What's on the iPod: Lonesome by Dr. Dog
I was listening to a friend's story about a client who's late to pay. Just as she's ready to call in the collection agency, he coughs up the dough. However, it's what he does right before she's at the breaking point that really unnerves her.
He dangles another project in front of her.
It's usually the promise of a project, and she says to date, none of these big, well-paying projects have come to fruition. Just a lot of small projects where her time is wasted chasing overdue invoices. She's dumping the client because after three rounds, she's on to him.
Who hasn't been there? I sure have. I had a client once who would send me small gifts -- gift cards -- when all I really wanted was the damn check I was owed. I've also been where my friend has been. In a few cases, my otherwise-ignored conversations about where the hell my money is were answered with these same projects -- the ghost projects that have no legs, no shape, and no chance of being seen.
It's a ploy to keep a writer in a bad situation. Well, bad for the writer. The client? Happy as a clam getting work that gets paid for in his own sweet time.
I know some of you have already gone through or are going through these types of situations. There are ways around it, and ways you can deal with it and break the dangling-carrot cycle. Try these:
Refuse further projects. See, the carrot only works if you're willing to bite. If you tell the client that no, unpaid invoices must be settled first before you accept any future work, you shift the focus back to the problem. I know why you don't -- you're afraid the client won't pay. Guess what? He's not paying now. Have your collection process in place and act on it.
Bring up late fees. First, have them written in to your contract. Then when that conversation occurs, tell the client that at this time, he's one day from incurring a late fee (or another late fee, as the case may be). And be firm -- he needs to clear up the obligation to you or late fees won't be his only problem.
End the relationship. Thank the client for the work, explain that you're terminating any future relationship, but that the money due is still owed per the agreement. Don't fall for the "I promise to pay more promptly" spiel, for it's rare they follow through with it.
Remember it's a business transaction. See, it's the nice ones who get away with it. Sometimes it's easy to get tough with the nasty ones, but the nice ones are used to getting away with things by using that charm of theirs. Ignore all emotional ploys, including the sweeter-than-sugar crap that tends to make you feel badly for demanding what's due you.
Have you ever had a client who dangled a carrot? How did you respond? What works for you?