I used to have a client who pays me $3000 every year to maintain her small office's computer, network, email and static website. There was no written agreement for this since she was recommended to me by a mutual friend. The payment was usually credited to my account towards end of the year or first week of the year.

About a year ago, I tried calling her to remind her of the pending payment. She ignored my call, email and Whatsapp message. There was no formal written or verbal from her stating that she no longer require any of my service. I stopped contacting her since and neither did I render any service. She of course, did not contact me as well.

Today she texted me via mobile asking for password to a certain application. How do I remind her outstanding payment that was due a year ago without sounding like I am extorting her for it. I still have in possession, passwords, media and documentation which I intend to handover to her once she release the outstanding payment.

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    Could you please clarify one thing? It's not clear as you've described it - was her "end of the year/first week of the year" payment for the past year (paid in arrears), or for the upcoming year (paid in advance)? I read this as "at the end of year X, she didn't pay/renew the annual support for the upcoming year, she went quiet, I didn't do any work for her... and now a year later she's emailing me for a password." If that's the case, even though she is kinda flakey, just take 60 seconds & email her the password. If however she owes you $3000 for a year of work, be hard!!
    – Dan
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 15:26

6 Answers 6


This one's easy. Say

"Before we proceed, I am going to need you to pay the outstanding fees for the work I did on xx/xx - xx/xx (date)."

You may also write up an invoice / bill if you don't have one already.

Don't be rude.

If there is no record of agreement (written or verbal), you probably can't get them legally, but if they don't at least agree to pay you what you are owed, you should end your relationship with them. Simple as that.

Always be kind and understanding, but never let yourself get stiffed.


You are being too nice. Being payed what is owed is never extorting.

When I had similar problems, the only solution was to demand full payment before proceeding, as it is the only means of pressure you have.

If there - after payment - still is some trust left, I would formalize the relationship with at least a small one-page agreement, as I have never had problems with clients who have signed a piece of paper.

If there really is no trust left, I would demand payment in advance for what essentially will be your final work.

You were probably looking for a 'nicer' way forward, but it is difficult to see what that could be without you screwing yourself. You have a better hand than the client; I suggest you play it.


Absence of a 'written contract' is NOT absence of a contract. Verbal contracts and 'custom of use' between parties establishes a contract, just more difficult to prove. You should send a reminder invoice (detailing period for whichitwas due) and remind her work can only be completed after payment.


Be Formal, Upfront and direct. Use official term, no abbreviations or slang.

Here is a great website explaining how and when to send payment requests for overdue accounts and outstanding payments:


Here are some great templates for collecting money:


And the people you are dealing with are clients don't treat them as friends or you will complicate things, be firm but not threatening.


I would not call that as "extortion" in any way. Since there is no legal binding here, the importance is given to the work/professional ethics.

Now, I do not know what the actual scenario is i.e why she stopped responding to you a year back.

But, considering the case it was a fault on her side, I would suggest you remind her about the outstanding payment she owes.

Also, present her a proposal that you will hand over all the details over to her after the payment is cleared.


try dividing the outstanding payment in 2 modules : Half outstanding payment for half the details. This could be a good way of getting to work back together as well. Safe for both the parties.

Best case would be that you get a deal in writing: Outstanding payment in exchange for the details you have.


Politely ask for it by bringing up the topic/request before you hand over the password.

If it was an email, it would be somewhere along these words:

Sure, I do have the password. I managed to keep all the details securely.

Oh but before that, do you by any chance remember that we still have an outstanding balance from the previous project?

It's something I've been meaning to ask you about. I was hoping I could get the amount in full this time.

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