Friday, August 7, 2009

Tips for Handling Deadbeat Clients

Being a freelance writer comes with a lot of great benefits: a flexible schedule, being able to work from home and no there’s difficult boss to worry about. Unfortunately there are risks involved, like clients who don’t pay.

There’s nothing worse than repeatedly hearing “the check’s in the mail” when it really isn’t. You work hard to provide your clients with stellar writing services and deserve to be paid. Waiting for payment when there are bills waiting to be paid can be stressful. Fortunately most clients are professional and take making timely payments seriously.

Deadbeat clients are a reality of the freelance writing business. While you may not be able to avoid the risk of running into them, you can take steps to protect yourself from becoming an easy target.

Get it in writing

I suggest using a contract EVERY time with clients. Some freelance writers don’t feel it’s necessary as long as they correspond with clients by email. True, email could stand up in court if it comes to that, you leave a lot open to your client’s interpretation of your payment terms. There is less likely to be a loop hole with a signed legal document.

Get payment upfront

Some freelance writers are reluctant to request payment upfront because they believe that a client will consider them pushy. But think about services you pay for. Many service providers require at least a portion of the payment upfront as a sign of good faith.

Some freelance writers require full payment in advance while others ask for a down payment to get started. A client that pays something in advance is more likely to follow through when the final balance due. Even if he turns out to be a deadbeat client, you will have collected some payment instead of nothing at all.

Make the call

It’s easy to keep making excuses via email; but if you pick up the phone and contact the client directly to find out when they will be sending payment, it can motivate them to move more quickly. If you get a voice mail message, make sure to request a return call.

Don’t make threats

Always keep it professional. Don’t resort to making threats or engaging in negative behavior. Remain calm and let them know that you have not been paid for your services and need to know when and how they will submit payment.

Keep record of all correspondence

Keep a record of all emails from you and the client. Make a note of phone conversations too. Be sure to keep a log noting the date, time, person you spoke to and conversation details.

Report them

The reality is that you may never see a dime of the money you’re owed. As a community we owe it to other freelance writers to protect them from similar experiences. You can submit the client’s information to online sites that warn others from falling into the same trap. Freelance writers can contact, or to share what they experienced.

Take them to court

Even if you decide to take a client to court, keep in mind that it’s no guarantee that you will receive payment. The courts don’t really do much when it comes to collecting a judgment, an if your client has filed bankruptcy, you won’t get paid.

Learn from your mistakes

Think about what you can start doing to protect yourself. If you’ve been doing business without contract, change that. If you have been providing services without requiring payment upfront, change that. When you work for yourself, there is a big learning curve. Reconsider the clients you currently target for business. Are they a payment risk? Always be willing to learn from your mistakes and keep writing.

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