Non-Paying Clients: Protecting Yourself

Non-Paying Clients

It’s fair to say that most people who are just beginning freelancing will experiment with one of the platforms. Guru, Upwork, Fiverr and others are sites we’ve reviewed on Freelance with Us – you can check out those reviews elsewhere on the site.

The benefit to the platforms is that most offer protection to both you and your client. Upwork, dispute resolution and other services are hugely helpful when you run across problems.

If you’re thinking about taking your work off the platforms, though, you’ll need to vet your clients a little more thoroughly. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself.

1. Have a chat!

The absolute most simple way to vet your freelance clients is to get to know them a little ahead of initiating a contract. You’ll get a feel for their personality, and can learn more about their business and their goals. This serves two purposes: first, you can judge their ability (and intent) to pay, and second, you can learn enough to ensure that your deliverable is exactly what your client expects.

2. Be explicit

When you’re working off the platforms, it’s critical that you’re explicit in your pay requirements. Many freelancers are naturally introverted and asking for pay is extremely daunting. Don’t make the mistake of shying away from asking to be paid fairly.

Let your client know your per-word rate ahead of time. Let him know that you require 50% payment upfront and 50% when the job is complete. Tell him exactly how many edits are included in that price. And tell him how long you anticipate the project will take.

3. Always have a contract

It sounds scary, but you should always have a contract in place when you’re working with a freelance client off the platforms. This should include everything we mentioned above, and also the scope of the project, the payment terms ad more. There are oodles of freelance contract templates available online; choose one and modify it to suit your business.

4. Just ask!

If you’ve vetted your client ahead of time yet a significant time with no payment has passed, just ask your client! Remember, your clients are people, too. They’ve got jobs and lives. While you’re depending on that payment, they may have just set your bill in the “To Pay Monthly” file. For instance, say you’ve got a great gig with a group of Indianapolis medical error lawyers. You completed the job last week, but they’ve still not paid.

Well, in all likelihood, they’re just busy, plain and simple. They’ve got court cases and paperwork and interviews to complete, and they’ll get to your bill sooner or later. There’s no harm, however, in sending a gentle reminder. Just don’t be a pest about it.

5. Know when to fold ‘em

Over the course of your freelance career, you’re going to run into some people who are just jerks. They’ll enlist you to complete work with absolutely no intention of paying you. You can, in most cases, legally prevent them from using that work.

But if they haven’t published or profited from any part of your deliverable, and months have passed with no word, you gotta know when to fold ‘em. Sometimes that fifty bucks just isn’t worth the stress of the chase. Chalk it up to a learning experience, find a different way to pay the light bill, and move on.

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