If you are an entrepreneur who has been in business for more than a few years, you’ve likely encountered a situation where a client made the payment process painfully slow or didn’t pay at all.
Although this has only happened to me a couple of times during the last six years, a recent experience made it clear that this issue is still a big problem.
Before I give my perspective, I want to share opinions and insights from some of my good friends who are also entrepreneurs. Their specialties range from SEO to web design to copywriting:
If They Want You, They Should Pay Upfront
“I have had various clients throughout my 6-year career but honestly I have never had anyone fail to pay. In the majority of cases, I charge upfront. This way I am 100% secured. Sometimes I do allow paying for the completed order — but only when if I know the client personally, have good recommendations or have worked for them for some time already to build some trust.??It’s not that I am being too cautious. Most clients find me and want me to work for them (not vice versa), so they are glad to pay upfront.??However I can imagine the situation when the client won’t pay (for any reasons). It may depend on the project size but in most cases, I’d let it go, I think. It’s not my style to threaten or beg. I know it may be wrong but that’s how I work!”
from MyBlogGuest (a guest blogging community)
Get the Details in Writing
- “A detailed breakdown of exactly what each party will be contributing to the project?
- Deadlines by which things will be completed?
- Signatures from both of you with the date??
Also, in the contract make sure to put a clause stating where jurisdiction will fall if the client fails to pay for the completed work. You ideally want the jurisdiction to fall in the city and state where you are personally located, so the client will have to come to you if there is a problem or dispute over money and being paid.”
from Simple Weight Loss
You Deserve to Get Paid, So Be Persistent
“1. Have clients make 3 payments (50%, 25%, and the final payment). Getting them to pay more frequently helps you with your cash flow and it helps the client re-commit half way through the project. If they decide not to pay after you have collected 75% of the project it’s much better than not getting paid at all.
2. Bill clients in full if the project is less than a minimum that you set for yourself and your clients. For example if a project is less than $1,000 we like to have the project paid in full if the client agrees to it.
3. If they won’t pay… Be a pest. Call them, email them, show up at their office. Stalk them if you have to… Be annoying until they have to go borrow the money or get a part-time job to pay you… just don’t give up and let them get over on you.
4. Never, never, never, turn over finalized files to a client before they pay you in full.”
from Raxa Design
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.”
A Smaller Payment is Better than $0
“In my experience, I always try to charge upfront, however that is not always possible, especially with larger organizations that have to submit invoices to an account department. So another option is to get a 1 months deposit upfront, so in case they don’t pay on-time, you can lean on that deposit to cover the internal costs for performing the work.
Another idea, that I am not particularly fond of but know of my companies that do this, is removing all of the on-page optimization that was done on the site. This will get your clients attention and realize that you are serious about timely payments.”
Tip from Smashing Magazine
I also think this tip from Smashing Magazine is quite interesting for web designers:
“Another route that some freelance Web developers opt for when they design websites for clients is to install a kind of CSS fail-safe, in order to have leverage if payment disputes come up. CSS Killswitch is a freelance coder’s dream come true. By simply linking to an external CSS style sheet, which can be activated with the simple click of a button, you can black out a website if the client refuses to pay — even if they have changed the password and locked you out of the back end, which is the only circumstance under which this should be done.”
I protect myself in two ways. First, I normally wait for payment in full before I start any work. Second, because I charge a setup and monthly fee, I’m usually paid a month in advance.
If this type of billing isn’t possible for you, try to get a full or partial payment in advance. Never start any work on a project if all you’re getting is “the check is in the mail” promise!
What to Do When You Don’t Get Your Payment in Full and the Client is Either Late or Refusing to Pay
First, let the client know you aren’t going to just forget about their bill and that you fully intend to collect. They may be avoiding payment as a test to see if they can get away with it. Solving the problem may be as simple as you letting them know you’re not going to forget about their bill.
Unfortunately, it’s not always going to be this easy, so you may have to take a few extra steps. In addition to calls and emails, you can use a service like Fresh Books to send them an invoice by snail mail, email or both. Because receiving an invoice in the mail makes it more tangible, this can be the nudge a client needs to make their payment.
Get a Contract in Writing
No matter what, the most important thing you can do is to have a signed contract in place. There may be times when you feel comfortable with someone and think, “Oh, I know Joe and he’s a reliable guy.” Unfortunately, this thought isn’t going to help you when Joe keeps “forgetting” about paying you. If a job is for more money than you are willing to not collect on, you need a written contract.
If you have your agreement in writing, you can always take legal or collection action against the client if it’s enough money to warrant the time and hassle. If the amount is less than $5000, it only costs around $50 to file a small claims lawsuit Hopefully, after the client sees you are not simply going to forget about their bill, they will do the right thing and pay up.
And now in the spirit of this post, a short clip from the classic movie Goodfellas…
Note:This video is NSFW and contains four letters words.
Have you ever had a client not pay on time or completely refuse to pay? How did you handle the situation? Let us know in the comments!