Freelancers “Electronically Out” Clients that Don’t Pay

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There’s a captivating article on Crains New York about freelancers taking a stand against clients that don’t pay. According to the article, “…more than 400 freelancers have electronically outed clients who haven’t paid via a website set-up by Freelancers Union.” Some of the clients include political candidates to banks to media companies. This seems extreme but sometimes extreme measures are necessary to implement change.

Some clients will use the state of the economy as an excuse not to pay. If you know you can’t pay, why hire a freelance writer? And, you can always make payment arrangements. Most freelance writers are more than happy to work out a payment plan with their clients.

Freelance writers either charge by the hour, word, or project. It’s not uncommon for a ghostwriter to earn $70,000 for a project which is usually split into payments of thirds. What happens when the first payment is paid but the final two payments are not? How many times does a freelance writer have to send an invoice or make a phone call? You can be sent on a ‘wild goose chase’ trying to collect payments.

Make sure you get paid for the work. If you’re billing a project in thirds and received the first payment but the second payment hasn’t arrived in your mailbox, stop working on the project. Pick up the phone and inform your client that the work will be put on hold until you receive payment. If the client can’t handle the large payments, you may consider breaking the payments and project into smaller pieces. You may have to walk away from the project. Use your discretion and go with your gut instinct as to whether or not this is the right move for you.

Freelance writers may be tempted to “electronically out” clients but this could backfire on you. Remember the saying, “what goes around, comes around.” Forgiving and forgetting may not be easy for you to do, but it could be the best option for you. It’s a life lesson that you won’t repeat in the future. Make sure your invoices are marked with your terms such as “net 30 days or payment due upon receipt of invoice.” Go over your payment expectations with clients before your begin working on projects.

Being a freelance writer is a great career choice but remember that it’s a business. Are you prepared for everything that goes with being a freelance writer? This includes dealing with clients that don’t pay. Get a clear vision of who your clients are and focus on attracting them to you. Not every organization or professional is your client. In fact, you may want to ask your clients for references which will give you a chance to see how they pay. Organizations usually have D&B reports or S&P reports. You may have to pay for the reports, but it could give you peace of mind.

Communication is the key to a long lasting business relationships. For clients who can’t pay, be honest about it and make payment arrangements. Freelance writers will appreciate your honesty and integrity and respect you for speaking up. On the other hand, clients who withhold payments run the risk of ending up on internet sites such as Preditors and Editors. No one wants that to happen!


How do you handle clients that don’t pay? Would you ‘electronically out’ your clients? Share your thoughts.