Being a freelancer is great, isn’t it? Making your own hours, calling all the shots – it can be a lot of fun.

Like any venture, though, it can also be a hassle. The big hassle for the freelance community is dealing with clients who, for whatever reason, think you don’t need money to survive. They get the work you did and take off. Deadbeat clients are the worst!

For new freelancers, the downright dastardly clients in the world may come as a shock. After getting over the anguish, though, you realize you have to take steps to protect yourself. Here are a few you can already implement to stop deadbeat clients and unpaid invoices from ruining your freelance life.

Request a Down Payment

For every client/freelancer relationship, there’s a level of tension involved. The client needs work done and the freelancer needs money. At any point either party could totally bust up the deal by taking off. How do you solve this impasse?

A down payment goes a long way to solving this problem. The client hands over a pre-determined amount of money that secures the job. This way, if they take off once you hand over the work, they’re out some money either way. The percentage of down payment you ask for you can also change depending on your feeling about the client. It’s common to ask for 50% of your fee up front when dealing with a new client.

Get it in Writing

Have you ever had a friend as a client? You would think this would go smoothly but it hardly ever does. In fact, I think friends typically make terrible clients. You make exceptions for them you would never make for anyone else, including not making them sign a contract.

However, you should always get everything in writing, no matter who it is. A contract gets all sorts of problems out of the way. First, since it’s legally binding, a deadbeat client will have to think twice about taking off. Two, if you lay everything out before you start the job, there’s less of a chance the client will say you didn’t do what they asked. It’s all in writing, bub, so too bad.

If anyone (even a friend) balks at having to sign something, you probably don’t want to work with them anyway. Anyone who is serious about a business transaction (which is what it is, no matter how much money is involved) will understand.

Know Your Rates

Want a client to think they’re paying too much? One surefire way is to be uncertain on how much you should charge. This sends an immediate message that you’re a beginner and have no idea what you’re doing. As a result, they’ll think you’re overcharging for your services.

Before you meet with the client in the first place, know what you’re going to charge, and be confident about it. This means doing research on the typical rates for your type of work if you’re not sure. If you can’t find anything online, ask someone else in the industry for advice. They’re surely willing to help a newbie!

Now when you approach the client you’ll know what you want instead of fumbling around for a number. The client may say, “Isn’t that a little high?” Since you’ve done the research, you can say, “Not at all, in fact I’m giving you a great deal.” If they’re smart they’ll jump at the chance to work with you!

We all have bad client horror stories. Share yours in the comments so we can all commiserate!