made a prospective client come to you – wether it be your creativity, college portfolio or a referral from a family friend.
So if you’re going to put in the hours of research and sketching and creating the artwork for them then taking an advance is your only security. Don’t be overwhelmed by the client and instead educate them as to why they need to pay you the advance. It’ll only make your look more professional and the client will take you more seriously in the times to come.


If you are working on a larger project chances are that the payment need to be made in instalments over time. Creating reminders and sending timely notifications to the client can cut down the load of following up of untimely payments. Be on top of your accounting game – it keeps your business grounded. Have a Terms and conditions where are the deliveries, timelines and instalments are outlined beforehand and agreed upon. This way the client expects what comes his way rather than getting a financial shock. We have an article about How to lay down terms and conditions for your business to give you pointers on how to form your own T&C.


There is no product in the world that you can use before you pay for it. So why should design be any different. Sure it’s not an actual tangible product but we’ll leave that argument for another blog.
Once the design is created and approved by the client, you know they are satisfied and they like it. So before you hand over the open files / artwork to the client it is a good practice to clear all payments associated to that design work. This keeps you secure and saves you many phone calls trying to chase the client for payments.


Sometimes when you meet a new client, you hit it off instantly. And what might have been a series of boring sit down meetings turn into friendly work-lunch meetings. This client is a little more chatty and a fun to work with. A classic case of trouble on the way.
There’s nothing wrong with networking, but these are the cases when you tend to make exceptions in your protocol. A late advance, untimely instalments and some extra work here and there. Don’t forget you are running a business. It’s ok to have meetings outside of work but when you are designing, you should be getting paid for it in the same way as any other vendor would.


What if you slipped through the cracks and let it happen!!>?? What if the client is MIA or is stalling? You have to give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they really are caught up with the launch of the brand or there is a wedding in the family, in which case send them a gentle reminder stating the timeline for the next payment. If you still don’t get a response try one more, firmer approach stating the terms and conditions agreed upon. And if they still don’t budge then you should probably stop any further work and let them know that this won’t work unless the payment is made by a certain date. In more severe cases of course you will take it to the court.
Don’t be afraid to loose a client for being firm with your payments. A client who is not going to appreciate what you are doing and pay you on time is better gone than chased. But there’s a thin line between being professional and being outright mis-behaved when it comes to asking for payments.. As long as you are on the former, you’ll be just fine.
Tell us what have your experiences been with your clients when asking for payments – What worked and what failed? What did you do that could help other designers / small business owners skip the trip?

If you enjoyed reading this post, leave us a comment below. You might also like How to create a Design Brief and How to Create a Design Proposal which also include FREE TEMPLATES to get your business kick started more professionally.

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