What to Do When a Customer Doesn’t Pay – Weekly Blog Post #4

We’re home free after another long week! What did you guys get up to? Did you have a productive one? I know I did! Yet, I encountered my first customer who didn’t pay for a commission! Right?! It was only a matter of time. I should be angry, but you know what? I’m okay with it. It’s a learning curve on the journey of freelancing and it gives me something else to write about. Today, we’re going to discuss what YOU should do when you run into someone who refuses to pay.

First, we need to look at the reasons why a customer won’t pay. There are two main ones:

1. They’re not happy with the work you produce.

2. They’re crooks.

The first reason, luckily enough, is something I’ve not encountered yet. All my customers have been happy with my work. If they’re not and they’re honest customers, then it’s understandable why they won’t pay. They’ve come to you expecting a service and you haven’t produced it. Now, I’m not talking from experience here, but if I ever had this situation, I’d like to think I’d work with the customer. I mean, they hired you for a reason, right? Communicate with them, ask them why they’re not happy with the work, offer revisions — don’t give up! A decent customer wants decent work! Keep battling back and forth with them and you’ll eventually end up with something everyone is happy with.

Onto the meat of the article:

The Crooks.

These are the scoundrels that want to win one over on you. The criminals that had no intention to pay. Even if you produced content to match that of Hemingway! It was a crook who got in touch with me this week and this is what happened:

I put an ad out for my freelance services and not long after, the crook sent a message asking to hire me. At first, it thrilled me. New customers are always welcome. Yet, as I pushed them for details about what they wanted, they were — for want of a better word — elusive. It set off immediate alarms in my head. Most of my customers are pretty good at telling me exactly what they want, but the crook didn’t know what they were after. They wanted 500-1000 words in a certain niche, but that was it. No focus, no nothing. When I pushed them for further details, they didn’t reply. I considered the idea that their English wasn’t great, but they weren’t even trying. It’s almost as if they wanted an article from me, but they didn’t care about it. It put me off writing for them. I had a feeling the customer was going to pull a runner, so I dropped them to the bottom of my priority list.

As the week went on, I found myself with a bit of free time. The crook hadn’t bothered getting in touch with me again to chase the article, so I reached out to them. I messaged them and asked if they still wanted it. When they told me they did, I tried pushing them for details again, but once more; nothing. I decided at this point to do an experiment. I came up with an appealing title in their niche and I wrote their article. Crazy experiment, eh? Seriously. I finished the work and I sent it to them. Here’s the catch though:

I only spent 30 minutes on it.

Since the crook didn’t seem to care, because they were vague about what they wanted, I wrote the article quicker than a cheetah in a race. Don’t get me wrong, when I sent it to them, I offered revisions. If they turned out to be a serious customer, I wanted to provide my usual great service.

My intuition was right.

The crook said thank you, the article was great and that they’d pay me soon. SOON! A few days passed without any further communication, so I messaged them again chasing the matter and they didn’t reply. Of course, they didn’t. They’d taken the work and fled. Yet, joke’s on them because it wasn’t a piece I poured that much passion over.

It raises the question though, what happens now?

The article wasn’t bad by any means. I didn’t spend that much time on it, but because the customer refused to pay, I am taking it back and using it. When I write for my customers, I pass on all ownership to them. I ghostwrite. They don’t have to credit me, they can edit the article how they see fit, they can do what they want with it, it’s theirs.

Yet, since this customer didn’t pay, I’m now going to use their article as a sample piece to attract more customers. You should do the same too.

They lose all rights to the article. If I see it uploaded online, then I will bring out the full keyboard warrior on the website it’s on. Until then, it’s a new sample piece for the collection. No big deal.

What if you didn’t spend 30 minutes on the article? What if you poured your heart into it and had it stolen?

How can you ensure customers always pay?

There are various methods one can use. The most obvious? Have your customers sign a contract before you begin work. It makes it lawfully binding. The customer has to pay.

I don’t like doing this.

I want to be a welcome freelancer and contracts seem far too official for me. I like to keep matters as casual as possible with my clients. Y’know? The whole open-door policy and what not.

My secret is that I charge my customers a deposit.

Before I begin work, I ask my customers for 50% of the payment. Upon completion and after the final revision, I ask for the rest. I didn’t do this with the crook because they were dripping in red flags and I was testing the water. Naughty of me, I know. Yet it helps me learn!

Anyway, so I charge 50% upfront but only the first time a customer commissions me. If they pay in good time, I mark them as trusted on my end and stop asking for the deposit. Its works for me and I’ve never asked for a deposit more than once. This is a great solution to the problem! The crooks won’t reply when you ask for a deposit, or they’ll try to talk you out of it.

A real customer will be happy to pay a deposit. Especially if you explain to them why you are charging them. More so if they know you are trusted too. They can see this from customer reviews and a decent portfolio.

…And that’s my week! There are a few more things I’d like to have discussed today. My run in with the freelancer job board, getting a chance to work on my novel again, but this blog post will go on for about 2000 words. I don’t want that much of your time today. However, I do want to hear from you! Let me know in the comments about your experience with crooks and how you ensure they pay! Let’s have all our freelancing brains come together!

Otherwise, see you next week! I’ll tackle my run in with the freelancer job board then and another red-flag customer that showed up!

See you guys later!

2 thoughts on “What to Do When a Customer Doesn’t Pay – Weekly Blog Post #4”

  1. Wow this was an interesting post indeed. I too charge a 50% deposit for bigger projects, but I was also the guy who’d hopped on a plane to another country to cover an assignment without first signing a contract, lol. Loved reading this. Wishing you all the best in your upcoming work!

    1. Thank you! Thank you also for your comment! I suppose I should have mentioned the scope of the project! I’d be less inclined to demand a deposit if it was a small-scale venture that would only take me an hour!

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