So you’ve completed your job, checked it three times for errors, and created an invoice to send to your customer. A few days pass. No response from your usually hyperconnected client. You email them again. Silence.
Looks like you’ve been ghosted. Unfortunately, disappearing clients aren’t just an afterthought, and being owed money for work you’ve signed, sealed, and delivered isn’t exactly rare for solopreneurs and freelancers. In fact, the Freelancers Union has found that more than 70 percent of clients have become stiff.
Last year, the advocacy group created a movement in New York City, one of the top freelance hubs in the world, to formally push for legislation designed to protect freelancers. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act was signed in Fall 2016 and will come into effect in a few days, May 15th.
Not sure where to start after your client has been awarded an MIA? We spoke to attorney Quinn Heraty, a specialist in so-called “ghosting” clients, to gather some concise, actionable tips for freelancers.
Make your conditions crystal clear
You know all those fine print you scroll through on your way to the “Agree” button at the bottom of a terms and conditions page? Well, when you’re drafting your own terms and conditions, you need to be a little more thorough. “Make a written agreement and discuss the terms of the agreement so that both parties know their rights and obligations,” Heraty says.
When drafting your freelance contract, pay attention to their style and behavior. “If someone is flaky or dismissive, those are red flags as far as they will do business with you,” he says. Another way to protect yourself is to include their address and phone number in the contract so you can easily follow up with them over the phone or take them to small claims court.
Terms and conditions aren’t just for the contract, you can include them on your invoices (Fiverr Workspace’s free invoice templates can help with that!). Indicate how and when you owe, how you expect to be paid, and whether you charge late fees. Heraty also advises to be as lenient as possible when paying. If they use an online payment service, he recommends creating an account there, even if you prefer to use another method.
When it comes to getting paid by your client, try to be as accommodating as possible. Click to Tweet
Remember, the easier you make it for your client to pay you, the more likely you are to be paid on time.
If you’ve read those tips and think to yourself, “But I did all that!” do not worry. Here are three steps to take when your client has decided to skip their appointment at the end.
1. Play nice
It can take an hour to compose a carefully worded email, but if that’s what it takes to resist the desire to write in capital letters, exclamation points, and swearing, take all the time you need. “To leave [the client] know you want to work it out amicably with them,” Heraty says, even if that means making a payment arrangement in case they don’t have enough money to pay everything in one go. She also warns against “shaming or harassing your client,” as in most cases you want to save the relationship for future projects.
2. Give a final warning
If you’ve sent (and/or called) multiple emails and still haven’t heard anything, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer, depending on the size of the project. Legal costs can add up, so a good first step is to send your client an email letting them know about your decision, giving them another chance to make things easy. Sometimes it’s enough to know you’re not kidding until a missing customer suddenly shows up at your door with money in hand. And if you get permission from your attorney, you can even ‘cc’ them in the email for extra heaviness.
Pro tip: Will you? For real get their attention? Physical letters cut through the clutter at a time when 99% of communication takes place through digital channels. Fiverr Workspace recently released a new tool called Williams&Harricks that allows you to send a request letter to your client of varying degrees of rigor for just $3. If you are a Fiverr Workspace user, you can submit it directly from the app.
Stiffened by a customer? Engage Williams&Harricks to send them a reminder letter on your behalf. Click to Tweet
3. Take Them to Court (If It’s Worth It)
Technically, you can file a case against your client through your local small claims court, but depending on how much they owe you, it may not be worth it and the extra money you have to shell out for fees. If you’re not sure whether Small Claims is the right choice, Peter Hilton’s article via the Freelancers Union is a good starting point.
The truth is that even after all this, you will still get stiff. That’s why it’s critical that you never start a project without a signed contract that sets out both your payment obligations. It’s simply the easiest way to protect yourself from day 1.
Are you unsure about writing a contract? Fiverr Workspace is behind you.