7 Strategies to Deal With Bad Clients for Freelancers

Jun 11, 2019 | Business & Entrepreneurs, Startup Tips & Ideas

Nobody ever said that being a freelance worker was an easy job. You often have to put up with covering your benefits, irregular hours, unsteady payment, and the occasional bouts of loneliness if you decide to work from home.

One of the worst problems with which every veteran freelancer is all too familiar is the deadbeat client. You know, the ones that don’t pay on time and often keep you waiting for days, if not weeks, to pay up the money that they owe you.

According to data from the Freelancer’s Union, 71% of freelancers have said that they are having trouble getting paid on time. On average, clients owe these freelance workers approximately $6,000. That’s quite a bit of money. Imagine what it must be like to work so hard and so long, and then not get paid what is owed to you for the work. With that amount of money, you could pay off a couple months’ worth of rent, pay off your student loans, and solve a bunch of other pressing issues.

Quite clearly, clients who don’t pay up on time are the worst, especially considering that you sometimes don’t know if they’ll pay up at all. So what can you do when faced with this dilemma? Try out some of these tips given by expert freelance workers:

1. Document and record everything

Assuming that you don’t have a receptionist or administrative assistant, you will be solely responsible for handling all of your documents, files, expenses, and reports. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but it’s well worth it to take the time to get yourself organized.

Keep a document that contains information on each client that you work with, how much they owe, when their payment is due, and whether or not they have paid. You should also store your emails and other proofs of conversations and terms so that you can reference them at later dates.

2. Send invoices as soon as you can

If you want your clients and customers to remember to pay you, send your invoices to them at the earliest possible time. Sending invoices are an easy way to give your client a gentle nudge to pay on time. After all, it is a much less formal way of giving them a phone call or a reminder email that nudges them into paying your due. An invoice may be a much more casual reminder, but it is a useful reminder nonetheless.

3. Have the client pay in increments

There are many reasons a client might not pay up. Perhaps they forgot, or even worse, are trying to avoid paying you (or trying to get away with paying you as little as possible). However, less dishonest people often don’t pay back merely because they can’t always afford to.

They might have had a few unforeseen expenses thrown at them that need to be taken care of first. Maybe they just faced a rent hike or had to pay off some expensive hospital bills.

You should be understanding and offer the client the option of paying in increments, paying a little at a time until they pay their debt in full. You will still get your money in the end. It will just take longer for all of it to arrive at your doorstep.

4. Charge late fees for those who don’t pay on time

Nothing motivates some people more than money. It is money that spurs some people to take action and do things that they would otherwise not be doing. On the other hand, some people are driven by the prospect of not losing money.

A late fee is something that will put pressure on your client and encourage them to pay their dues on time if they don’t want to suffer from a hefty late payment fee. It might sound a bit cruel, but it’s well worth it to do.

5. Have the client pay up front

This option is not for everyone, but demanding an upfront payment can sometimes help. You can have them pay a portion of your fee during the beginning of the project and pay the rest of it when you have completed your work. This way, if your client decided to flake for some reason, you will still have a decent amount of money to keep for yourself.

Alternatively, you can have the client pay based on how much you have gotten done. For example, the client can pay you a quarter of the fee each time you get 25% of the requested project done. This way, if either of you bails out on the project, both parties will get what they have paid for.

6. Stop working until the client pays up for your service.

If you want to set your foot down and force them to pay, then stop working until they have proven that they are suitable for their money. After all, you didn’t get into freelancing to be a volunteer worker, now did you? That will show them that you are serious about your profession and that you are a no-nonsense type of person who does not want to put up with people who don’t hold up their end of the bargain.

That might seem harsh, but they will get the message. If the client decides that they want to end the relationship right then and there, it was probably for the best regardless.

7. Speak to other freelancers about clients.

Word of mouth can spread far and wide, especially since everyone is connected to the internet nowadays. If you have a client that has been slow to pay up, or you are unsure about whether or not they are good to their word, make sure to ask some other freelancers.

You might find someone else who has experience working with that particular client or person and hear similar horror stories about how they never got paid. This information will let you know who to trust or avoid.

Of all the numerous challenges that freelance workers have to put up with daily, deadbeat clients who don’t pay their dues are certainly among the worst.

Nobody wants to deal with someone who can’t pay their clients. If these tactics seem a little bit harsh, you shouldn’t have to worry too much. As a freelancer, you don’t have the time to put up with deadbeat clients who aren’t good for their money.

Your income is pretty unsteady as it is, and clients who waste your time are also mostly spending your money because you could always be using that time to work for a different client. Don’t be afraid to set your foot down and be assertive when you need to.

Final Thoughts:

Your time is just as valuable as theirs, and you certainly wouldn’t want to be working with someone who can’t hold up their end of the bargain.