There are always a few clients who ignore your invoices and let the 30-day mark pass without a word. Obviously, you don’t want to constantly chase the money you are owed, but you can’t afford to ignore the situation, either.
So what do you do? You may eventually find yourself in litigation over unpaid debts (if the bill is big enough and the client is determined to avoid paying), but there are things you can try first.
Ways to get your clients to pay their debts
Non-paying clients tend to come in three forms — ones who can’t afford to pay their bills, those who simply forget to pay what they owe and those who never intend to pay their bills in the first place. You may have no idea which category you are dealing with, so try this approach:
- Get your paperwork together. Documentation is everything when it comes to debt collection, so make sure that you stay organized. You want to keep copies of your invoices, emails and letters. Note each contact you make with the client as you try to collect.
- Stay calm and keep calling. If your client is somewhat scattered, you may need to make a few phone calls to collect what you are due. Space them out, remain upbeat and be understanding. Your positive attitude may actually make them feel guilty about not paying you.
- Make sure you understand your rights (and theirs). The Fair Debt Collections and Practices Act gives you pretty broad leeway to pursue what you are owed – but you cannot harass, mislead or threaten your clients into paying.
- Offer to settle for less. If you suspect that a client is willing to pay but can’t, it may be better to cut your losses and take a reduced fee. If you can cover your overhead for the job, you can call it a win.
Will this be successful? Maybe. It depends on the client — but it’s definitely the place to start.
What if your client simply won’t pay?
When you reach the end of your rope with a non-paying client, it’s time to bring in the big guns. Speaking with an attorney who understands how to pursue unpaid debts can give you clarity and direction — and help you get what you are owed.