My Client Won’t Pay: Taking Action as a Freelancer

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There are numerous reasons for being a freelancer, such as setting your work schedule, working hours, choosing which project to take on and which to deny, and being your own boss and answering only to yourself and your client’s needs and demands. But freelancing has downsides not often talked about. In rare cases, freelancers’ payments are delayed or outright nonpayment, and this can be frustrating, especially if you’ve delivered excellent quality and catered to the clients’ every demand.

Now, there are many reasons why freelancers aren’t paid for their work. More often than not, it’s just a case of a lousy misunderstanding; the person responsible for payment could have been out of town, or the invoice got lost in the mail or ended up in the spam inbox. There are many steps that a freelancer can take to get their well-deserved payment.

What Should You Do?

It’s essential to explore other options first before making any final decisions. Legal action should only be the last resort. But what are some steps that you can take?

Be persistent in contacting the client and resend the invoice

If your client hasn’t entirely abandoned you, the first step that a freelancer should take is to contact their client if the agreed time frame of the payment has not been met. Politely ask them if they have received your invoice and remind them of the payment terms. In most cases, the client just forgot, or the invoice email got lost in the mail.

If the client still hasn’t responded after the initial messages, resend the invoice with a polite not reminding them of their responsibilities to you. Now, here’s the critical part, if they have passed their due payment date, you have to contact them every day, this can be annoying, but persistency works when it comes to clients who won’t cough up the payment.

Write a letter with intent to pursue legal action

You must have taken the time to create a contract that was both signed by you and the client, or you might have a record of the transaction in writing to have grounds for legal action for the nonpayment. Keep in mind, though, that every state will have different laws concerning collections and nonpayments.

Writing a formal letter that is notarized by a lawyer can elicit a fast response. The letter should contain clear documentation of your attempts to collect their payment, a summarized detail of the work that was rendered to the client, and the final date of payment.

Make sure that you send the letter through a certified return receipt mail to get proof of delivery.

If you decide to take legal action, it’s always best to hire a lawyer, and you don’t have to hire a fancy lawyer to do this too, even your local car accident attorney will do. Keep in mind that the collection law and your rights will vary from state to state.

Bring the Issue to the Public

person using social media apps

Most thriving businesses now understand the importance of a good social media reputation. Keeping a squeaky clean social media image is a great way to earn customer trust, obtain new sales leads, generate income, and retain old clients. If you are doing by their standards, then they should at least pay you for helping proliferate their business. It only takes one post in social media to cause problems to one’s public image.

Doing so more often than not, will force a company to answer your allegations or will outright send you an express check or an instant e-payment for the invoice that they owe you. Before posting your frustration on social media, make sure that everything you say in the post is professional and factual; the last thing you want to happen to you is being sued for defamation of character.

But if you’re not keen on bringing the issue to the public, you can at least make your circle of colleagues and co-workers know about the current situation. When you have a support group of other freelancers, you can post your evidence on your group to ensure that other employees will not fall for the same scheme again.

Freelancers are one of the most underappreciated workforces in the world; they provide one way for companies to save money while getting excellent quality of work. By taking these steps, freelancers show companies that they are a force to be reckoned with and should not be taken advantage of without facing some consequence.

That said, freelancing is a high-risk and high-reward industry, and you’ll need to learn from your mistakes. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should view your new potential clients with skepticism — instead, you can set up a more trusted payment method for yourself. The general rule of thumb is to ask for half of the payment upfront and the other half after the project is done.


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