At some point, we are bound to come across a non-paying client. It happens to every freelancer that a client delays, forgets or refuses to pay you for work you have done. Not getting paid for a freelance work is the most annoying thing that happens to a freelancer. We often talk about the benefits and advantages of freelancing such as working from home, having your own time schedule, being your own boss, but those are just a few. Freelancing isn’t all independence and sunshine.
Encountering a non-paying client is one of the biggest cons of freelancing. This can chase away those new to freelancing.
If you plan on getting into freelancing, one of the first things you will need to figure out is how to accept payments from clients.
Have you been wondering why you don’t get paid for your work? To get a perfect solution to that, you are on the right page! Here are some of the ways to make sure you are getting paid for the goods and services you sell as a freelancer.
- State payment terms clearly and visibly.
- Establish a follow-up procedure for non-paying clients – sending an invoice does not guarantee payment. Set up a system to ensure that you are actually getting paid. Reach out politely to clients who are slow to pay. They may be busy and that is why it’s necessary to contact them politely. But it’s also possible that they are reluctant to pay.
- Reward clients for paying promptly and give them best reviews.
- Don’t extend credit automatically to new clients especially because you don’t know whether they are paying or non-paying clients.
- Make it easy – never begin working on a job until you have read and signed a freelancing contract.
In this article, you will know how to deal with a non-paying client and the steps to take. You have to follow them cautiously; otherwise you might never get paid.
This is something you should be doing all through the process. Keep your communication professional, but remember to be polite and firm about getting your payment. Always try to communicate with your client regularly and keep sending messages at reasonable intervals. That does not mean you should quit working for the client. To resolve the matter, continue working with the client rather than forcefully demanding for the payment. Most importantly, make sure your emails or other communication don’t cause more problems.
Moreover, communication between a buyer and a freelancer increases the chances of successful payments. For example, on Apexlistings, for a buyer, when you post a job, you will receive many applications/bids from different freelancers. It is now up to you to decide who you think is best suited for your job. Buyers have a chance to request phone number on the bid that the freelancer sends in order to reduce the time it takes to decide who to hire.
The website has two other features that help buyers to decide the best freelancer;
- To check whether the freelancer is verified (the level of verification is Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.) This is used to gauge freelancer qualification.
- To check freelancer ratings and their reviews.
With all that considered, buyers will have no doubt on making payments as they are with a trustworthy and perfect freelancer.
Recheck your invoice and contract
You should start by evaluating whether you have done everything necessary as per your contract with the client. Go through all communication you had with your client and cross-check with what you delivered to the client. Always take time to reference your contract. Hopefully, you stated the terms, how much you were to be paid and when, and maybe addressed any late fees that would be charged if the client delays paying within your time frame.
If you did all of this and still waiting to be paid, go ahead and resend the invoice. You can even send a polite note letting them know you are resending the invoice in case they didn’t receive your first invoice. Follow up invoices are perfectly acceptable.
If you are dealing with a non-paying client, send them a letter along the same lines as you would if you had a contract. You can tell the client you agreed on payment amount and the terms and you are just writing to follow up to see when the cheque would be sent.
Renegotiate payment terms
By evaluating possible causes of client’s default in payment, you can come up with a practical solution.
You can ask your client to settle the debt by installments instead of lump sum payment. That is, if the client is facing financial difficulty. It may be more manageable for your client to pay, say, Ksh 1000 every few days other than Ksh10,000 at once.
Installment payment might not settle your bills fast, but it is far much better than not getting paid at all.
You can take that option if you have a long working relationship with the client.
Contact the freelancing site
Here, things are now serious. You want to take actions that will have tangible results.
Contact the administrators of the freelancing site you are working in. Actually, this part is usually an automated process in freelancing sites such as Apexlistings, Upwork, Hiresine and so much more. With Apexlistings, money held in escrow will be automatically released if the client doesn’t want to respond. So, if your money is held in escrow, you will get all your money. The Escrow protects both buyers and freelancers. A buyer can choose to pay freelancers at the beginning of a job and the money enters into Escrow. The freelancer won’t be able to access the money until the buyer releases the funds at the end of the job.
Escrow gives assurance that you’re dealing with someone who has enough money to pay you at the end of the job.
That is one great benefit of working through freelancing sites.
Write to the Business Manager
If you are working independently, you can find out who the business manager is through Google or LinkedIn search. Don’t go into detail about who you are, just find out the business manager’s name and contact information and write to him or her.
In your email, tell the business manager the date you completed the project and that you’ve included a copy of the contract both you and their company representative signed as well as the outstanding invoice. When doing this, be professional and it may be necessary to state how many days the invoice is past due date.
Follow up with a phone call
Sometimes email conversations take long to receive prompt replies. In this case you may be able to resolve your issue by phone call. Make a call and ask for the relevant person especially if you are dealing with a big company. Sometimes a phone call is more effective than several emails and letters.
Contacting the company will open doors for them to discuss your situation and engage with your Buyer client about the payment issue.
Report copyright infringement
If the client publishes your content and refuses to pay, there is something you can do. Report the copyright infringement to Google or any other search engine.
It’s more important to inform your client about your move. Request him to pull down your content or else you will report the copyright infringement. Such a threat could make the stubborn client respond instantly.
Copyright infringement reports are done through Google’s DMCA page.
Identify external causes
Try putting yourself in the client’s shoes for a minute. During this process, you should always have an open mind. Don’t just assume your client is a non-paying client. Sometimes, clients wrongly assume that they paid you when they didn’t. The client may be having temporary problems or their funds are stuck in an online payment platform. Again, don’t allow your emotions to mess up your judgment. You need to be understanding and patient especially if the client communicates.
End the client relationship
This is the ultimate thing to do when you no longer have hopes that your client will pay. If you are going to fight for your money every time you complete a project for the same client who didn’t pay you previously, it’s better to let that client go. It is very hard to let a client go because we all know how hard it is to actually get a client in the first place. However if your rights are being abused, you have no other choice. Walk away from a troublesome client, or else you will find yourself dealing with this very situation again.
Most freelancing sites like in Apexlistings offer mediation in case of conflict between clients and freelancers only if correct process is followed. The buyer and freelancer have the responsibility of fulfilling their duties. After mediation, the guilty person risks account termination or suspension if he or she refuses to take responsibility. As a freelancer, you only need to begin a job if you have actually received and accepted an offer sent directly to you and do not be cheated into sending very big work samples. For example, if the client wants you to prove that you can source emails; don’t agree to source more than 10 emails unless it is a paid sample.