Talking Money With Clients: Dealing With Unpaid Invoices

This is the final post in the ‘Talking Money With Clients’ guest post series by Jennifer Mattern.

Her previous guest posts taught us how to discuss pay rates with clients initially and how to raise your freelance writing rates.

Today’s post deals with unpaid invoices

Another frequently dreaded financial discussion for freelancers is contacting clients about unpaid invoices. Nobody likes to be paid late. If you do the job and meet the client’s deadline, there is no good reason for them not to do the same when it comes to paying you.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of demanding payments that have exceeded your payment terms, here are a few ideas that might help you avoid the situation or make it easier to deal with.

Use an invoicing service

Use Paypal or another payment service provider that offers “reminder” options for overdue invoices. If a client hasn’t paid on time, you just click a button from your Paypal account and an automated reminder is sent to the client. You don’t have to leave any personal messages that bring your frustration into it. The default is usually good enough.

Require full or partial up-front payments

Personally, I require full upfront payments for most work (and always for new clients). This means I don’t have to worry about clients not paying me after I’ve invested billable hours that I can never get back. Not all freelance writers are comfortable doing that (the more experienced you are and the more demand there is for your services, the easier it becomes).

Even if you don’t want to bill entirely up front, you could make sure you don’t get stiffed on an entire project by requiring a 50% deposit before you start with the rest due on completion. You’ll know the client is capable of paying, and even if there is a dispute later you’ll wait around on less money.

Follow up

Sometimes invoices just get late. The simple solution to that is to follow up about your unpaid invoice. Keep the tone friendly  and phrase it as a simple case of touching base to make sure they received your invoice that was due on such-and-such a date.

You can also use it as an opportunity to ask for feedback on your submitted work, asking if they have any edit requests to make sure they’re satisfied before paying. Maybe there’s a delay because the client is backlogged and hasn’t had a chance to review your work yet.

If you’ve followed up at least twice already, then don’t be afraid to get tougher about it. If they’re a regular, let them know their next project will start when this invoice is cleared up (that you won’t do further unpaid work). If you absolutely cannot get them to make payment, then look into your legal options if the amount is worth it to you.

Don’t Stress

There’s no reason to stress about reminding your clients about unpaid invoices. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed or frightened to ask for the money due to you. If anything, they should be embarrassed by the fact that they haven’t followed through on their obligations.

When it comes to talking money with clients, you sometimes need to be firm. But that doesn’t mean you should go into those conversations being fearful. Remind yourself that if one client can’t deal with your rates, another will. And if you come across a deadbeat client who tries to get out of paying, they’re not the kind of client you want in the long run so there’s little to fear anyway.

If you still can’t get comfortable with discussing pay rates, increasing your freelance writing rates or going after unpaid invoice then take off your writer hat. Stop thinking of yourself as a writer, and start thinking as a business owner – which you are.

Thinking like a business owner who has to watch the bottom line, just might be what you need to overcome your fears of talking about it.

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