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How to Get Clients to Pay You

A reader asks, “how can I get my money paid?

I’ve only been scammed by a client once.

I think it was around $600.

I completed an order of $600 worth of article with this client and we both agreed that I did everything right. The only problem came when it was time to pay me.

This particular client twice told me that he’d sent the payment (when he didn’t), and not having Paypal support made things worse.

After several emails, waiting for a few weeks and chatting with the client on Skype, I decided it was no longer worth it and I stopped contacting this particular client.

If you’ve been scammed by a client before or if you’re afraid this is happening or might happen, here’s how you can avoid it and get clients to pay you:

1. Only Work with Clients You Trust

This sounds like basic advice but our definition of trust is relative.

You may trust who I won’t trust and vice versa. With that said, here’s how I determine whether a client can be trusted:

Take a look at the website or publication the client wants you to write for, the description of the job the client wants you to do, and the general understanding the client has of what you do.

A client from a reputable publication will most likely pay you on time because the damage to her brand will be great should the client decide not to pay and word gets out about this.

A client with a brand new site won’t be as trustworthy as a client with a major site, and in that case you can do what I recommend in point number 2 below.

In my own case with the client who scammed me, the site wasn’t well established.

2. Use the “50/50” Rule

According to Wikipedia’s definition of the 50/50 rule:

50% credit is earned when an element of work is started, and the remaining 50% is earned upon completion

Ever since I was scammed by a client, I started using the 50/50 rule for most of my clients. If I see that I can trust a client completely, then I don’t bother with the 50/50 rule.

For example, with my major client (a client who has paid out 5 figures to me in a single month) I only get paid for work done once it has been completed. I did the same for most of my old clients since I’d grown to trust them and I’ve had issues with them over the years.

With new clients, however, I start with the 50/50 rule. I get paid 50% before I start, and the remaining 50% once my work is completed. Once I can trust them and don’t have any major payment issues, I can then revert to getting paid once my work is completed.

Note: While the 50/50 rule can be very powerful, it can be equally dangerous, especially if you find it difficult to discipline yourself. If you’re not sure you can get the work done on time, then avoid using the 50/50 rule.

3. Take Control before You Start

A new client who wants you to complete 100 articles in 1 month and you only get paid once the work is complete

A client who wants you to write guest posts for her on other blogs and she wants to provide the email address you will use for outreach. She also demands to be given the password and the email account you’ll be using

In any of the above scenarios, it’s important that you take control.

Unless you really trust a client, giving her full control can be damaging to you. If a client wants full control, let the client pay you in half or in full before the work is done.

If a client isn’t willing to pay you yet, then you should be ready to take some kind of action once your work is done. This could be terminating your agreement, removing the articles if you still have access to them, or making some other kind of changes. If you’ve already sacrificed control, there’s nothing you can do.

4. Threaten to Stop Working

This only works with recurring clients who, for some reasons delayed your payment and did not let you know the reason for doing so.

If your emails are no longer being responded to, send another email telling them you’ll stop working until outstanding balances are settled.

I’ve only had to use this once with a client and it was effective.

5. Do Nothing

Like with my example above, I could have kept sending the reminders. I could have posted a lot of threads on forums -badmouthing the client. I could have wasted my time doing a lot of unproductive things just to get back at the client. But that’s just what they’ll be, “unproductive things”.

If nothing is effective in getting you your money, if the amount you’re owed is insignificant, forget it. If it’s significant, you might want to pursue legal action – depending on your agreement with the client.

Have you ever had issues with a client not paying you for work done before? In that case, what did you do? Please share with us in the comments!

21 Comments on "How to Get Clients to Pay You"

  1. Mr.X says:

    Great post! I have worked with various clients over the past few years. The 50/50 rule applys mostly to the clients who are outsourcing work which they were outsourced initially. Direct contact with companies may not require this rule.

  2. I’ve had it rarely, Oni. I’m a big fan of 50/50 (or 50 and then another 20 on second draft and then 30 at the end), and I find most clients willing to pony up half up front are not going to stiff you. They treat you like a pro. They just get working with freelancers.

    I was just advising one of my mentees to call the accounting department on a nonpayer. Sometimes it helps to stop bugging your editor and go straight to the money people. Do they have your invoice? When will it be paid?

    This lets them know you’re not going away and will escalate this until you get your money.

    One other thing I’ve gotten results on is sending an invoice with a 2% late charge, indicating you will compound this monthly until paid.

    Once people realize they will owe MORE if they pay later, they send a check right away. 😉

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      I’m glad you agree with the 50/50 rule, Carol!

