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My stand-off with a nonpaying client

Posted by Deidre Rienzo on


I got a phone call recently from a small agency in NYC who needed help right away. They told me their budget, which was reasonable, but they needed the work in two days. I agreed. And since the work was due in two days, I took a risk and forewent my normal 50% deposit (because I had a softie-moment and they sounded nice).

I told the client that I would make an exception, but that they needed to pay me in full as soon as they received my invoice. They agreed.

I sent the work on deadline.

A month went by (with multiple follow-ups on my end) and still no payment.

Then, I received another call from the client.

They needed help on another project with a tight deadline.

I said, “But you haven’t paid me yet for the last one.”

They made excuses (We only pay at the end of the month) and asked nicely (Please just help us out one more time?).

And I had a major-tough-cookie moment. I said, as nicely as possible:

Just because your business is last-minute doesn’t mean I’m willing to operate in a high stress environment with tight-deadlines and nonpayment. I am happy to help you, but I’m not doing any more work until you pay my outstanding invoice. I accept credit cards. I will send the next project over on Monday as long as I receive the outstanding payment before then.

The client said, “Please?”

I said, “No freaking way.”

I did the work, but Monday ticked-on with no payment in what I very dramatically imagined was an Old Western stand-off. At 5:30, I received an online payment. At 5:31, I emailed the new work and its invoice, which I received payment for 2 days later.

As this whole situation was happening, it occurred to me that I would have never done this 5 years ago. I would have given in. I’m all about flexibility in most situations, but not this one. I’m glad I put my foot down. I’m proud of myself.

Only time will tell if this agency will become a good client or not—but at least I’ve let them know what works for me and what doesn’t.

Need help pricing your services accurately and talking about money with confidence? Listen to Ilise’s recent webinar,  3 Easy Steps to Price Your Creative Projects.

Hi, I’m Deidre. In my posts, I talk about my voyage down the road of self-employment as a web copywriter, my achievements and roadblocks along the way, and what I’m learning as I go (with Marketing Mentor as my guide). To keep in touch, sign up for my un-newsletter here and get my freebie download, 12 Sparks to Write Sizzling, Audience-Attracting Website Words.


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