At some point in your freelance career, you will end up with a deadbeat client who is slow to pay — or who tries to avoid paying altogether. I’ve had clients in the past who have skipped out on the bill and some that I’ve had to pester a little bit in order to get what I’m owed.
If you hope to get money from a deadbeat client, here are some tips to help you along:
Double Check the Payment Terms
Before you do anything, you need to double check your payment terms. While you might set the terms with some of your smaller clients, many larger, corporate clients pay on a Net 30 or Net 45 basis. This means that you might not even be able to expect to see your money until more than a month after you invoice.
Make sure you understand what to expect so that you aren’t pestering a major client who pays on a Net 45 basis.
Keep Track of Who Has Paid — And How Long They’ve Had the Invoice
One of the great things about using an invoicing system is the fact that you can keep tabs on who has paid and who hasn’t, and you can see when you issued the invoice.
An invoicing program like Due.com is a great tool when it comes to getting paid by a deadbeat client. You can see which invoices are 30, 60, and more than 90 days late. This helps you decide how to approach the client.
For clients that are 30 days late, I send a reminder. If the client is 60 days late, I send a more personal email. I ask if there was a problem with my work, and asking for payment. For clients that are more than 90 days late, I am prepared to take it to the next level.
Threaten a Deadbeat Client — Politely
When a client is more than 90 days late, that’s when I look into threatening — politely. I usually send a professional email to the deadbeat client; pointing out that the invoice was issued 90 days ago. I’ll also attach the invoice or send the client to a link for convenience). I say that I will consult with my accounting and legal teams about next steps.
My email uses a template in which I say that I will consult with my accounting and legal teams about next steps, which could include sending an account to collections.
I am fortunate to have four lawyers in my family, so my legal team is never far away. Normally, though, a professionally-toned and polite email pointing out delinquency and mentioning that I’m exploring my legal options is enough to get a deadbeat client to send payment almost immediately.
The fact that I have an invoice management system makes all of this easy. I can send reminders with a click of a button. I can easily see who has paid, and who is overdue. With that information available at a glance, and a template letter can be dispatched. This saves me time and energy. It also lets me focus on growing my business without taking too much effort with a deadbeat client.