      I’ve never really thought about doing 50/20/30 – I think that’s very smart and totally avoids every risk on your part. I’ll be implementing it with a future client to see how it works 🙂

      Adding late payment charges is also something I haven’t considered.

      It’s great having you share your experience with us here. Thanks so much! 🙂

  3. Olawale Daniel says:

    I have had several issues with client relating or not relating to payment but during those times, I’ve tried to take control of the situations.

    I totally agree with your #3 rule which focus on tips that would help a freelancer have total control of his/her contracts with clients. I have once worked with a client whose focus is to have all the password and login emails that I was using to do guest posting activities for him with excuses that some of his past workers would go change his links.

    That to me makes me feel, he hasn’t been treating his past workers well for them to remove his links after few days of completing his works. :p

    BTW, thanks Oni for your tips and suggestions.

    – Olawale

  4. Gabi says:

    I think the worst case of clients not paying is when it’s a big client you’ve worked with a lot who suddenly disappears or gets weird. I had this happen recently with an Italian company that essentially all left for the entire holiday month of August without telling me and expected me to keep posting for them every day without being paid on the usual schedule. In these cases you have to decide if, even though you trust a client, they are not at the same professional standard you’re comfortable with.

  5. Christian says:

    Thanx for the tips Oni, I think I’m going to implement the 50/50 rule soon :).

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Christian.

      The 50/50 rule always works well for me 🙂

  6. This was a very useful for me as I never like to work for clients who are not ready to pay in advance…Some bloggers who are very popular may not pay in advance but we know that they will definitely pay off when the writing work is completed…The only question I will like to ask after reading this post is that how much price one can expect for a SEO content article….Is it ok to work with SEO companies who pay on time or we should also look for direct clients?

  7. The 50/50 rule has been huge for me, along with requiring new clients to sign a project agreement that lays out payment expectations and legal recourse if bills aren’t paid.

    Over almost six years of web content writing, I’ve only had one client stiff me on a small project (maybe ~$100 worth of work). To recoup my costs, I sold PLR rights to his articles on the Warrior Forum. Not the most professional thing I’ve ever done, but I was young and stupid, and it was immensely satisfying 🙂

  8. Anca Dumitru says:

    Thanks for the great advice as always, Oni! Your and Carol’s tips together are really smart and instrumental. I think they also automatically force you to be disciplined, in case you struggle with that. That is if you really *want* to meet your deadlines.

    Luckily, I haven’t been scammed yet, so I think my intuition helped me dodge writing scams.

    But I am going to implement both approaches with my new clients while trust is being built.

    Thanks again.

  9. Sibin says:

    Nice tips. I am not a Content writer yet but this will applicable in all cases.

  10. Lexi says:

    I got scammed by someone several months back. I suppose there were red flags but I chose to ignore it thinking I really needed the gig (he insisted on using Western Union). Got scammed for a good USD400. My tip is to always ask clients to pay you EACH week for at least 2 months. This is so you can establish trust. It’s now a standard practice for me.

  11. george says:

    Not a freelancer though but can understand what happens when the trouble goes in vain

  12. Kingsley Agu says:

    The 50/50 rule?? This is an entirely new word for me. Won’t the clients complain? I believe before anyone will say he or she wants to try the 50/50 rule – the person will always have to deliver on time as you pointed above. I will give t a try on my blog.

  13. IzzBox says:

    Always get a deposit before starting any work, ideally the deposit should at least cover your costs so if the client fails to pay the rest of the bill you are not out of pocket.

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Yeah, once your clients get to trust you this shouldn’t be an issue.

      Getting paid in half before I work with clients have proved very helpful for my business.

  14. Fred says:

    Did I enjoy reading this? As always, YES! Did I love the tips? Yes indeed, especially the 50/50 rule. Without this rule, many would-be writers would get burned. It works great for me, especially when I am taking on a new project. Great post as always Oni.

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Thanks, Fred!

      I’m glad you enjoyed it and I’d love to see how you get results from the tips in the article 🙂

  15. Anderson says:

    I realize if they’re not going to pay, they’re not going to pay, but if they’re just being slow about it perhaps the fact that it’s accruing interest would help change their minds?

  16. Sadek says:

    What do you think of using PayPal prepayment feature?

  17. Mitch Mitchell says:

    I had this happen to me as well, though slightly different. I was contacted about doing a leadership training for a company in another state. I sent them a full outline of everything I would cover. I never heard anything back, but found out later that they took my outline & created their own inside training program. That was a major lesson and I’ve never done anything like that again.

Onibalusi

Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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