As a freelance designer, the last thing you want to deal with is stress caused by late or lost payments! Trust me, I’ve been a freelancer myself and it’s no cakewalk.
With all the flexibility, ownership, access to brilliant collaboration tools, the only major downside of a freelancing life is managing late payments. From all the clients on your rooster, you would encounter a few who either ghost you for payments or never pay on time.
But what if I tell you there's a way to deal with them? Finding it tough believe it?
Here's sharing a detailed modus operandi for dealing with clients who are making you wait for payments or have kept radio silence for them!
It is normal to feel that you have been cheated on for all the work you did. You might feel the glaring thought of losing a huge amount of hard-earned money. Still, avoid jumping the gun. Before you write a stinker to the client, try to be in their shoes and take an empathetic approach.
Keep the long-term rapport that you have set up with the client in mind. It is absolutely possible that your client is caught up in some kind of an emergency or they might have some personal reasons for responding late.
If your client has gone silent for the first time then give them some benefit of your doubt and stay patient. Let them respond at their pace for this one time and then make a conclusion.
While you are being patient, it is okay to follow up through the week and recheck the contract that you had signed. If you have set up an automated process that lets your client pay you through a single click then it would ensure quicker payments.
Alternatively, make sure that you have sent your invoice on time. In case you have done that already then you could resend your invoice. By resending your invoice you would subtly remind your client to process the payment. This serves as a gentle follow-up and also doesn't create a ripple in your rapport with the client.
After doing all of this, if your client has still failed to respond then you would need to take a faster route and write a professional email to address the elephant in the room.
For a client who really doesn't wish to pay you, all your emails would serve as zero conscious calls! All your follow-ups would go down the drain as well. For such clients, you might have to take the route that most freelancers do not wish to fall prey to - reach out to them on social media. As desperate as it might sound to you, reaching out on social media shows that you are a professional and you wish to be treated like one.
Most of the clients, companies that you deal with have an active presence on LinkedIn, Twitter. You could directly message them there and follow up on late or deferred payment. Draft a straightforward yet polite message to them and most probably, they should be able to clear your payment at this stage.
After all these steps, if you are still waiting to hear from your client then you might consider taking a legal process, such as sending intent letters or legal action.
Oftentimes, a legal notice can wake up clients and they would contact you to settle the matter. They strike an arrangement to clear your payment and you would be on your way to close the subject. However, in the worst-case scenario, you might have to move to a small court, in such cases, consult your attorney and make an informed decision to move ahead.
At any point through this process, your client could get back to you and process your payment. Depending upon the extent of your wait and tolerance, you could bury the hatchet and move ahead. You could decide to work with the same client or could cancel the contract. In either case, unless your pending payment is cleared, do not proceed with any new projects or assignments that they might send your way.
Post the payment clearance, if you are okay about still working with the client then you should set up new terms and conditions. If needed, consider restructuring them to include all the important things that must be present in a contract to protect you from such situations. For instance:
These measures would ensure that you have a backup plan in place even if your client ghosts you again.
Last but not the least, the best way to deal with clients who go “MIA” is not to sign them in the first place! Listen to your intuition and watch out for red flags, unprofessional clients usually reveal themselves right from the start. If the patterns are clearly visible, don’t hesitate to fire them. However, even if you sign them up, make sure to frame a contract, set clear expectations and you would be covered.