Ash Blankenship

October 12, 2021

💸 What steps should we take when a client doesn’t pay?

Out of all the challenges we face as designers and no-coders, having a client who doesn’t pay is one of the most frustrating. 

We can easily spend weeks or months performing work for a client, only to have them ignore invoices and ghost our emails or calls. 

It's frustrating and scary, especially when we have bills to pay. 

But there are steps we can take to help ensure we receive our well deserved income. 

  1. Require a non-refundable deposit. I require 50% of any project rate up front. This deposit is non-refundable and is included in all signed contracts with clients. If a client doesn’t pay in the end, we will at least receive payment for half of the project rate. While this is still not ideal, it’s better than no funds at all. 
  2. Be proactive. Follow up with non-paying clients via email or phone. While email leaves a paper trail, it’s easier to ignore. Sometimes a phone call is enough to jolt a client into submitting the payment. At times it may be necessary to be steadfast. This may require an email outlining the scope of work, stating when you completed the project tasks that were agreed upon, and any consequences of non-payment, such as late fees, collections, etc. This should all be outlined in your contract, which brings me to the last step.
  3. Have a contract. This is the most important. You should have a written and signed contract prior to working with any client. The contract should outline the amount of payment, the deposit, and it should state the consequences for any overdue or unpaid invoices. This also gives you a legal document to reference if you need to attempt to connect unpaid invoices. While creating a contract can seem daunting, there are many services available that make the process easy. I use Bonsai for all of my contracts, invoices, and payments. 

Taking the initiative to do freelance work or run a one-person business is commendable. But this means when clients don't fulfill their commitment, it often feels personal. Having a set plan, with a written contract, helps create structure and brings a level of stability to our work.