Ghosted: What to Do When a Client Doesn't Pay Up

One of the downsides of freelancing is the risk that your client won’t pay on time and is seemingly unreachable. Here’s what to do if a client doesn’t pay.

Freelancing has its perks—the freedom to work from home, choose your own hours, and not brush your hair for days.

But of course with running any small business, the good comes with the not-so-good. Besides not having the security of a traditional job, one of the downsides of freelancing is the risk that your client won’t pay on time and is seemingly unreachable.

In the dating world, when someone stops calling and seems to have fallen off the radar completely, it’s referred to as “ghosting.” As you can imagine, getting ditched by last night’s dinner date is disappointing, but it isn’t nearly as traumatic as being ghosted by a client you’ve sent a number of unanswered invoices to.

Your Options If a Client Doesn’t Pay You 1. Don’t Jump the Gun

Whether it’s dating or freelancing, it’s easy to expect the worst. For one, you can’t help but think you’re down hundreds of dollars simply because you haven’t received a reply from your client—especially if you’ve been burned in the past. However, it’s important that you don’t conclude your client is trying to ghost you if you aren’t entirely sure. Accusing a client of racking up a large bill and ghosting you can potentially destroy the relationship and cause you to lose the job completely.

Keep in mind there are perfectly legitimate reasons that someone may not respond right away—perhaps they’re on a lengthy vacation or attending to personal matters. If your client hasn’t established a habit of disappearing, they may deserve the benefit of the doubt at least once, so give them a reasonable amount of time to respond before you start the chase.

2. Resend Invoices and Follow Up

Prior to invoicing your client, have an agreement already established outlining when and how you should be paid for your work. It’s best to make it as easy as possible for the client. If they can simply pay you by clicking a button or replying to an email message, there’s a better chance you’ll get paid faster. If you aren’t getting paid or you haven’t received a reply to your invoice, resend the invoice as a reminder.

The invoice reminds them of the outstanding balance and, because it’s automated, it doesn’t appear like you’re personally strong-arming the client. If you sent invoice reminders and they still haven’t paid, follow up with a polite and professional email.

3. Contact via Social Media

Again, like dating, you fear that maybe your client isn’t receiving your emails or your outbox has seized to send important follow-ups. If you re-sent invoices, reminders, and emails, you may have to resort to another form of communication to give yourself some form of peace of mind.

Most companies can be found on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or in some online capacity. Contact them through these venues with a simple, polite message to get in touch with you. While being ghosted is never a pleasant experience, it’s important to maintain professionalism—especially since you’re representing your business as well.

4. Send an Attorney’s Letter

If your clients are still MIA at this point, you should have an attorney

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