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Get Paid for Video Projects Without Sounding Like a Jerk

Michael Maher

These tips and services for invoicing your video projects will help you get paid in no time.

Top image via Shutterstock

There is one thing that every creative filmmaker and videographer will agree on. Running a business is the worst part of managing a production. So many people get into video work to get away from traditional jobs, yet there are so many tasks that everyone is made to suffer. Perhaps the most excruciating is the management of video costs, invoicing, and payments.

As terrible as financial management can be, it’s absolutely crucial to your success. A great piece of advice I’ve always followed, “Make sure to manage the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.” While sound advice, it’s not necessarily all encompassing — you still need to produce a quality product. So you can turn your focus to producing quality video project, be sure to setup your finances the correct way the first time. That way you simply can fall into a routine. You don’t want to create a custom spreadsheet and invoices for each individual project. You should have finances centralized, and it will benefit you to automate as much as you can. This will also help you come tax season.

With your finances managed properly, you’ll find it so much easier to get paid. You definitely want to send clients an invoice that breaks down all the costs, so that there aren’t any questions when it comes down to the final price. Also, after you send an invoice, be sure you have an easy way to accept payment, whether it be a check in the mail or an automated system on your website. Remember, the easier you make it for clients, the more likely they are to return for more services.


What Should an Invoice Include?

Get Paid for Video Projects Without Sounding Like a Jerk - Invoices
Image via Shutterstock

There are a few schools of thoughts regarding invoices. Should it include the breakdown of every individual cost, or should it just bill the total lump sum? Many find it easier to break down individual costs during preliminary meetings and in contract negotiations. That way when it comes time to bill for the video, you only need to send an invoice for the total production.

If you are managing the paperwork yourself, you will want to include a few key points on every invoice.

  • Your name/company name
  • Mailing address for checks, contracts, and paperwork
  • Invoice Number
  • Date invoice was prepared
  • Clients name or company
  • Project number or purchase order
  • Due date
  • List of charges
  • Subtotal
  • Total with taxes and discounts included
  • Accepted payment options

What Services Are Available for Invoicing Video Projects?

There are a ton of services out there, but they certainly aren’t created equally. The benefit of using a professional service is the automation. Clients always seem quicker to pay their invoices if things are clear and simple. It also benefits you to have online payment methods available.

Professional invoices will appear more, well, professional, and clients won’t worry about the safety of their credit card info when paying on a trusted site. While these certainly are not your only options, these services are some of the most popular.

*Author’s Note: I am not sponsored by any of these services.

1. QuickBooks

Get Paid for Video Projects Without Sounding Like a Jerk: QuickBooks

QuickBooks may be the most well-known invoicing service. You can track sales and expenses, accept payments, and pay employees. Another benefit is adding photos of receipts, so you can also track expenses made in traditional stores. The program also works on your phone, tablet, and computer. You can track invoices that have been paid, as well as immediately see any that are overdue. It’s also easy to share with your bookkeeper or tax accountant.

QuickBooks invoices allow you to upload your own company logo to streamline the look of your paperwork. The company is part of the Intuit system, so you can also accept payments on your phone and tablet with the GoPayment card swipe. You can also use the much more popular Square reader.

Accounts start at $10 a month for those that are self-employed and range up to $40 a month for the “Plus” service. See all prices and accounts at QuickBooks.

2. FreshBooks

Get Paid for Video Projects Without Sounding Like a Jerk: FreshBooks

FreshBooks is fairly similar to QuickBooks.  It also allows you to upload your logo to create unique invoices. The invoices themselves allows clients to immediately click and pay any balances. You also get an alert when invoices are received and opened by the client. In addition to invoicing, you can manage expenses, accept payments in multiple currencies, and perhaps most beneficial to videographer, there’s the time tracker. The time tracker is great for detailed invoices based on billable hours. 

Accounts start at $12.95 a month for unlimited invoices to five clients and up to $39.95 a month for unlimited clients.

3. Paymo

Get Paid for Video Projects Without Sounding Like a Jerk: paymo

Many of you may have once used the excellent Paymo time tracker in the past, which is unfortunately no longer available without a paid account. The company has shifted to compete with the likes of QuickBooks and FreshBooks. Unlike those companies, Paymo takes a much broader focus on running your business. In addition to invoicing and payments, Paymo also has an array of features for project management. Create tasks, templates, or keep track of projects on the calendar.

Each project allows you to store documents, spreadsheets, PDF files, and images. Since the site is designed for project management, the key feature is using the time tracker to turn your time sheets into invoices. Then you can adjust and send to clients.

Accounts with invoicing start at $14.90 a month.

4. PayPal

Get Paid for Video Projects Without Sounding Like a Jerk: PayPal

The most well known online payment service offers many services you may not know about. With PayPal, you can do so much more than make payments. A PayPal business account lets you accept payments, but you can also send invoices for you services. In fact, it’s free to send invoices — you won’t be charged until you receive a payment. Invoices paid online have a 2.9% + $0.30 fee per transaction. 

You can send invoices through email, the mobile app, or even upload Excel sheets. You can even set your invoices to accept partial payments for deposits and retainers.

Accounts are free, invoice transactions cost 2.9% + $0.30 each.


What If a Client Doesn’t Pay on Time?

Get Paid for Video Projects Without Sounding Like a Jerk: Past Due
Image via Shutterstock

You have all your invoicing done, the project is finished (and maybe delivered), but you haven’t been paid. Now what? This is where things get tricky and complicated.

Being paid for a project is going to come down to how you handle your business. It only takes one project without you getting paid for you to start setting rules for the future. 

You best course of action is to first remind a client to pay for you service. They may have forgotten. If they are ignoring your requests, then it’s really up to you how to proceed — if you want to let it go or consider legal action.

Honestly, if you want to make sure you get paid, do not deliver a final product until all balances have been paid in full. I don’t give clients their final video until all monies have been received. You may be hosting their video online on YouTube or Vimeo. If you still have access, you can make the video private until they pay. I have allowed clients to view password protected videos to verify they like the final product, but I won’t remove the password until I have been paid.

That said, there may be time-sensitive videos that they need before balances are paid. I have turned over videos before being paid in full. Sometimes it works out fine, but I have had clients delay. It once took me five months to recover monies owed to me — which is why I no longer offer final deliverables until I’m paid in full. I also instituted late fees and penalties for payments not made on time.

The only real advice here is to be smart and persistent. You need to value yourself and your work. Don’t be afraid to turn down projects if you don’t feel good about the situation. In the end, you are in control of the projects you take on.


Have any advice or horror stories to share? Sound off in the comments.