5 Ways to Get Your Flaky Freelance Client to Pay Up

Past Due Blue StampHas this happened to you? You slave away meeting a freelance client’s deadline, send in your invoice, and then…nothing.

Your client is smelling like a deadbeat.

What can you do about it? Plenty.

As it happens, I’ve had my share of clients who drag their heels on payment. Over the years, I’ve developed a system for making sure those checks arrive…more on that below.

First, here are my five best tips for rounding up those stray checks:

1. Friendly email reminder

I like to begin on the assumption that my lack of a payment is a simple oversight or mistake. The day after the payment was due, I send a friendly email:

“Hi, I’m just checking in because my final payment on this project was due yesterday. I know you got my final draft a couple weeks ago — are we all set? Please let me know if you need anything from me, and do let me know when I can expect payment. Let me know if you need another copy of the invoice.”

Sometimes, that’s all it takes. The invoice was mislaid, or the accountant was out sick a couple days, and your nudge will send the check your way.

2. Make the call

No response to this friendly email? It’s time to try to get them live on the phone.

Many people are less evasive if you can get them on a call. They may give you a sob story about why it’s late (set phasers to ‘ignore’), but hopefully they’ll tell you when you can expect the check.

If you’re too chicken to confront a client about an overdue bill, consider hiring a collections agency to help you, or enlist a friend to do it.

3. Go up the chain

After a live chat, if the check fails to arrive on the new (late) date they promised, I usually conclude I’m talking to the wrong person. It’s time to try someone else.

If you’re talking to an editor, try the managing editor or editor-in-chief. Better yet, try the accounting department. Often, the bean-counters will tell you the editor has failed to send over your invoice for payment. Or they’ll reveal that the invoice came too late for this month’s cycle, so it’ll pay out in 30 days.

If you’ve been working with a marketing manager at a company, try the chief finance offer (CFO) or their right hand.

Now, you at least know the problem, and can get back to the editor if it’s their mistake and they need to supply paperwork.

Editors will sometimes dodge these calls because they feel frustrated and helpless — they don’t sign the checks, and are often deeply unhappy that their writers are being jerked around. Hopefully, if it’s an oversight on their part, they’ll help.

4. Bill a late fee

In the absence of any satisfying responses on steps 1-3, I will sometimes re-submit my bill with a 2% monthly late fee (compounding) applied for the first month. For those of you who aren’t math dorks, that means next month, I’ll take this new larger amount and charge them 2% more based on that amount, not the original, lower fee. And so on.

Often, the late-fee bill will wake up the client and they’ll send a check.

They may only send the regular amount and not the late fee, but they decide it’s time to pay. The late fee makes them see that not only are you not going away, but you will actually expect more money from them, the longer they drag this out.

Once it’s clear that they can’t sit on the bill forever without consequence, it’s amazing how often deadbeats suddenly find the money they need to pay you.

5. Social shaming

I know — I feel ashamed to mention this. It’s a little bit mean, I admit. But it often works like a charm.

Publicly ‘outing’ a deadbeat client in social media can really get them off the dime. Every company is paranoid about social-media reputation damage. So you’ll usually get a rapid response to a tweet like these:

 “@magazine — Still looking for my $1,000 article fee due 3 weeks ago. When may I expect it?”


“@company — Turned in my final draft 3 weeks ago. Payment now overdue. Please advise when I will see my check?”

OR, possibly worst:

“@writers — anyone else writing for @X company? Having trouble getting paid? Would like to connect…

My social-shaming hint: Keep it professional. Don’t be rude or call names. Stick to the facts. Once they see that word of their irresponsibility may spread to their own clients, they’ll probably overnight you a check.

They owe you money, and it’s overdue. If you start flaming them, you may hurt your chances of getting paid instead of helping them.

Stop working

The other thing to do to protect yourself from deadbeat clients is to stop working on any ongoing assignments you have from that client. Slow payers earn a trip to the bottom of your priority list.

You might choose to let them know that this work stoppage has occurred, or you may decide to keep it under your hat. But you should move on immediately to either do other client work or to do marketing to find more clients.

