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  • Viva Sarah Press

You’re trustworthy, he tells me, then dodges payment (AKA clients who disappear without paying freel

Nearly all freelancers, no matter how veteran, will complete a project for free. Well, the “free” part isn’t meant to happen but it will.

I have been freelancing on and off for over 20 years. I can count on one hand the number of clients who have shirked payment. The internet is filled with articles for dealing with clients who won’t pay. The web is also brimming with ways freelancers can (supposedly) thwart this situation from arising in the first place.

I have worked with dozens of clients. For the most part, they’ve been trustworthy, cordial and forthright. Some companies pay later than others; but the overall majority of my clients pay for work done.

This topic came up in a recent conversation with my neighbor, a translator, who has fallen into this freelancer pothole too many times for her liking.

We spoke about whether asking for a deposit helps – or turns off a potential client. Sometimes a “kill fee” helps but not always.

In a study conducted by PayPal earlier this year, the company found the main reason that freelancers are not being paid is that they are not being taken seriously by clients.

“Go to small claims court,” my accountant told me, after I explained a “hole” in one of my invoice-receipt lists.

At the time, I told him it wasn’t worth it. It is important to know when to cut your losses, I explained. It’s not that I like to work for free. It’s a sting in the face to not get paid – and a hole in the bank, to boot. But, at the time, I felt that legal action and collection agencies would be bad for karma.

I also wanted to give my non-paying client the benefit of the doubt – he mentioned in an email that his company was facing financial woes. It is too bad that he couldn’t see that by dodging payment for my work, he was sharing his financial misery with me. And while I hadn’t requested this camaraderie, I took my loss and chalked it up to experience.

Both this guy, and my one other non-paying client before him, noted how “trustworthy” and “honest” I seemed/was. I’m wondering if these complimenting words were actually a foreboding hint of what was to come -- that I somehow missed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on freelancing and non-paying clients.

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