Given the following facts regarding their agreement: - Client is past due their invoices - Freelancer is an independant contractor / consultant - Not always is there a deliverable product

What options does a freelancer have if the client doesn't pay their invoices?


3 Answers 3


How far overdue are they? Do you have any language in your contract about payment due dates? If you don't, you should -- managing expectations is the most important. Both you and client should be clearly understood about deliverables and deadlines.

In your current case, start by contacting them both by email (establish a paper trail) and phone to discuss the problem. Try to sort out a payment plan. If they fail to pay, or they disappear, or don't reply at all, you can look into legal action.

Here in Ontario you can take somebody to provincial small claims court for issues under $5,000, fairly simple process and you don't need a lawyer. It's probably very different in other places. Talk to someone who knows your state law. Legal action is really not desirable but you need to know your rights, lest you need to exercise them.


Follow the steps in your contract agreement, if you have one.

Make it clear you intend to recover the amount owing by whatever means available to you.

This might include penalties for late payment such as applying interest to the fee.

If your client is suffering genuine hardship you might offer payment terms so that you can at least start to recover the debt. For example, you might accept half now and the balance in a months time.

Where clients don't seem willing to negotiate or communicate, then you might consider legal action and this can be straightforward using a small claim tribunal where the amount owed fits within the small claim tribunal limit.

Another successful tactic I have used is to threaten their credit rating. As a sole operator freelancer in Australia, I can't report unpaid debts directly to credit agencies but I can hire a debt recovery company who can do this on my behalf. Clients will often respond positively when their access to credit is under threat. You don't usually have to hire a debt recovery company, but let the client know this is what you will do if you don't hear back from them with the next 48 hours or similar.

Not always is there a deliverable product

If you are providing a service, and payments are outstanding for that service, then you are perfectly at liberty of withdrawing that service provision.

EG if a customer does not pay for website hosting, then replacing their webpage with a Holding Page suggesting "Service suspended due to non-payment" normally works VERY quickly. This is a tactic I have previously resorted too (albeit reluctantly)

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