You are currently viewing How to Get Paid by Clients Who Don’t Want to Pay

Have you ever had trouble  getting paid?

Don’t sweat it too much because being refused payment is almost like a type of initiation. When you’re in business long enough, you’re sure to come across that dreaded client who doesn’t want to pay.

Does having a client who doesn’t want pay mean that you won’t get paid?

Of course not. It just means that you have to have measures and techniques in place, to help ensure you get paid.  

In this post, I share my experience in the hope that it will help you to get paid.

Put measures in place

When I started my copywriting business, at the outset I put together a price quote. Beneath the element that states the cost,  I list my terms and conditions. Those terms and conditions protect me.

i. Payment terms are clear. For the most part I take a 50% deposit. Sometimes (rarely), I take a 100% deposit. If clients refuse a deposit, I prefer to walk away. You will find however, that most clients understand and accept your conditions without question.

ii. Perhaps my strongest clause is that IP rights transfer upon full payment. In other words, as long as my work is not paid for in full, clients do not have the right to use my work.

But what happens if a client doesn’t use your work? Will you still get paid?

I recently did a project for a client. A large client, and it was my first project with them. It was a small job but important for them and they needed it for that same day.

I approach all projects with a can-do attitude, and this project was no different. But because this could potentially be a huge client and because they wanted it for the same day, I gave up on two things – a deposit and a rush fee.

I received approval for the price quote and I did the work.  As with all projects, with the draft of the work that I sent the client, I asked for feedback and followed up the following day. I was told that they didn’t have the time to review it yet and that I can be in touch in a few days. I followed up in a few days, but now I couldn’t get in touch with the client. When I finally did get in touch a week later, I was told that they were in a rush to put the copy on the website and so they used something they found in their files.

Frustrating, yes. Did I think I shouldn’t be paid? No.

Always be kind

As the project was clearly over, I asked if I could send the invoice.

They said yes.

But when payment was supposed to show up in my account, it didn’t.

I called up the client and updated them that I hadn’t been paid. They said they’ll check it for me.

Do you think they got back to me?

Of course they didn’t.

So I called back a week later. Once again, they said they weren’t sure and they’ll check where it got stuck. This time it was clear, they weren’t really interested in speaking with me.

I had a problem.

Be persistent

At this point I was quite embarrassed to run after them and potentially be shot down for being annoying.

I shared my fear with my husband.

He looked at me, made a face and said ‘are you joking? You feel bad? They should feel bad!’

That was enough to set me straight. He was right. So what if they’re unhappy with my phone call? They owe me money. I could totally understand their annoyance, since they’re not so interested in paying me.

Make it impossible to ignore you

That day, I made a decision to call them every week. And I did. And when they didn’t answer the phone, I messaged them and emailed them.

I made it impossible for them to ignore me, even if they weren’t getting back to me.

When you call every week, sometimes, they’ll end up picking up the phone.

And when they did, I was super kind and calm. I never let on that I thought that they didn’t want to pay me. I spoke so that they could hear the smile on my face. I was assertive, but oh, so nice. I never mentioned the fact that I should have been paid months ago, or that we had a contract. The only thing I did ask to know is what stage the payment is at and if there’s any documentation they need to help move things along.

I must have sent them the invoice an additional twice or three times.

And still nothing.

But I persisted. I called every single week. And I didn’t give up.

I took nine weeks until my message finally penetrated.

They let me know that the finance department didn’t receive my invoice and requested that I email it again.

‘With pleasure,’ I replied with a smile on my face.

Soon after, the finance department called to say that they received a request to rush payment, but that they had never received the invoice.

Once again, I was super nice. I pretended I thought it was a genuine mistake and thanked them for handling payment.  

I received payment a week later.

I hope that it never happens to you, but if it does, I hope this post helps.

Have you ever had to deal with a client who refused to pay you for your work? What did you do? Did they pay you?


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    What about work for a NPO that says they want to pay you but just have no funds?

    1. liat

      If they have the good will but no money and you’ve done the work, maybe you can try a payment scheme. It might take you much longer to recover the money if you allow them to pay in installments, but at least you’ll get paid.

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