So, you’ve finished the work for your client and sent an invoice. The only problem now is that you haven’t been paid.  What can you do?

Benefit of the Doubt

The world is a busy place and some people are busier than others.  Instead of angrily rattling off an email demanding immediate payment, give your client the benefit of the doubt and send a gentle reminder.  Asking if your client received your invoice is a neutral way of nudging a response out of a nonpaying client.  There’s no sense in destroying a relationship (and future work) when a simple mistake may have been separating you from your rightfully earned funds.

Ducking and Covering

If you tried the first method, but still suspect your client is purposely avoiding your requests for whatever reason, it is up to you to escalate the situation to a meaningful resolution.  See if calling their company directly works for you.  No one wants to advertise their money problems, especially around the same employees they pay to keep their business running.  If that approach doesn’t work, try using their personal phone numbers and get a definitive answer—did they receive your invoice, and if so, when do they expect to make payment on it?

While this may seem rude, it is actually more rude to perform a service and not be paid for it, wasting valuable time tracking down money that should have already been in your account.  If a situation gets to this point, you can start deciding whether you wish to do future business with them.  For most businesses and freelancers, this is a red flag.  For others, this is an absolute deal-breaker.

Legal Action

Unfortunately, if the client remains unresponsive or evasive, you may have to threaten legal action.  Depending on your initial agreements before beginning work (see below), you may be entitled to take immediate action to recover your payment.

Pursuing clients in court can be time-consuming, but it may be worth it depending on the money at stake.  Depending on your local courts, it may take several months to file a case against your client—are you willing to make the commitment to your schedule for your lost pay?  Better yet, legal measures, like serving court papers or suggesting arbitration, may startle the client enough to cutting their own losses and realizing the vast cost and likelihood of losing the case—and court fees—that they might have to deal with.

Sometimes, you’ll have to bite the bullet and realize that you gained an education on the depravity of your fellow man minus whatever they owe you.  Word gets around and flakes don’t last long without serious consequences.

The Golden Rule

Repeat this mantra: always get it in writing.  The more you cover your bases legally in the beginning, the more professionally you’ll be taken when it comes time for payday.  Define the terms and exact date in which you should get paid (ex. Net-30).  Also, check to make sure the writing is accurate and conforms to your local laws.  Try to avoid common mishaps by clearly defining the terms of payment.


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