How to deal with difficult clients that don’t want to pay?
If you been in the creative industry long enough, you’re going encounter those unfortunate situations where a client decides that they are not going to pay you for services rendered. This is can be inevitable, but it doesn’t mean that you have done anything wrong. It’s likely that you have taken all the necessary precautions, explained your Terms and Conditions clearly and have also had the client sign a contract, and still, they decide that they are not going to pay you (or only partially pay).
Here’s what we suggest (but there’s still no guarantee that you’ll get paid).
- Review the Contract again with the client. A good contract is still no guarantee that the client will pay you, but it’s still better than not having a contract.
- Pick up the phone and call them. Emails and voice mails tend to be non-personal. Having a live conversation with the client can often be a much better tactic to solving the issue. I’ve found that people tend to be far more reasonable over the phone than they are over email.
- Send reminder letters for the outstanding invoice. For legal reasons, it’s best to protect yourself by sending a clear message to your client that they have payment(s) outstanding with you.
- Be Flexible and understandable. By showing some flexibility, it’s likely you may be able to get at least partial payment from your client, and this may be all that you can realistically get.
- Seek legal advice. But this should be your last resort. Taking things to this next level can be costly for you (legal fees and time) and you want to avoid this if you can. Most disputes never make it to court, and they can sometimes be solved through arbitration. But you can find yourself in small claims court if arbitration fails. And once things reach court, settlement is always something less than what is owed, so again, try the “Flexible & Understandable” route first before taking this step.
- Withhold the final product (if you can). If the project is not yet complete, ie: a website, then if you can, withhold client access to the site. If the project is a new logo or other design work, don’t send the working files until you receive the final payment in full.
- Cut your losses. In most cases, finding a solution to a client problem will eat into your bottom line. This is sadly unavoidable and it usually means you won’t make much money on the project. Even though it hurts, you need to cut your losses by solving the problem and turning a negative experience into positive experience, you’ll gain more than you lost in the long run.