Freelance Client Won’t Pay

This one is a doozy:

“I have a client who has been an amazing advocate for me. She has brought me in to do work for her, has publicly praised my work, and has given my name to a number of people who have reached out to her for recommendations.

The problem is, I think she thinks that is good enough reason to not feel obligated to pay me… she has owed me money for two solid months. I’ve asked for it many times. I’ve told her personal things to explain why, I don’t just want the money owed. I NEED it. I’m counting on it. And I’m owed it.

The other week she suggested driving 40 miles out of town to meet with me about a big project she’s working on. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m ever going to see payment. I was supposed to get it at 3pm today. It’s 630. The money is not coming. I am at a loss. How do I handle this? I want my money.”

I feel your pain.

I had a client that I’d worked with for a percentage of the site revenue. It’s risky, but had a high upside since the client was very popular online. Payments were easy, at first, when they were small.

But, as they climbed to 3k-4k per month…

The payments started coming later and later.

I had to basically harass them every month to get it. And, to boot, this was early on in my career, so I had no contract with them. It sucked. So, I’m completely understand the frustration. Why can’t people just do what they say they will?

Reality is, many won’t.

First and foremost, never work on a project without a contract. Yes, verbal agreements can still be enforceable, but it’s a lot harder. In your contract, lay out your payment terms clearly and specifically.

When, how… every detail.

Do NOT get the whole payment at the completion of the project. That’s asking to get screwed. Instead, take payments throughout at certain milestones. They can be whatever, but get them paying early and often.

Also, take earnest money upfront.

“I don’t start working until I get 10% down”.

Or, something like that.

Ensures they’re serious about paying.

Now, if a client does screw you… you’ve, at least, got partial payment, you’re not completely out. When a project is complete, EMAIL them and ask for confirmation that everything is good and the project is complete.

That confirmation along with your contract will make any court case a cinch for you to win. If people don’t pay, take them to court. First, to get your money. But, second to get familiar with how it works, so you’re not scared of it.

Do NOT ever allow your relationship with a client let you accept non-payment.

That’s like saying…

“My spouse is nice to me, but cheats on me.”

Actions > words.

TLDR; Burn the bridge.

Not worth it.

That said, since my little non-payment debacle with the famous idea guy, I developed a contract and a payment schedule that, for me, has had a 100% success rate. I’ve never had a client flake on payments since using it.

I show you both the contract and the payment schedule in Lesson 9 of my Beginner’s Guide to Freelance course. You can enroll in the class on Udemy here:



P.S. Or, if you prefer, you can learn how to get FREE access to all my courses,including this one, on Skillshare here:

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John Morris


I’m a 15-year veteran of freelance web development. I’ve worked with bestselling authors and average Joe’s next door. These days, I focus on helping other freelancers build their freelance business and their lifestyles.

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Aaron Gott

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Thabo Motsoahae

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Andrew Malone

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