After all, this payment may never arrive. Don’t get in deeper and rack up more bills with a client who may be getting ready to stiff you. I hear too many sad stories from writers who end up with $10,000 or more outstanding from a client who’s gone belly-up.

Preventing the problem

If you’d like to prevent the late-payment scenario in the future, there are three key steps to getting prompt payments. You need to have a contract that defines when you get paid, you need to bill clients promptly, and then you must act immediately if payments are late.

One big pitfall many freelance writers fall into is they don’t have a contract at all. Or if they do, it doesn’t define how long the client has to pay you after you turn in your work. I prefer terms like this:

“Final payment due on finalization or 14 days after receipt of final draft, whichever is sooner.”

Get in the habit of invoicing clients immediately. That’s right — don’t wait around to hear that your draft has been accepted — send the bill with the first draft, so it gets in their payment cycle right away.

Some companies will take 30-60 days to cut a check and only pay contractors once a month. You don’t want any delays on your end that might cause you to miss a week they cut checks and leave you waiting another month.

You also need to set up a payment calendar so that you’re aware of the exact due date for each outstanding payment. The day after it’s due, if it isn’t in your hand, you should be using one of the five steps above to let the client know you noticed and care deeply that your payment arrive.

Why suing is not the answer

You’ll note one of my tips is NOT ‘take them to court.’ It’s increasingly rare that pursuing payment via a lawsuit is a sane choice. Freelancing is increasingly a global business, and often, your deadbeat client will be in a different state or even a different country. This makes applying the law extremely difficult, as you might have to appear in court where they’re located.

But more importantly, suing does two bad things: It costs you money, and it messes with your head.

Unless you have at least $10,000 owed you, even going to small claims court, it’s not going to be worth it, between your lost work time and lawyer costs.

Worse, thinking about how this client screwed you all the time as you prep and pursue your lawsuit is very bad. This is not a climate that fosters productivity or finding great new clients.

If you try every approach and there’s still no payment, I offer one final option: Consider this lost money tuition in the school of freelance life.

Instead of thinking: “He ripped me off for $X thousands!” realize that this happened because of your own poor freelance business choices…and learn from it.

You need to qualify clients better in the future and go after more reputable companies and publications, so that you work with clients that pay their contractors — on time, and well.

Freelance Business Bootcamp


Tagged with: , , , , ,
58 comments on “5 Ways to Get Your Flaky Freelance Client to Pay Up
  1. Elna says:

    Great advice. I don’t have experience with flaky clients, but it’s nice to know that if I do, your tips will help me see the money.

    I strongly agree to having a contract when deciding to work with businesses. It helps with your credibility as a freelance writer when you treat your writing as a business.

    Thanks for these tips and I’m going to bookmark this post!

    Innovative Ink
    Elna recently posted…6 Foolproof Marketing Tips to Help You Become a Better Freelance WriterMy Profile

  2. Pete Boyle says:

    Hey Carol,

    This couldn’t have come at a better time!

    Had an invoice due the Friday just been and am still waiting on payment. I know it’s only a short time overdue but I’m not really one to sit back and wait.
    I’ve forwarded a friendly reminder this morning ending it with a quick question on whether they need an extension. I figured ending it with a yes/no question would be more likely to elicit a response.

    If the money still isn’t in my account by the end of the week I’ll be dropping by this article again for some advice on planning my next steps.
    Pete Boyle recently posted…My Top Writing Pet PeevesMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Right on, Pete — I meet too many freelance writers who tell me they have an invoice that was due three months ago, what should they do? You need to take action immediately.

  3. Excellent, Carol!

    It’s not just freelancers that get stiffed — my husband’s been in business for himself more that 35 years and, fortunately, has only had one real deadbeat that never paid (although we did happen to run into this same person at a trade show — first time I’ve ever seen a person turn green!).

    You’ve laid out the reasons my husband is so successful at collections. He establishes terms, sends a reminder email just before the payment due date and picks up the phone the minute the promised payment does not arrive. He is always professional, never threatens (“threats are illogical”). Listening to him speak with people has given me a lot more confidence on the phone in general, as well as specifically for my own business.

    Oh, and always get the name of the person you speak with!

    • Carol Tice says:

      I try never to start working without a full set of contact information — great reminder, Brenda! Not just their name, but their direct phone line and email, and a street address for the company.

