How to get paid without fucking up your client relationship

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Getting paid is hard for freelancers and business owners, and knowing how to respond to a late payment is downright stressful.

The biggest issue is communication.

You want to get paid, but you don’t want to be a dick. It’s an age-old problem.

Don’t be passive aGgressive (obviously)

Honestly, it’s just difficult to find that perfect balance between passive and aggressive when communicating with a client about payment — without coming across as passive aggressive, which nobody wants.

You want to be clear and firm because you signed agreement (or at least you should have) and you’re doing the work (or at least you should be). You’ve earned that money and you deserve to be paid.

Yes, you deserve to be paid.

But you don’t want to come on too strong because you’re building relationships with your clients. You want to work with them again and have them refer you to their friends.

And they also deserve to be treated as a human who forgets things and makes mistakes.

Yes, your clients are humans who also fuck up.

Don’t assume your client is purposefully avoiding payment… until they give you actual evidence that they’re literally doing just that.

99% of the time (if you vetted your client) they’re not maliciously evading payment. They’re just embarrassed to tell you they locked themselves out of their own email.

be human, but don’t pussyfoot around it

Embracing humanity (yours and theirs) is a great way approach to communication. It allows us to empathize with and understand each other aka the basis of all human bonding.

So, when you initiate a conversation about a late invoice or missed payment, be human. Consider that perhaps they forgot to pay you, lost their credit card, or maybe didn’t even receive your invoice in the first place.

But when a situation escalates, so should your language.

When you are empathetically and humanly asking what’s going on, you deserve response in kind. If you’re not being treated equally (e.g. condescending emails, no response, etc.) then you need to change your approach and therefore your language.

You want to express your concerns about paying your own bills professionally and humanely. But at the end of the day, don’t forget that you are owed.

If you’re non-committal about getting paid, your client will be too. If you are concise and up front about what you want and how you feel about what’s going on — without getting emotional — that will come across loud and clear to your client.

ask for your money without losing it

These general rules are hard to follow, I get it.

Every situation feels unique and there are always different issues to consider. That’s why I’ve created this easy app that shows how verbose and assertive to be when asking yo, where’s my money?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and the copy is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules¹. But it’s a great place to start.

Obviously, the end goal is to get paid but with the caveat that you don’t want to lose the client. That means sometimes you need to offer smaller actions that help your client get to that end goal like replying to your email, hopping on a call with you, or agreeing to a payment plan.

Remember your end goal every time you communicate with your client. And more importantly, remember to reflect on your end goal every day you don’t get paid and ask yourself do I really want to keep working with this client?

How to ask your client to pay an invoice

¹ Thanks for the inspo, Barbossa


I’ll update the slider if I’ve missed anything. Just share in the comments where things tend go off the rails with your invoices and I’ll add it as a new scenario.

What’s the hardest thing about asking clients to pay their invoice?