I strongly believe that we are stronger together. As a result, I actively look for opportunities to mentor and inspire other designers in my industry. I am particularly passionate about inspiring and mentoring young POC designers. The following excerpt from Fast Company may provide a clue as to why:

Today, 3% of professional designers identify as Black. Compare this figure to the 13% population estimate for African Americans from the most recent U.S. Census.

– Fast Company

I was aware of this disparity long before this article and have proactively taken steps to inspire and encourage POC designers to see themselves within the profession.

Slack mentoring session

Slack screen capture with blurred user

I was given permission to share this impromptu mentoring session I had with a freelance graphic designer. In our conversation, we discussed best practices for charging freelance clients. We both agreed that it would be useful to publish our conversation so that other freelance graphic designers may benefit from it. The following conversation has been left unedited (for the most part), so please excuse the bad grammar.

Anonymous: Hey, Barney! Have you ever done 50%, 25%, 25% as payment terms?

Barney Abramson: Yes, I usually do 50% upfront, then 50% at the end.

Anonymous: How does it work with the two 25% at the end?

I noticed that a potential client is usually late in their communication.

Barney Abramson: But [I’ve only done it] for longer projects, like 3 months or longer, you can set up installments.

Is this for freelance work?

Anonymous: Plus, I noticed that they had some reservations about the cost


Barney Abramson: So, once you get the 50%, you can, if you like, set up installments. Whatever works best for you and/or the client. I had a freelance client that couldn’t afford to pay the full amount for their website. So I had them pay $1000 upfront and then $500 per month for several months because I really cared about this client and wanted to help them.

Anonymous: You can do installments in this line of work? I didn’t know that

Barney Abramson: Yes, you can. I only do installments if the client can’t afford it, or if the project goes on for many months (3+ months).

To be clear, I don’t recommend it, but it has its place in freelancing.

However, some small businesses or entrepreneurs can’t afford $3k-$5k for a brand project or website project, right?

The downside is that you might have to track them down for payment.

Definitely have a contract in place, outline the payment schedule on the contract or the SOW, and then try to set up automatic payments via PayPal or your bank.

Here’s a payment schedule I had with one agency some time ago [screenshot not included].

Anonymous: I’m with you. I have noticed for quite some time that there are some small businesses that cannot afford to pay that range

I do need to revamp my contract so I can place the terms better as far as payment, communication, and schedule.

Barney Abramson: Look for contract samples online to get you started. I will share some samples that I’ve used previously.

Anonymous: I’m gonna have to consider that option. However, only if the communication is there and my contract is tight.

As far as the clients that can afford what I am charging, I want to switch it up a little bit.

What do you think about my thought process behind this:

I will be receiving 50% upfront as a deposit to begin any work. Once rounds are over, I will receive 25% upon revision. Then, the balance must be paid prior to the release of production-ready files.

Barney Abramson: The “25% upon revision”, is that halfway through the project? Or after the first/second round?

I honestly don’t see a need to break up the payments this way unless:

  1. The project will take 3+ months to complete.
  2. The client can’t afford to pay the full amount.
  3. The client is not trustworthy, and you want to hold them accountable.

My philosophy is this:

  • Only work with clients that you trust.
  • Only work with clients that serve your overall mission and vision.
  • Only work with clients that can afford you.
  • Only accommodate clients that you care about.
  • Lead with a customer-first mentality.
  • Make it easy for clients to communicate with you.
  • Make it easy for clients to pay you.
  • Have a process in place (i.e. contract, bank accounts, insurance, LLC, etc.)
  • Don’t overcomplicate your process (KISS).

Anonymous: I’m with you. The client is more than willing to pay, it will take a week or two, and the only concern is their response [needs to be] in a timely manner

I love what you just said about the philosophy. I believe I am coming to understand what I want my philosophy to be for myself and for the relationships that I want to cultivate around me.

Barney Abramson: So, to answer your question, for a 1–2-week project, 3 payments sound like overkill. I would just do 50/50 and trust the client to pay you on time. If your gut is telling you that the client might not pay on time, then setting up a late-payment fee would be beneficial. Building rapport and trust with your clients is key. Asking them for multiple payments gives the impression that you don’t trust them and/or that you’re only out here to get paid. Again, be selective with whom you work so that you’re not stressing about payment.

Anonymous: Fair enough!

Barney Abramson: Also, keep in mind that there’s a cost to doing business. Sometimes, as a freelancer, you have to pay for things upfront or buy things up front in order to get that big payday.

Most of my freelance clients have a Net 30. meaning that I have to wait 30-days for a check to be delivered, sometimes longer. It sucks, but it comes with perks (higher paying clients)

Anonymous: That’s a valid point. I began to take into consideration of not only including my experience, but also my expenses around business and personal.

I’m gonna spend some time and think about what a future relationship looks like with this company.

I definitely will take the 50% + 50% route, but work on the terms of my contract

I have an opportunity to take on more projects with this company if this goes well

Barney Abramson: That’s great to hear man. I think you’re doing the right thing by asking for advice. The more you know the better.

Anonymous: But for now, I will focus on shifting my mindset on how to set up rules or philosophy in what working with clients will look out for me

Barney Abramson: In my experience, this is what companies care about when working with freelancers:

  • Superb design skills
  • Consistent work
  • Fast turnaround times
  • Availability
  • Ease of use (i.e., make it easy to submit a project, make it easy for them to pay you)

One last thing: depending on the size of the company, see if they can add you as a “vendor” in their system or add you to their “preferred vendor list”. Becoming a “vendor” means that accounting sets you up in their system, making it easier for the company to use your services and to pay you via check or ACH.

Once you’re in the system, you are treated as a vendor and not as some random freelancer. You submit an invoice to your contact or directly to accounting and they cut you a check. Simple as that.

Anonymous: Thank you for the shared knowledge and I will start to apply it where it is needed!

Barney Abramson: Best of luck, sir! Holler if you need me.

Header Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash