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When you work for a client, you do not just let them utilize your skills; you also share a part of your time and effort. So when you get into a situation where a client doesn’t pay you for the work that you have finished, it truly is disappointing. 

Moreover, it also feels personal, considering someone has taken advantage of you, and may also make you feel that your work isn’t worth to be paid.

With the freelancing community growing by the day, the ways a freelancer could experience non-payment also grows. 

Some clients do not lose excuses or reasons regarding it. Your client may say they can’t afford to pay you, even when it doesn’t seem that way during the time you were discussing the project. If you’re working as a subcontractor, your client might say they’re still waiting for their client to pay them. 

There are even people who would insult your work as a way to not pay you, citing that there’s no contract that they should. What’s worse, there are even clients who just disappears after you have submitted the finished product, refraining to answer your calls and messages.

You, as a freelancer, shouldn’t let a client mistreat you. You’ve worked hard providing that output, so you deserve to be paid in full. 

This article provides the steps to guarantee your payment for every client you work with. Every situation can be different, so it’s still up to you if you’d follow each step by step or proceed straight to collaborating with a lawyer or collection agent.

Instructions on What To Do If Your Client Hasn’t Paid You

First and foremost, you have to remind yourself that this occurrence isn’t your fault. You’ve already done your part of the job.

Moreover, you have to realize that this happens to almost everyone in freelancing at least once throughout their careers. Consider it as a learning process.

The steps may require you to think objectively as this may not be something you’d really want to do. The main priority here is to get paid from the output you’ve provided and less on trying to please your client.

Here are the basic steps when your client hasn’t paid you:

Step 1: Remind your client that it’s time to pay

When starting off a project with a client, always ensure that you both agreed on a schedule when a payment is due. It could be weekly on a Thursday or bi-monthly every 15th or 30th of the month.

As you continue working with your client, there will come a time where you’ll have a more casual relationship with them. You may have to politely remind them of the set agreement but make sure you let them know it’s nothing personal.

In addition, you may also let them know in a business-like manner that this is your livelihood. As both of you consider each other a professional, you should expect that you’d receive prompt payment, especially when you submit your outputs on time, too.

If you think the client doesn’t seem to budge on the statements you’ve provided beforehand, you could also let them know you’d be stopping the work you have with them unless they follow the agreed payment date.

Step 2: Do not work for free

If after doing step one your client still turns a blind eye and won’t pay you, stop on the work they’ve assigned. Clearly state that you won’t continue working on it until everything is settled.

Do not be easily waved by their promises, or even their way of guilt-tripping you. It’s important for them to know both of you needs something from each other. Your work provides growth to their business while their payment is what you utilize for your bills.

Step 3: Be straight-forward

You’ve already reminded them on the non-payment and even stopped the work you have with them. Your client has agreed that he’ll settle the bill, and yet your bank account continues to be empty.

This is not the time to be lenient. You could either call them or visit them in person. Confronting someone isn’t fun, but it’s most often effective especially in situations like these.

Step 4: Be insistent

As stubborn as it may be, you have to continue contacting your client so that they know you’d continue to do so until the problem is sorted. A recommended frequency would be around 2x a week, one through sending emails and another via phone call.

Sending emails is a sure way to keep a record on the follow-ups and could be used as evidence should things reach a serious situation.

Step 5: Involve others

When despite the unending follow-ups you made to the client and the client still wouldn’t budge, it’s time to pull in other people to exert pressure.

I’m not talking about just anyone though. 

You can either contact your client’s boss, other employees, sponsors, as well as their client (when you’re working as a subcontractor) and tell them what’s your real situation right now. 

You could admit to them that you are experiencing trouble with your client and ask them if there’s something they can do on their end. In this way, your client may be embarrassed about it and settle what they owe you.

Step 6: Send a formal demand letter to your client

If you want to push through on making your client pay, the best plan of action is to make a letter demanding payment by the client. This would be used when you plan to sue your client about it. This method may make your client feel threatened and settle the non-payment quickly. 

Guidelines into Making Your Demand Letter

To be viable proof that could be used by the court, a demand letter must include all important details verifying the demand for non-payment.

Check the list of items to be included below when drafting your demand letter

  1. Complete name of your client
  2. Date when you and client entered a service agreement along with the pre-agreed terms which includes:
    • Payment amount
    • Frequency of payment
  3. Amount of days passed since the last payment
  4. The amount owed by the client
  5. How many days the payment has been delayed
  6. The proposed deadline for payment
  7. Important documents regarding the contract which includes:
    • Contract itself
    • Documents confirming you’ve already done your end of the contract
    • Other relevant documents

Again, continue to be polite throughout the letter but be persistent enough to convince the client to pay before things get worse.

Step 7: Decide if you want to continue or not

At this point, the next step would be to seek help from outside influence. However, before you go any further, you should first consider the consequences that would happen afterward.

Some things to consider would be: What is your next plan of action if your client bans you in the company you’re currently working for? Would you still be able to manage to have social events where your client is also included?

There are other things to consider depending on the situation and how formal your relationship is with your client. If you think the payment you’re trying to chase from your client is insignificant compared to what the consequence will be after, it may be best to just let it go.

However, if you’re sure to push things further, continue to step 8.

Step 8: Hire a lawyer or collection agent

If you think you’ve spent a lot of time trying to convince your client to pay you and you’re still left disappointed, you can opt to find an expert instead.

You may first consider their rate as hiring them could be expensive. 

You can either hire a lawyer or a collection agent, depending on your preference. Hiring a collection agent is recommended to be the first one you should go to instead of hiring a lawyer is they are cheaper.

They would first negotiate a resolution by calling your client and then move to legal collections should it be needed.

On the other hand, you can also hire a lawyer which is more effective than a collection agency. If your client owes you a lot of money, you could go straight into hiring one. However, keep in mind that lawyers are expensive and wouldn’t guarantee a 100% success.

What to Avoid Doing When Confronting a Non-Payment

During these times of non-payment, you may be feeling negative emotions that would make you act on impulse. However, you need to stop these urges as it could make things complicated. For example, your client might use your actions against you in the future.

Listed below are things you should avoid when your client doesn’t pay you.

Being rude to your client

This includes degrading your client behind his back in the business community, on social media and others.

Threatening your client

The actions you make and even the words you’ve stated could be used against you, especially if they’re documented or is confirmed by a witness.

Being lenient

Letting the days pass by without taking action would make things harder for you. Collect payments as soon as possible before it gets long overdue and forgotten.

Being obstinate

When you think you’d spend more trying to get your payment back, it’s better to just let it go. Continuing would just hurt you more, especially when you plan on spending for a collection agency or a lawyer.

Overly-stressing yourself

Your mental and emotional health is still important. Make sure to still be able to get some rest. If things get worse, don’t think twice about leaving your client. 

If it would be easier to move on and look for a new and more suitable client, it’s better to do just that. There are better ones who won’t give you problems during payment schedules.

There will be situations where your client will announce that the business has reached bankruptcy. At this point, it would be a worthless expense to hire lawyers or try to sue them and it’s best to just move on.

How to Ensure You Get Paid on Time

Being proactive is a great way to escape the hassle of having to follow the steps mentioned above. 

Here are a few tips to follow to ensure you get paid on time.

Create a contract

You can follow a template for the contract, or make a better one with the assistance of a lawyer. But whatever you decide on, make sure that the important details are included in the contract. This can be useful later on.


Make sure to do thorough research before agreeing to work with a client. You could also check if their business is progressing well, or is not likely to be bankrupt. 

If a client fails to provide your payment on time, take action into resolving it before things get worse. There are red flags that you can check if a client is only just taking advantage of you. Trust your gut when dealing with people.

More than half of freelancers have experienced non-payment in some form. It could be a hassle doing so, but every service we have provided deserves to be paid, especially if you and your client agreed to it prior to the start of the project.

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