Protection Freelancers Need: Dealing with Non-Paying Clients

non-paying clientsFreelancers occasionally run into a client that simply won’t pay up because of one misunderstanding or another. As a freelancer, we always run the risk on a project that we might not get compensated.

Employers or Freelance Contractors all have the list of excuses as to why their payments are delayed or why they can no longer be settled.

You might have done the work but the money is a no-show; how do you protect yourself?

Know the law

While verbal agreements are considered binding, there may be no evidence to prove it apart from your word. It also means that without a contract, copyrights haven’t yet been transferred so there’s still a chance to save yourself from a non-paying client using your work. And ask your client if he would rather pay your rate or pay a lot more owning up to the law.

Prevention better than cure

If you’re a freelance designer, put a watermark on your work or significantly reduce quality before handing out the finished product, making it difficult to pirate/steal. It’s also not worth the headaches and wasted time/money giving a shady client a chance. Avoid them, or get your terms and conditions written down and agreed upon.

Employ a third party

That is, leave the work to a collections agency who have the expertise on dealing with bad clients and have the resources to follow through with their collections. They may cost a lot but the mere scent of them may be enough to stir delinquent clients into action.

There will always be unexpected mishaps so the last advice you can get is to learn from your mistakes, and don’t risk making them again. You’re running a business, not a charity; and you need to protect yourself from non-paying clients to continue running smooth as clockwork.

Have you encountered non-paying clients already? How did you handle it?

  • Tim

    I used to run a real world small newspaper funded by advertising. One such ad was based on a verbal agreement, and I ended up never collecting for 3 months advertising. That money would have been my income for a couple of those months. It took a long time to recover from my mistake.

  • Some excellent tips here. As a “sometimes freelancer” myself, I will definitely keep these in mind for any future jobs. I’ve only had non paying issues once so far but it’s always something to be on the look out for.

  • I once worked for a client for two weeks and never got paid because they went “bankrupt”. They stayed in business and are in business to this day but I have never been paid. Kind a ticks me off.

  • I have had this experience too. I did a lot of freelance work when I was in college. I did one big weeklong projuct one summer for a client who had come recommended from another of my best clients. Wrote all the web content for a new site, then they suddenly disappeared when they were “reviewing” my work. 2 weeks later the site was live and I never got paid. No money to fight them and you loose.