      There’s too much Internet and email hiring going on now where writers start working for someone signing their emails “Joe,” only to realize later they have no idea who or where he is, and now they’re out money.

  4. Happily, having a flaky client has only happened to me once. #5 on your list was the key for me.

    I posted a negative review on Glassdoor.com – and voila, within 24 hours I got an email from someone in the organization (this was a YEAR after payment was due). The contact was professional and courteous, and issued payment immediately.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks for sharing your story on that, Gail. I hate to tell people to flame people online…but it’s effective in getting checks in the mail. And it wouldn’t have happened if they’d paid on time.

      • Totally understand. The nice thing about Glassdoor is that you post anonymously (don’t think I’d have the guts to publicly shame someone (eg, on Twitter) – even if deserved! 🙂

        • Carol Tice says:

          I don’t have any qualms about tweeting a straightforward payment question to a client — a lot of companies like Comcast focus their customer service around Twitter at this point, anyway. And man, does it get results! No company wants the reputation risk of a long thread of complaints cranking up on Twitter that they’re not seen responding to and fixing the problem.

  5. Jools Stone says:

    I would also add that if you try all of the above to no avail, you should also call on the resources of a union, like the NUJ here in the UK. Even if you’re not a member, you can use their interest and late payment calculator. Last week I got paid for a job I billed

  6. Jools Stone says:

    sorry, hadn’t finished my comment there! Recently got paid for a job I billed 4 years ago! He always claimed he would settle ‘as soon as he was able’. I chased it for a year or two, got a debt collector on the case (who was useless) and eventually forgot about it, so don’t give up hope!
    Jools Stone recently posted…Brighton Blogger in ResidenceMy Profile

  7. I have semi-flaky clients that I can message on facebook… but I’ve never had a really flaky client who wouldn’t pay. I guess I’m lucky that way!

    What do you think is better–invoicing once or twice a month for work done in the previous period, or invoicing right away?

    • Carol Tice says:

      If it’s ongoing work, Anabelle, I’ve just invoiced at the end of the month. But I work with highly reputable clients, mostly Fortune 500 or big national magazines, at this point. It depends on the nature of your relationship with that client.

  8. Ann-Louise Truschel says:

    Dear Carol,

    Re: Suing a client. You gave some erroneous advice.

    You cautioned against suing a client. I’ve had to do that seven times in my career, and I won seven times.

    You ARE correct when you say that collection is problematic if the client is in a different country. However, you can sue instate clients simply and easily, and you can sue an out-of-STATE company in small claims court in your own state if the company does business in your state.

    I was successful in collecting from a large PR firm in another state, simply by threatening to bring suit against them.

    With respect to the costs of the suit, ALL OF THESE COSTS ARE RECOVERABLE AS COURT COSTS if you win the suit – and, if you have a contract, winning should not be an issue. The actual filing time and court appearance take only a few hours, so the time involved is also not an issue.

    If you must work at a client’s place of business, and the client refuses to pay because your contract reads “work for hire”, be aware that, under Revised Order 4 of the Department of Labor, you are considered an EMPLOYEE if you have to work on site, and all of your wages are recoverable. A major publisher that tried to pull that one on me learned that lesson the hard way.

    There is very little time involved in filing with the DOL. You can download the paperwork and file by mail or online.

    I know that many folks are afraid to go to court simply because they think the process is daunting. It is not; in fact, folks may find the process exciting and certainly satisfying when they win. Take it from someone who has NEVER lost.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ann-Louise, if you’ve had to sue for payment seven times, I worry about how you’re qualifying clients.

      I do agree that sometimes just having a lawyer send a letter can make the payment happen…I know others who’ve gone that route, and I’ve considered it myself. It’s fairly affordable.

      Sounds like you got it down to a science through having so many unfortunate experiences. It’s exciting and satisfying when you win…but how much time did you spend pursuing that, and how much emotional energy was wrapped up in it? I think for most freelancers, it’s not a good route to take.

      And in our increasingly global marketplace, fewer clients are instate or country.

      It sounds

    • Abby says:

      I absolutely agree with you. This article reads like freelancers should just be prepared to always fall on their sword. If that’s the case, why shouldn’t any client just decide “heck, I don’t have to pay if I don’t feel like it.”

