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I'm having trouble getting paid for an invoice that a client owes me (just £100). He has started ignoring my phonecalls and texts and has never been very good over email to begin with.

I'm starting to lose patience in chasing for such a small amount of money and am tempted to go through the small claims court — https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/overview

It would cost me £25 if I fill the form online.

Are there a certain amount of reminders that I need to send the client? and how overdue does the invoice need to be?

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I spoke to a fellow freelancer about this and here is what he advised...

  1. Send them a "letter before action" along with an invoice, basically tell them if they pay within 7 days you won't take any further action and will waive interest as allowed by UK, and also won't take them through small claims. Explain that they'll be liable to pay the small claim fees when they lose, and that you can charge them £40 recovery fees on top. Link them to this: https://www.gov.uk/late-commercial-payments-interest-debt-recovery/claim-debt-recovery-costs

  2. In 7 days send another invoice including the recovery fee and the interest, give them 7 days to pay the total. Explain that if they don't you'll start a small claim and they'll be liable to pay the fees for that when they lose (look up how much it costs and explain the total very clearly)

  3. In 7 days start the small claim, and send them an invoice separately including the small claim fee, tell them if they pay now you'll cancel the claim.

They usually pay at step 1 or 2!

I'm thinking I may give this a go

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From personal experience, this is not a fun experience. You need to weigh this up as if it were a contract itself.

For £100, you need to work out if a day of your time (at least) is worth it. However, you also need to consider whether you want to maintain your reputation (and punish that of your client).

If the client does not appear, you win. If you win, they pay the costs (but not for time lost), and some expenses (like travel to court, etc). If you lose, you are out of pocket for the claim and the fee.

Now here's the thing. You can pick the court location. For example, if your client is remote, you can file locally to yourself, so they will have to weigh up the cost of travel vs settling the claim pre-court.

A whole load more info can be found here

  • thank you! that all sounds good but I think the main thing putting me off is having to pay to send bailiffs round etc... because am I right in thinking that, if you win in court, all that grants you is permission to send bailiffs to get the money? – Pel Feb 6 '17 at 11:54
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    @pealo86 Well, first the court orders them to give you the money. If they don't, you apply for an enforcement order. At this point, yes it's bailiffs. Fun fact about bailiffs: in most cases, payment for their services is billable to the debtor. – JohnHC Feb 6 '17 at 12:02
  • interesting! I'm tempted to keep the small claims court in mind then... although it's only £100, it's the principal of the matter more than anything – Pel Feb 6 '17 at 15:38
  • @pealo86 If you didn't enjoy the experience of working with the client, it might be nice to get back at him. but keep in mind it will cost 25% of your profit (though 75% is better than 0% right). In future I'd advise not providing the client with the completed work until paid in full. Depending on the type of freelancing work you do, it might be worth trying to run with the project yourself and issuing copyright / DCMA / whatever you can, to stop the client from using it or competing with you (as whilst unpaid, the work still belongs to yourself legally). – lewis Feb 8 '17 at 16:42

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