If you're in the business of graphic design or desktop publishing you expect to get paid for your time and talents. However, some designers don't get paid or get paid much less than they deserve and it's nobody's fault but their own. Avoid these pitfalls of non-payment.
Starting work without a signed contract is like walking a high wire without a safety net. You might make it to the other side with no problem. But if you don't, there's nothing to break the fall. Having a contract doesn't guarantee the client will pay, but a well-crafted contract that covers the most common situations provides you with a safety net when you and the client have disagreements over payment.
If you try to compete on low price alone the client may get a bargain but you won't. If you don't set a rate that allows you to make a living you won't be in business for long. If your work is good enough, the clients will pay the higher rates. Those that won't are probably the same ones who will try to nickel and dime you to death - expecting more and more freebies and more of your time so that you're almost working for free.
While there may be a few legitimate situations where you'll want to do the work on the promise of maybe getting the job, it's not a great way to do business. The danger is that the client will either not like the work or balk at the suggested payment leaving the designer with several hours of unpaid work or that the client will like the work but will simply take it without paying for it.
A contract helps to alleviate this problem as long as it does specify that after X number of client-directed revisions you're going to start charging more. With no limit, some clients will be constantly tweaking the material and eating into your time and profits right up until the finished project is delivered. Be sure to talk to your client when the revisions start exceeding the number specified in your contract.
Most clients expect to pay for your services but you have to ask for payment. As soon as the job is done and you've accounted for all expenses, get that invoice to the client. If the client is slow in settling their account, don't let it drag on indefinitely. Send a follow-up or past due notice. Make a phone call. Don't just let it slide.
Whipping out fresh, original logo designs or doing the layout for a 500 page technical manual are a snap compared to asking a client for a deposit or following up on late invoices. Answer these questions about payment issues and see how many of your peers make the same mistakes.