As a freelancer, you will encounter clients who refuse to pay. As much as you try to avoid it by sending regular invoices and beefing up your contracts with payment-related clauses, there will be clients who will still refuse to pay. You may feel powerless, but you’re not. You have a number of low-cost ways to strongly encourage them to pay. After all, you’ve done the work, so now it’s time for them to live up to their end of the agreement.
Alert the BBB
File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Include as much relevant information, dates, and numbers as possible. After you file a complaint, the BBB will reach out to the company in question for resolution within a few days and present your complaints. The company will then have a chance to rectify the situation. If they choose not to, the complaint can negatively affect their BBB rating. Many companies will do whatever they can to avoid a bad BBB rating, so this is always an effective place to start if you’ve already tried follow-up calls or emails and multiple invoices.
Get Legal Representation
Your first reaction may be that getting a lawyer isn’t a low-cost idea. However, there are companies that provide legal plans for a low monthly payment, some as little as $20 a month. Your legal representative can draft a letter to send to your non-paying client. For some clients, seeing official letterhead from an attorney will be enough to encourage them to send you a check. However, if you choose this option, you have to make sure you’re ready to take it to small claims court, if it comes to that. You don’t want a client to call your bluff and for you to be unprepared.
Use a Collection Service
Again, your first thought may be the expense of collection agencies. But just as there are monthly legal plans for less, there are monthly collection plans. With these collection plans, you can choose to pay a low monthly fee, a one-time fee or a percentage with each account you forward them. This allows you to take debt collection off your plate, know that it’s being handled, and focus on the clients who do pay.
While these three options increase the possibility of getting invoices paid, they’re also a way to burn bridges. So, make sure you’re ready to end the professional relationship before you move forward. Remember, just because you’re a freelancer doesn’t mean others can take advantage of you or your work. At some point you'll need to take a stand, and that starts with knowing your rights, your options, and how to protect yourself.