Last month, my friend Gerald Weber wrote a great blog post called F*&# You, Pay Me! The post contained tips from different freelancers and business professionals (myself included) on how to handle clients who refuse to pay.
Since submitting my tip to Gerald, I’ve realized that there are many other pieces of advice I have for people dealing with clients who either don’t pay at all or are ridiculously slow at getting around to paying their invoices.
To recap, here is what I said in Gerald’s original post:
Avoid Troublesome Clients By Going with Your Gut
“Don’t let yourself be wooed by empty promises and big dollar signs, and always trust your instincts. I once had a client who was routinely very late on making payments, but every time I tried to end our relationship, he promised that it’d never happen again and he’d entice me by offering to pay more for my services. Of course, I had to keep chasing him down for payments every time, and I finally realized that I should have trusted my gut from the beginning and let him go as a client long ago. I would have saved myself a lot of unnecessary stress.”
Other Ways to Deal with Nonpaying Clients
While you might fantasize about going all Tony Soprano and sending in Furio with a baseball bat to bust the kneecaps of your clients who won’t pay, we all know this just isn’t realistic (unless you want to end up in prison).
One thing you can do with a nonpaying client is to get them on the phone. Emails are nice and all, but they can be easily ignored. Out of sight, out of mind. If you’re able to actually get the client on the phone and remind them about paying your invoice, there is a lot more pressure on them to take care of business. They will have a harder time ignoring you and talking their way around the truth.
Another thing you could do is to offer payment plans for your clients. I have a very strong suspicion that some of my clients who were slow to pay in the past just didn’t have enough money at the moment to take care of my invoices, and they were probably embarrassed to tell me. If they would have been honest, I would have gladly worked out a payment plan with them.
I’ve also found it helpful to put the brakes on all future work for clients who are taking too long to pay. Once they see that you’re no longer doing any work on their projects until you get paid what you’re owed, they will likely snap out of their passivity and take care of you. Just be upfront with the client, and let them know (as politely as possible) that you can’t do any more work until they pay their overdue invoices.
What are some of your best tips for handling clients who don’t pay or pay late?