      Hold bad clients accountable.

      • Carol Tice says:

        That’s not how I feel at all, Abby. That’s why I wrote a post about how to get your money. I don’t happen to believe it’s productive to sue them, the vast majority of the time. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to compel them. 😉

  9. Vicki says:

    I haven’t had a problem collecting, but I am proactive in that area. First, I put right in the initial contract that there will be a 3% late fee for all payments not received on or before the due date. I also state that a watermark will remain on the final module, or the final module will be retained until payment is received. (It doesn’t do much good to put a watermark on a Word document, for example, if the client has Word. They can simply remove the watermark. Most of my projects are in animation software programs that the client doesn’t have. But for the few customers who do have the same software, I stipulate that I will not release the final module until the final payment installment is received. Again: all of that goes into the contract.

    Then, two weeks before payment is due, I sent a friendly email reminder, along with an invoice. The invoice also has a statement about the 3% late fee.

    In 18 years in business, I’ve only had ONE client who did not pay on time. In that case, I sent an email that offered a payment plan if he was having financial difficulties. The client immediately called me and apologied profusely, saying he had just completely forgotten about the payment. He FedExed the payment to me that afternoon, and I had it the next day.

    I find that if you treat people with dignity and respect, and spell out the terms up front, people will pay, and are reliable. The key is treating them with respect.

    The other thing is that if you vet your clients BEFORE you even take on the project, you will avoid this scenario entirely. For large-scale, high-fee projects, I often do a credit check. If it’s not a large project, I will do some quick research on the client. (Great resources for this include Hoovers Online, CorporateInformation, CompaniesOnline, and various public records such as SEC filings.) Yes, this may take a little time, but it saves headaches. I’ve already taken a pass on clients where I didn’t get great research returns.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Good resources there for checking credit!

      I’d love to see more writers put this much thought into their contracts — I find if you do that, you don’t run into nonpayment problems later.

  10. This can be a problem, especially with recurring clients. I had a couple of clients that were late every single month. I don’t like having to make that call, so I would send emails (which were often ignored).

    Truth is, I didn’t have a good invoice system and wasn’t able to keep up with who was late. Freshbooks helped me keep track of my invoices and best of all, it automatically sends out late notices. You can also set up charges. I am sure that Harvest and other invoicing app will do the same thing.
    Clara Mathews recently posted…Why Budgeting is Essential to Your Freelancing SuccessMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I know! I love being able to look up my accounts aging (how long bills have been outstanding) in Freshbooks and immediately spot who the laggards are.

  11. Joey Held says:

    Great advice, Carol! Fortunately I’ve never had to go beyond step one, and hopefully that day never comes.

    Just a tip on the social shaming: if you want to make sure all of your followers can see, start your tweet with a . before the pub’s name, or don’t put the handle as the first word. For example,

    @magazine – Can you please pay me?

    will only be visible on the magazine’s feed, unless someone is actively searching for that exact tweet. Meanwhile,

    Really wish @magazine would pay me…it’s been four months since I submitted my invoice!

    will show up on the feed of everyone who follows you. Much more effective way of shaming, especially if you have a lot of followers!

    • Carol Tice says:

      REALLY good point Joey — that’s my bad. You don’t want to put the address at the beginning, or you won’t spread it around enough. 😉

  12. Ann-Louise Truschel says:

    Dear Carol,

    You said: if you’ve had to sue for payment seven times, I worry about how you’re qualifying clients.

    There’s no need for you to worry, Carol.

    First of all, two suits were the result of unpaid property damage.

    Second, qualifying clients isn’t the issue. I had contracts with all of the clients who refused to pay. That’s the reason they ended up paying. Courts have very little sympathy with folks who breach contracts.

    Third, I’ve been in business for more than 30 years. Four clients in 30 years who refused to pay for work is a GOOD track record.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m happy if you’re happy…but I’ve never had to sue for a payment, in 20+ years, which is how I like it. It sounds like you find winning a lawsuit exciting — I find it exhausting and draining.

  13. Angela Booth says:

    Love the article Carol. I must admit, I’ve never been brave enough to go the social shaming route. I favor the “dripping water” technique.

