6 Strategies to Get Scammy Clients to Pay

As a freelance writer, sometimes you’ll struggle to get clients to pay you. Some of them want your work for free while others just never get around to it. Whether your rates are too low or too high, it doesn’t matter. Some clients just make it hard to get paid.

1. Vet All New Clients

Before you start working for a client, aim to get a contract signed and, if possible, a deposit for the project to demonstrate good faith. Sometimes this isn’t going to happen. You need to weigh whether or not the client’s actually serious about the project and if it’s worth the risk of not getting paid at all.

If you decide to go ahead with the project, make sure to vet them in other ways. Check out job review sites to see if other freelancers report not getting paid. Make sure you have an address, last name for your contact, and a phone number. This may sound obvious, but these are elements to easily overlook when you work primarily online.

2. Email Them (and CC Their Boss)

If you’ve sent an invoice, follow-up first by email. If they’ve suddenly stopped responding and it’s been more time than you consider reasonable, CC their boss or the general info@domainname email address you find on the company’s website. You can usually find other people that work there on LinkedIn. Sometimes your contact quit or was fired. If you keep sending emails without a response, this is often the case.

If you happened to submit a piece and they don’t pay for it, technically you still own the copyright to it. I’d double check that they’re not currently using it anywhere and find a new home for it. Maybe put it on an article sales website like Constant Content, pitch it to a different blog, or post it somewhere as a portfolio piece. Just make sure you email the original client to let them know. Say something like, “Since I haven’t heard from you in XX number of days about the piece, I assume you’re no longer interested in the piece and found a new home for it.” If you do this first, you might be able to salvage the original article.

3. Call Them

Most people hate the phone. When you call someone, they need to give you an answer now. Sometimes calling the main number for your client and asking for the client or accounts payable shows this client that you’re serious about getting paid.

For some reason, some clients think freelance writing works differently than other businesses. You’re an individual without the size of a corporation. They’d never go into McDonald’s, eat a sandwich, and not pay for it. These same clients choose not to pay you. By calling them, you teach clients you treat this as a business.

4. Leave a Review on Other Freelance Writing Websites

As a freelance writer, you’re part of a strong community of freelance writers. Post a review about this scammy client online that offers only factual information. This is a last ditch effort when you’re pretty sure you’ve been scammed. It might get the attention of your client so they’ll pay you and sever the relationship. More importantly, it warns other freelance writers from making the same mistake.

Once I wrote for a client that had terrible reviews about on-time payment and unfair business practices toward writers. They used so many freelance writers, I figured the percentage unhappy must be small. Maybe these were the weaker writers who didn’t succeed there and I’d be fine. Well…I was wrong. I had the very same issues as the reviewer stated. Plus, once I got an inside look, I realized the client’s major retention issues.

5. Send Physical Mail

There’s something wonderful about sending out physical invoices with past due balances. It might be an extra step, but sometimes it’s well worth it. First, you never know who gets it at the other side. It’s possible someone higher up gets it and just pays you what you’re owed already.

There’s this other benefit though. Once, I wrote for a fake company called the “Mall Cloud Company.” I did enough vetting that I convinced myself it was real. It has an outdated website, but it has the address, self-hosted domain, and phone number. This used to be enough for my vetting process. I wrote 3 pieces, they wanted 8 more. The first required a lot of collaboration to meet their “standards”.

My “contact” there kept lying to me, saying the PayPal invoice was paid the night before, maybe it needed more time to process. Eventually, I wrote to my contact and said I didn’t feel comfortable proceeding until I was paid for past due work. First, he said they faced financial issues and then he stopped responding.

True to my process, I sent a physical invoice and thank goodness I did. What came back provided me so much information about what happened. First, there isn’t even a building on the address on their website. The post office was kind enough to send the invoice back and let me know. When I called them, their phone number isn’t real. There isn’t a business license for this company. There is no other reference to the company, except for a place on Facebook for new writers to sign up. Had I done more thorough research, I would have known these guys were fake from the beginning.

6. Befriend a Collections Professional

Sometimes, it’s worth putting your scammy client into collections. I’ve befriended a collections professional for when things get tough and you should too. They take a percentage of what they’re able to collect, so make sure that you really can’t get the money any other way. Fortunately, the email where you client tells you what the assignment is and what they’re paying you is often enough for collections.

When a client scams you or dumps you, it can cause havoc on your personal finances. In no other profession do clients think they can get work and use it for free. By standing up for yourself, you can help bring back professionalism to freelance writing and ensure more of us get paid for the work we do.