Last Updated: March 27, 2021
The question: My client won’t pay me? Do I have to beg?
It happens, that’s all I can say – and in order to continue freelancing and working from the comfort of your own home, you’ll have to accept it; but accepting it is NOT the same a giving into it! One of the biggest perks about working from home is being able to organize your time and dictate your own schedule. On the flip side, one of the biggest problems many freelancers face is, sadly, payment – especially those just getting into freelancing and private practice.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of things here today, I would like to make it very clear that this article is focused on that pesky client who seems to intentionally be avoiding payment at all costs (pun intended!). Things come up, life happens, people forget, and with a gentle nudge (discussed in the next paragraph), the vast majority of clients in this category will have an "Oh crap! I'm sorry!" moment and pay up.
If the project is already finished and confirmed, and better yet, if there are documents and agreements signed between you and the client, you can safely pursue this client by dropping bomb-sized hints via email or other messenger applications, texts, calls, or whatever your primary method of contact is with that client. The excuse of "My boss is harassing me about your payment" cannot be used because, of course, you ARE the boss! But you can say things like: “I was just wondering….” Or “No rush, but when can I expect the payment?”. Perhaps you could also say things like: “I heard a hurricane hit your area, how are you doing? I hope you’re doing well.” Sometimes, when you voice your concern about his or her wellbeing and health, he/she will start feeling guilty and pay you. The famous “Guilt Trip” can work wonders! Again, as mentioned, earlier, most of your clients who really did just "simply forget" (for whatever reason - no need to judge them!) will pay you at this point - generally very apologetically - and life will carry on as usual for all parties involved.
What generally does NOT work too well in your favor is just telling the client off straight-up because you still want his/her business, so being nasty and telling the client off is generally best avoided. Maybe they are trying work some things out on their side or trying to get THEIR clients to pay them so that they can pay you. Yes, it’s true, some clients are mere in-between people – middlemen/women, if you will. And if this is the case, they may need to ensure that THEIR clients pay them so that they can pay you.
With that said, however, whether their clients pay them or not, it is not your concern. It’s got nothing to do with you. The work has been done and the job delivered on time from YOUR end, so YOU deserve your payment whether their clients run away or not! Remember that! If you get that line from your client feel free to say something along the lines of: “I really do understand and sympathize with you but, I can’t help you there! The job/goods have been delivered from my end as promised. Now, when can I expect the payment?”
Contact them every other day. If they don’t respond, your senses will probably be tingling by now. By the third time they ignore your email/message/call, say something firm but not nasty. If they still don’t respond, send them another invoice. Most modern full-system payment processors allow you to send invoices to payors these days, so do that! If this is already the fifth time you’re reaching out to them, feel free to start sending them repeated invoices every day – by then, they should get the message.
If they are still ignoring you at this point, you are going to have to make a choice. Of course, depending on several different factors, such as the size of the transaction, the initial agreement, and the goods/services rendered by you, at this point you are probably 100% in the right to take greater measures to try to track them down and take legal action against them, but that is a decision that only you can make on a case-by-case basis. Remember, for as pathetic as it is in this world we live in, a number of brainless, barbaric potential future customers will see nothing more than “Oh, you’re that man/woman who took legal action against a customer! Heaven forbid! The customer is always right!”
You could also take the route of internally blacklisting them. If they do ever come back to you and attempt to use your services again, do not serve them. Of course, this could come back to you at some point as an “Oh, you’re that man/woman who didn’t serve his/her own customer! How could you?!” But such a stigma is generally easier to deal with than being seen as the aggressor who has come after someone with legal action. However, again, in the end of the day it’s your private practice, and the choice is ultimately completely up to you.
Of course, with all this said and done, remember: in this article we are talking about worst case scenarios. Most clients pay their dues and life is good, but you will always come across bad apples from time to time and there is no way around it!
Do you have any experiences and/or suggestions as a freelancer/private practitioner/business owner about dealing with "bad apples" who won't pay up? Feel free to share in the comments below.
Better life, better business, better you!
Owner and Operator of Biz Opp Empire, a website by Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises
International K-12 Educator,