    I add a recurring task to remind them of their overdue account every Monday. It doesn’t take too many Mondays before they cough up. 🙂
    Angela Booth recently posted…Kindle Publishing Secrets (Fiction): Start Short, Go LongMy Profile

  14. Ann-Louise Truschel says:

    Dear Carol,

    You asked about my time and “emotional energy” spent on lawsuits. As I said in my original post, only a few hours were required in each case. With respect to “emotional energy” (whatever that is), I enjoyed the process. It was a learning experience with respect to the legal system, and I enjoyed winning.

    I understand that the idea may be scary to you, but, take it from someone who has done it successfully and with very little effort, it isn’t really that daunting.

    Rather than discouraging stiffed writers from suing because of concerns that don’t reflect the reality of using our judicial system the way it was meant to be used, pass along information learned from someone who has done it successfully. You learned something you didn’t know before. That’s a GOOD thing, Carol.

    If the problem arises with foreign clients, I’d advise stiffed writers to contact Angela Hoy at Writers Weekly (angela@writersweekly.com). She has had remarkable success with collecting from deadbeat clients of all sorts.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m glad you’ve been able to sue successfully, but I won’t be recommending it, Ann-Louise. I’m not scared of it — I was a legal secretary for years, so I’ve no fear of legal documents or court.

      I just think most writers wouldn’t find it as easy as you did. And while you’ve always won, other writers may not. I know too many writers who’ve spent years sucked down an emotional drain pursuing legal action, to the detriment of their career. It sounds like you’ve been able to move forward with your business while suing, but too many writers just ruminate endlessly about how they got screwed. Which is why I recommend moving on, unless it’s a very substantial sum.

      Also…word does get around if you’re a litigious writer. Sometimes that can be a problem in pursuing new work.

      I love Angela Hoy, but I don’t think writers can rely on her to be their international bill-collecting agency via social shaming! She takes on a few, high-profile situations where many writers have been ripped off, mostly.

  15. Ann-Louise Truschel says:

    Dear Carol,

    You stated: She [Angela Hoy] takes on a few, high-profile situations where many writers have been ripped off, mostly.

    That’s incorrect. The writers she helps are garden-variety freelancers, and the clients involved are small potatoes for the most part.

    You also said: I know too many writers who’ve spent years sucked down an emotional drain pursuing legal action, to the detriment of their career.

    I’m bewildered by your statement above. Small claims cases do not take years; they don’t even take hours. Small claims forms take about an hour to complete and minutes to file. The court case takes less than an hour. These cases are settled or dismissed on one court date, within an hour or so. How that can be emotionally draining is inexplicable. You’d spend more time in court if you were there for a moving violation!

    I find it difficult to believe that you know “too many writers who’ve spent years sucked down an emotional drain pursuing legal action, to the detriment of their career.” Clearly you are not speaking about small claims court.

    The only people who have told me that court cases are expensive, time-consuming, unlikely to succeed and emotionally draining are people who have never been involved in one. I understand that; fear of the unknown is very real.

    Going to court is no different than writing an expository paper. You study your subject, you do your research and you develop your subject. When your present your case in court, that’s the scary part for most people. They have to speak in public, and that’s where the fear comes in.

    It’s an option when other collection methods fail. That’s in fact why small claims courts were established.

    According to http://www.in.gov/judiciary/2710.htm
    “The Small Claims Courts were created so that you would have a speedy, reasonably inexpensive, uncomplicated means of determination of your claim. It is for your benefit. It is your right. Do not be afraid to use it.”

    • Carol Tice says:

      Going to court and getting a judgment is one thing…collecting on it is another. We’re just going to need to agree to disagree here. As I said, thrilled suing has worked for you.

  16. Ann-Louise Truschel says:


    Final word.

    I collected EVERY time. One doesn’t sue unless collection is feasible. Common sense.

  17. Chris says:

    This might help – it has for me in the past.

    In my terms and conditions I clearly state that the IP and Copyright of the work I create will only be transferred to the client once the final invoice is settled.

    I make it quite clear that if the invoice is not settled I am perfectly in my rights to demand all the creative I have supplied be returned.

