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Client refusing to pay bill

(12 Posts)
JennyWren Fri 16-Jan-15 20:22:49

I own my own business providing a service for which I bill on a 'per hour' basis. (Sorry - I don't want to go into more detail on an open forum, but it is a professional service in which I have many years of experience, first working within a series of larger agencies and more recently, as a freelancer.) I recently did some work for a new client, who has now (with the bill now being several weeks overdue) suddenly come back to me querying the number of hours taken and saying that he only wants to pay 4/5ths of the bill.

I know that I could take this to the small claims court, but I don't know that it is really worth it for me - both in terms of potential damage to my own reputation and, more imminently, the cost to me in terms of the time it would take.

Has anyone else been in this position? What did you do?

expatinscotland Fri 16-Jan-15 20:26:31

I think I would take the 4/5 and never do work for this person again.

Phineyj Fri 16-Jan-15 20:27:58

I had this situation once and copied emails back to the client in which we'd discussed how I'd spend the time he was paying for. He caved immediately. I have also had to suspend work for a public sector client until they paid earlier bills. They were most out out but did pay. A friend used to pretend she was her own 'finance manager' and chase bills assertively (she was/is a good actress though). Be polite, assertive and persistent. You don't want to get a reputation as someone who will accept late or part payment and some companies have a policy of paying everyone late.

Phineyj Fri 16-Jan-15 20:28:59

Put out, I tried to type!

saintlyjimjams Fri 16-Jan-15 20:31:01

Yes at being assertive - and pretending to be the finance manager if you can carry it off.

I dumped one large institution as a client because they took the piss with payment (30 days does not mean 3 or 4 months).

I was also given some wording which is now on my invoices which allows me to charge interest for late payments.

Mintyy Fri 16-Jan-15 20:31:11

Agree with expat.

Accept the 4/5 payment. When you have received it, write to the client to say that you strongly disagreed with their evaluation of their work and its value, however you did not want to get into a protracted argument about payment.

Then avoid, avoid, avoid in future.

JennyWren Fri 16-Jan-15 20:36:56

Hi Expat. I'm inclined to agree with you! It is just galling to think that the chances are that he quite regularly pulls this ruse on unsuspecting freelancers. He very much underbriefed in terms of the amount of work that was involved, and then complains about how much time it took to do the work! I was prepared to work with him - I justified my time (which is well within industry norms), and offered a compromise, but he's not prepared to consider that.

I know another freelancer who has worked with him in the past and I've contacted her to sound out whether she's ever had problems with getting him to pay his bills. Not that I can see what difference it would make, to be honest. This is the first time I have had a big problem with a client in the several years I've been freelancing. Not working for him again will be no skin off my nose - I am turning down work left, right and centre as I'm so busy at the moment, but it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Unfortunately, I am very much at a disadvantage in terms of providing a detailed breakdown of how the hours were spent, as he has let the invoice get so overdue before quibbling it - I record time spent but not the minutiae of what time I spent doing what aspects of the work, and by now I just can't remember that.

JennyWren Fri 16-Jan-15 20:44:58

So many responses - thank you all. I have been getting much better at chasing late payers, but I am very lucky and all my other clients are pretty good. I've started using a proper cloud-based accounting system rather than just creating my own invoices, which I think helps me to look more professional, and it also helps me to keep a close eye on who has outstanding invoices.

Unfortunately, most of the mid-project conversations I had with them about the time it was taken were verbal conversations, although I do have a couple of emails, and some very positive feedback about the work I was producing. I think that in the end I am going to do what Mintyy and Expat suggest - I'll tell them that I don't agree, but that I will accept the partial payment for expediency's sake. And never agree to work for them again.

TalkinPeace Sat 17-Jan-15 20:02:27

DH had similar recently with a client who afterwards complained about the service and wanted a discount but did not specify how much.

I went through the emails and the response was
- this is what you asked for
- this was where you ignored our advice
- this was where you changed the spec
- this was what happened at the event
if you want a discount, please specify how much and why.

They paid the whole bill on time.

Jenny
Anything you do from now on, confirm the phone calls by email wink

saintlyjimjams Sun 18-Jan-15 08:04:27

Tell him when you agree to accept his offer that you won't be able to work for him again. I did tell the (large institutional) client that was months late paying (they had been weeks late every time, but months late & ignoring all correspondance from me was a new one) - that if they wanted to contract me again I would need paying in full up front. They got the hump but a) like you I have more than enough work from people that do pay b) I'm the only person in the world offering this service (very niche) & c) I'm a sole trader with a mortgage to pay who can't afford crap cash flow. Anyway it felt good to (very politely) be able to show them that paying months late wasn't acceptable & had consequences for them.

KiwiJude Wed 21-Jan-15 01:33:43

Tell him you won't be doing any further work for him AFTER you've been paid otherwise it may be that if he knows you won't be doing any more work for him he won't be in a hurry to pay you.

I had one client drag the chain in payment, my stipulated terms were invoice each Friday with payment by following Friday (which he agreed to three times in various emails) , and he was a month over. As soon as his first payment didn't show up in bank account when it was supposed to I told him one of my established clients wanted me to take on more work for them and I couldn't accommodate him after all. When he did finally pay he contacted me the same day to see if I would be able to do some work for him. Of course I said no.

Since then I make sure whenever I take on a new client or do a quote I advise in writing that late or non payment may result in collection fees being added to outstanding amount. Luckily all but one of my regulars are fab payers. The late payer always has urgent work, I just wish he would apply the same courtesy when it came to paying my invoice but his work is interesting so I cut him some slack, and usually as soon as I forward my invoice email to him payment comes through pretty pronto.

JennyWren Tue 03-Feb-15 12:01:10

saintlyjimjams - would you be willing to share the wording you use on your invoices, about late payments? Moving forward, I think it would be good for me to include something on my invoices about 'reserving the right' to charge...

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