Have You Ever Had a Non-Paying Client?
What is more frustrating than doing good, solid work for a client to find out they just… plain refuse to pay you?
A non-paying client can spoil the initial excitement you had about working with them like nothing else.
For freelancers in the social media marketing industry, especially for those who are either new to the industry or new to freelancing, this seems to be a recurring theme.
Unfortunately, solving a payment issue isn't always as easy as it may seem.
We've put together some best-practices on how to move forward if you ever have a non-paying client.
In this article, you will learn
- what to do if a client does not pay their invoice
- what not to do if a client refuses to pay
- that bad advice is, well, bad advice
- how to collect money from a non-paying client
- how to prevent non-paying clients in the future
What To Do If a Client Does Not Pay Their Invoice
This first thing to do when your client does not pay their invoice on time is to refer to your contract.
If executed well, your contract should state
- when payments are due (by what date)
- penalties imposed for non-payment
- legal steps to be taken if the dispute can not be resolved (collection clause)
Next, if a reminder (second) invoice did not get you results, send an email or certified letter referring back to these points in your contract to urge your client to pay. Asking your legal counsel to send this letter on your behalf might help facilitate payments quicker.
Lastly, if you don't get the response you want i.e. payment within a reasonable time frame, the next step is to stop all work until payment is received.
It's important that you continue to take steps to try to resolve the payment dispute, maybe with the help of legal counsel, until the issue is resolved. The longer this process takes, the less likely you are to collect payment. Timing is very important.
What Not To Do If a Client Does Not Pay Their Invoice
As important it is to do the right thing when a client is not paying their invoice, it is equally important to know what not to do.
When you are frustrated with a non-paying client, do not
- delete their social media channels
- hold their social media accounts hostage indefinitely
- slander them publically
- meet without a mediator present
As frustrating and infuriating it might be to not get paid for work that has already been completed, you would only make it worse by being vengeful and vindictive. Stay the course, be the bigger (and much better) person and try to come to a resolution with or without the aid of legal counsel.
Stay Away From Bad Advice on Handling a Non-Paying Client
Here is the thing; if you were to ask around and ask your fellow (freelance) social media managers how to resolve an issue with a non-paying client, in essence, crowdsourcing legal advice, you will end up getting all sorts of ‘wild' tips.
We know this to be true because we see this on a weekly basis in our Social Media Managers Facebook Group.
Below, find a few samples of questionable advice. We highly recommend that if you ever hear these ‘tips' to ignore them.
‘When a client is in breach of contract, that makes the contract invalid.'
‘Give your client an ultimatum and if you don't get payment by that date, take down and delete all your work.'
‘Post bad reviews on all their social sites outing them for who they are and what they do.'
‘Blackmail them! Tell them they only get access to all their accounts, including Facebook, after they pay you.'
Questionable advice from well-meaning colleagues can land you in hot water! A disgruntled client fed up with you not handing over accounts, holding accounts hostage, could counter-sue you and you might end up owing money.
So how do you go about collecting money from a non-paying client?
How to Collect Money From a Non-Paying Client
The way you handle this situation, collecting money from a non-paying client, depends on three factors.
- The time you want to invest in this matter
- Amount of money owed to you
- How much money you willing to spend to get the money owed to you
Say the client owes you $300. Decide if consulting with your legal counsel is worth collecting that money. If not, you might want to negotiate a reduced fee, if the client is willing.
Or, maybe the client owes $3,000. At this point you will want to consult with legal counsel, check your contract and contemplate legal action against the client. You may be willing to participate in mediation and settle outside of court.
But what if the client owes you $13,000, or more? This warrants a completely different strategy altogether and attaining legal counsel is highly encouraged.
Non-paying clients are a time-suck.
Non-paying clients cause stress in the work environment and are bad for business.
Wouldn't it be great if you never had to deal with a non-paying client again?
How To Prevent Clients From Paying Late
There are several ways to prevent clients from paying late, or not paying at all.
We can't say any of the options offered below are 100% foolproof, yet implementing these strategies will greatly reduce your number of non-paying clients in the future.
To prevent clients from not paying
- set up automated invoicing and automated credit card payments
- ask for direct-deposit if at all possible
- get paid up front for any work
- have a rock-solid contract in place
Doing any or all of these things will not guarantee you won't ever have to go after a client for non-payment but it will make it much less likely that you will!
I am a Certified Social Media Manager, Strategist, International Keynote Speaker, Organic Specialist and Agile marketer! Blogging is my creative outlet. Running, hiking and skiing are how I recharge. You'll recognize me on stage and online by my always present orange glasses, a nod to my Dutch heritage.