The study, involving one thousand freelancers, found that the third week of February is when freelancers have the highest number of outstanding invoices.

This week, freelancers will be chasing an average of three overdue payments – many held up by the Christmas holidays – and 77% of freelancers surveyed said chasing outstanding invoices is the most stressful part of their job.

Key study findings:

  • Photographers, writers and designers are the most likely to be paid late by clients
  • 62% of freelancers have at least one overdue invoice at any given time of the year
  • Average number of outstanding invoices rises to three in the third week of February
  • 54% of freelancers say they have a budget to cover living costs in case of unpaid invoices
  • 37% said they expect to be paid late for invoices raised before Christmas
  • Larger organisations are worse for paying freelancers late
  • Fashion industry and universities among worst for late payments

The study found that on average, almost two thirds (62%) of freelance workers have at least one overdue invoice at any given time.

But almost one in ten (9%) say they’ve have at least four outstanding invoices at the same time in the past year.

The study found that, going into the third week of February freelancers have an average of three overdue invoices, three times the annual average.

The majority of freelancers (54%) involved in the study say they budget for late payments, putting money aside to cover costs while chasing payments. Two thirds (37%) say they expect to be paid late because of Christmas.

The worst offenders, according to the study, were organisations in the fashion industry, higher education sector and local authorities.

The study also found that large organisations are significantly more likely to keep freelancers waiting for payments.

According to the study, three quarters (75%) of freelancers say organisations with more than 200 employees were the worst culprits for late payment.

Matt Haycox, funding consultant with Access Commercial Finance, believes businesses should commit to paying freelancers on time.

“The fact that freelancers are actually budgeting to cover late payments is a disgrace.

“In many cases freelancers will have already paid for their own training and development and businesses benefit from access to that highly skilled worker without shouldering any of the development cost. Freelancers don’t get holiday or sick pay and rarely have the resources to chase down late payers.

“One of the biggest complaints uncovered in our study is the amount of time freelancers spend chasing large companies for overdue bills.

“Businesses of all sizes, but especially larger organisations with less nimble accounts processes, need to recognise the importance paying freelancers on time. Not doing so puts these workers at real risk of hardship and could even force some of them out of self-employment, depriving us all of their hard-earned skills and talent.”