When Clients Ghost You: 7 Tips for Freelancers

Earlier, I addressed why clients shouldn’t ghost freelancers. This blog flips the coin and addresses ghosting from a freelancer’s perspective.

Freelancing comes with risk. We’re trusting our clients to honor their payment agreement and to pay us on time. Even with a contract detailing the terms and conditions, there’s never a guarantee the client will pay. And if they refuse, pursuing legal action not be financially worth the investment. It may be best to let the unpaid invoice go.

What can a freelancer do to collect payment?

1- Be clear up front. Clients don’t like a surprise. I always tell my potential and current clients:

  • I’m a part-time worker with a kid at home.
  • The days and times I reserve for work.
  • I will respond ASAP unless it’s the weekend.
  • If I can’t start a project until a certain date.
  • Vacations at least a month ahead and make a commitment to ensure their needs will be met while I’m gone. This includes asking for any work they want finished ahead of my vacation by a certain date and not the night before I leave.

This clear communicates humanizes me and clarifies the situation.

2-Always have a contract. Spell out your expectations and their expectations. Include your payment schedule and fees. Talk about late fees and rush fees before you agree to work together.

Client and freelancer handshake on a contract

3- Use a service. Some freelance matchmakers like Upwork have structures in place to protect freelancers when clients refuse or ghost payment.

4- Give a (small) benefit of the doubt. We’re working with human beings. Something could have happened that is causing them not to respond. All of these have happened to me:

  • They went on vacation and forgot to tell you
  • They’re swamped at work and simply forgot
  • They had a family emergency.
  • They were fired and forgot to turn over my account to the appropriate supervisor.

When a few days pass without a response, I’ll send a “just checking in” reminder.

Example:

“Hi! Just making sure you got the draft I sent over Tuesday. Let me know if there’s a problem opening or if you need revisions. Thanks!”

5- Poke often. If I don’t hear after the reminder, I’ll send follow-ups every 3-4 working days. I always stay positive and assume it’s not intentional. After two weeks, if we have an ongoing agreement, I’ll ask if we need to modify our agreement. Or, I’ll let them know I’ve stopped all work until I hear from them.

6- Invoice and request. If they continue to ignore, invoice and request prompt payment for services rendered. Send an email, snail mail a print copy, and call if necessary. Invoice at least twice. Add any agreed upon late fees. If they’re an employee of a larger company, go up the ladder. Never be negative in the contact. Stick to the facts.

7- Poor reviews. After multiple touchpoints and requests for payment, I leave negative feedback on their hiring website, client profile, or social page to warn other freelancers to stay away. In my case, I’ve never had an invoice financially worth pursuing legal action.

Have you ever been ghosted by a client? I’d love to hear how you handled the situation. Comment with your feedback!

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