What to do when a client won’t pay
Late last year, I was approached by a local business, recently opened in the area to help them build their social presence and hopefully their customer base.
I was keen to get involved as I feel it’s important to support the area I live in, and it’s always great to see new ventures opening up near to me.
Long story short, I met with them, outlined a plan, gave them a substantially reduced rate and agreed to their payment terms (which were different than my own, but I was trying to be supportive of their endeavour in any way that I could.) I started work for them, wrote a strategy, agreed direction and a working process and right from the get-go they weren’t delivering on what we’d agreed. (Not giving me the content promised/rescheduling meetings at the last minute) but I just put this down to the upcoming holidays/general client inefficiency.
A couple of weeks before Christmas (I’d been working for them for the better part of a month now) I invoiced for the first half of the agreed amount. They had asked me to do this in our initial meeting – this was on their timescale. My invoice terms on jobs of this nature is 7 days.
7 days came and went, and I was assured that the payment would be made soon. I didn’t worry too much about this as it was the holidays, I was just mildly annoyed until the client stopped responding to my emails or texts.
In early January I eventually got the details of their financial controller who emailed me back a few days later saying that unfortunately he didn’t have a payment date as of yet. No explanation as to why or when he might. Literally a one-liner.
This was what really annoyed me as it showed such a massive lack of respect. I continued to chase for payment, but to no avail.
In frustration (and not naming any names) I tweeted about overdue invoices, and a company called Safe Collections got back to me.
Now, I’ve never used a debt collection service because I haven’t had to. Clients have paid late, sure, but they’ve always kept me posted as to what was going on and when I could expect payment.
I was at the end of my tether with this client so I contacted Safe Collections and they were super helpful right from the start. They take on the job of dealing with the client for you (very persistently) until they settle the account. I just had to give them the client details and fwd them any relevant correspondence about payment.
It took the guys at Safe Collections just over 3 weeks to get my invoice paid, they updated me at every step and just took the hassle out of dealing with my worst ever client. It was worth every single penny of the teeny amount they charged for their services.
They didn’t ask me to write this post, but I thought it might be helpful for other freelancers/ small business owners to know that there are people who can help resolve situations like this.
I find it irksome that given the way that business works, if you complain publicly about not being paid or treated very well, it’s you who is seen as unprofessional, while the client continues as usual and you’re put in a situation that makes you feel (somewhat) helpless.
If you’re ever unlucky enough to experience this, just be aware there are things you can do while still retaining your professional integrity.