    I’ve only had to threaten it once on a late payment which was quite substantial. There was a clear indication that the client believed the size of his business made it possible for him to be very difficult and he would settle when it suited him.

    His legal department after I requested that a trade stand that used all my creative was to be taken down, soon convinced him to change his mind!

    And the odd thing is I still work with him now and then.

    • Angela Booth says:

      Good for you, Chris. I have a bright red notice: “copyright devolves to you on payment in full” on my TOS, invoices etc. I think it makes a difference.

      Sometimes big companies are a challenge. One editor told me after I called him about a very late payment: “we’re a six billion dollar company!”

      At the time, I’d had dental surgery. I can’t remember what I said. I wasn’t rude (professionalism above all) but I left him in no doubt that I didn’t care what they were worth. I was an unsecured creditor, and I wanted my money.

      (They paid up. :-))
      Angela Booth recently posted…Kindle Publishing Secrets (Fiction): Start Short, Go LongMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Chris, my Freelance Business Bootcamp co-author Neil Tortorella also does that, and I think it’s a great idea for copywriters.

      Your story about the client you had to threaten who still worked with you doesn’t surprise me. Clients know when it’s their bad, and I think respect you for running your business like a pro and expecting your payment when it’s due.

  18. Steph Weber says:

    I just used the email follow-up tactic this past week. Client paid on time the first time, and then didn’t for the second invoice. I sent a firm but friendly email letting them know that their account needed to be brought current before I began work on another article.

    Received payment the following day, along with an apology 🙂

    Maybe it’s because I’m a freelancer and I know how annoying follow-up for payment can be, but when I receive an invoice, I pay it ASAP.

  19. Amel says:

    Great tips as always, Carol. As the former managing editor of a small magazine, I’d also add that it’s better to resend the invoice when following up with an editor regarding a late payment. That way, everything the editor needs is right in front of her, and she can immediately forward the invoice to the person responsible for paying the bills. If you do not send the invoice a second time, there may be further delays as the editor searches for the misplaced or neglected paperwork.

    I definitely agree with you that pre-qualifying your clients is an important factor in not getting stiffed without payment. I am careful about this myself and am fortunate that I have never dealt with a totally deadbeat client, although I have occasionally dealt with late-payers.

    I have thankfully never needed to sue anyone, but I think it would be helpful to know more about the process. In the translation industry, freelance translators often turn to collections agencies when faced with non-paying clients. Others send letters from lawyers to exert pressure. We would all like to think that non-payment could never happen to us, but even very successful and prominent companies can suddenly go bankrupt or face other financial difficulties.
    Amel recently posted…155+ Markets that Pay Freelance Writers 10 to 15 Cents per WordMy Profile

  20. Dave Radetsky says:

    While these are some good tips, I’d be very careful before I resorted to social shaming that you recommend. In fact, I would highly recommend talking to an attorney before I’d do it. While it may be legal in some states, it may not in others, so you’d want legal advice both in your own state and in the state where the client is located. At the least, I’d want legal advice as to whether I’d be opening myself up for litigation by making the issue public. Credit laws are very strict and creditors are not allowed to make public information about debts of consumers so it might be the same for debts of companies. In our litigious society the price of an attorney’s advice may be cheap compared to the consequences if someone goes after you for making the information public.

    • Carol Tice says:

      What could possibly be illegal about tweeting, “My payment was due a week ago, @company — when may I expect payment?” Remember, the truth is a perfect defense against libel. If I’m stating the truth, I’m in the clear.

      I haven’t signed a confidentiality agreement that I won’t discuss my dealings with the company publicly — but hey, if you DO have an NDA, this might not be the route to take. Good point there.

      • Dave Radetsky says:

        Under federal law it is illegal for a creditor to make any information about a debt owed by a consumer public. That is considered a violation of privacy and the feds will prosecute it as they take it very seriously. I don’t know if it’s true with businesses that owe another business money, but I would not be surprised if there was also legislation regarding that issue. In addition, if the feds have laws regarding this stuff there’s no doubt that some states have considered and potentially passed laws of their own regarding these things, too. That’s why I would invest the small amount it would take to have an attorney that specializes in credit issues look into it. A top attorney who deals with this stuff probably wouldn’t cost more than $200-$300 per hour and could look into it in an hour or two. That would be a small expense compared to the cost that could be incurred if you were wrong and were prosecuted. Between defending yourself from the government prosecution and the potential civil litigation that the debtor could bring if it is illegal, the costs could be quite substantial.

