I have a client who is not paying on time, but it looks like the specifics don't match similar questions on this SE site.
I got a call from a client I did website work for years ago. I had not done this kind of work for many years and frankly I'm not sure I want to now, but nevertheless about a month ago I agreed to bring his website, SEO, social media, and overall marketing for his small business up to speed. Why? He has told me many times how I'm the most honest, most well-informed contractor he's had experience with. And I personally kind of like him too.
So I started working on an hourly basis. I sent one very small invoice and got paid. Then we talked a whole lot about all sorts of feature he would like me to implement. I started that work, and sent a second invoice on the first of the month (one of my two stated billing days). I didn't get paid. On every invoice it states that I charge a whopping ten percent per week late. I sent many voicemails and emails asking to please let me know what's going on with payment, and didn't get replies. Then the 15th of the month rolled around (which I stated initially as one of my invoicing dates). Since I hadn't been paid for the last invoice, I simply didn't send him an invoice at that time but emailed him and said that I will combine it with the next scheduled invoice for this reason (probably a bad idea I realize). Eventually he sent a portion of the invoice payment. I emailed back to let him know that he's three weeks late and what the remaining balance is.
Finally we got in touch via phone. He basically told me that he thought I hadn't done all of the work I said I did. He looked at the page source code and it didn't look complete to him. I explained why his perception would be different and what work I had done as specified. He accepted this and said that part of the reason he didn't pay in full is that he's been swamped with personal family stuff, and part of the reason is that he didn't think I did all the work. That struck me as pretty weird. He also expressed concern that he has no idea now how much all the changes he has asked for are going to cost. And once again, he told me how honest and high-quality my services are compared to others he has dealt with. He also said he would pay me more (but not all) of the now three weeks overdue invoice that day. I didn't receive any payment.
Basically this is how the client relationship strikes me:
- He's not good at communication. He's very busy and English isn't his first language.
- He almost never replies to emails but phone calls are fine. He's asked me to avoid emails for communication and I've asked him to please use email.
- He might not have enough money to afford all the things he has asked for. But so far I have been working for an hourly fee (which is quite high).
- He also has started paying monthly for hosting and social media services from me.
- What seems very abnormal is for a client to be so overdue on payments and to actually withhold payment of an invoice without any communication because he didn't think the work was done.
I told him that I will send dollar estimates of each module of remaining work so that we can decide which ones are the highest priority if he cannot afford them all. I also reiterated that in the future if he has doubts about the work or an inability to pay, he must contact me immediately to say so.
I basically plan to state the following to him: I would like to work for him and help his business. I also have sympathy for his recent family difficulties. I am happy to figure out payment plans that would work better for him, but first I need to be paid in full for all outstanding invoices, especially given that I skipped one of them just to be nice. The most crucial thing I need is communication about any problems with my work or his ability to pay. Once again, he heeds to pay in full immediately before we negotiate anything else.
Does the above seem like an appropriate communication? Is anything missing from it? Is anything I'm doing here really abnormal?