  21. tanya says:

    Ya, normally a email reminder will fix the problem. If I can a late check I usually wont work with them again. I’m counting on the money that I get in 🙂

  22. Though I am a newbie in all of this, now just my first 90 days in training with AWAI I would like to submit some thoughts. The first book I read was Peter Bowerman’s Wellfed Writer. I very much like what he wrote regarding collecting fees. He said he would require one third upon receipt of a signed work authorization. The second 33-1/3 upon submission of the first draft and the final payment upon submission and acceptance of the final draft. Frank

    • Carol Tice says:

      Yes, Frank, we love up-front deposits around here, too. It’s getting that final payment that’s often tough — which is what these tips are for. I’m hoping all my readers work off contracts, and get a deposit with new business clients!

  23. Great points as usual Carol. I had one deadbeat client who refused to pay for months. The moment I mentioned that their client has content on their site that doesn’t technically belong to them, I had the payment in 24 hours.
    Steven Jasion recently posted…Framework For Writing Better CopyMy Profile

  24. Great article Carol. When it comes to these things, it’s essential to be assertive but professional. I like the public shaming one. 😛

    Marissa Richardson recently posted…Startup Guide FeedbackMy Profile

  25. Williesha says:

    I’m going to wait until Dec. 26th but a third firmer email may have to happen with a CC to accounting. This is the first time. We have a very thin “I agree” relationship but she’s never signed the scope of work/contract. It’s only a few days over due but when you have 30 days, I shouldn’t be waiting around the 32nd or 33rd day.
    Williesha recently posted…12 (More) Blogging Lessons After Year Two (Part 2!)My Profile

  26. Lori S says:

    Was writing freelance work for hire. The client is currently 4 months past due on an invoice. I have stopped writing for them, don’t worry. Six weeks after I halted work for non-payment they “let me go.” No loss there. I’d already replaced them, of course. However, they keep promising payment, don’t pay, etc.

    I am consulting with my attorney before I do anything, but since this is work for hire and not work for free, I assume I still own copyright on the work if not paid for it. Has anyone else had experience with this? I’m thinking about just publishing the content on my own blog but at the same time I feel bad for their customers who have bought content in good faith assuming they are paying their writers. I’ve given them a deadline to respond to me with a payment plan of some sort. Thoughts?
    Lori S recently posted…Group Promotions Save Big BucksMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ugh, sorry this happened, Lori!

      Do you have a signed contract? Your rights in this situation may depend on what it says. But in general yes, if payment isn’t received I believe they don’t acquire the rights, as they haven’t fulfilled their end of the contract…but I’m sure your attorney will have a better sense of it.

      • Lori S says:

        Just verbal communication and some email and Skype exchanges as well as invoice tracking (shows they viewed/received invoice, etc.) where they promised payment on specific dates. I’ve kept every email/communication back and forth and it is clear they were to pay on the 1st and 15th of the month and then that they promised to pay and didn’t over and over. I think if it came down to it, it would clearly stand up in a court.

        My lawyer friend has advised me to go ahead and send a letter as well to be extra sure they’ve been notified.
        Lori S recently posted…Group Promotions Save Big BucksMy Profile

  27. I really appreciate this list of tips. I had a client who refused to pay me for my freelance work a couple of years ago. I had no idea what to do at the time, but I did do most of these things. Unfortunately, she still refused to pay me and I had to just chalk it up as a loss. Since then, I do like you said and have a contract that specifies the terms of payment.

3 Pings/Trackbacks for "5 Ways to Get Your Flaky Freelance Client to Pay Up"
  1. […] Tice presents 5 Ways to Get Your Flaky Freelance Client to Pay Up posted at Make a Living […]

  2. […] who don’t pay at all but that can become a problem too. There are lots of creative ways to collect your outstanding bill but once that’s taken care of, it’s time to move […]

  3. […] 5 Ways to Get Your Flaky Freelance Client to Pay Up […]