If and when a freelance client won’t pay there’s nothing you can do, actually there’s something you can do.
The first step in getting paid as an independent freelancer is having a freelance contract. A freelance contract outlines the project you’re working on, the deadline and the frequency of payment.
If you don’t have the contract, how about the email where you sent back and forth between you and the client?.
All these are evidence to make a claim when a client won’t pay.
If you seek counsel, on Facebook Freelancing groups or forums, on how to deal with a freelance client who won’t pay, the first question you get asked is – do you have a freelance contract?.
A freelance contract is binding, it’s a statement of you agreeing to do the job and submitting it at the most appropriate time and the client agreeing to pay you.
There are a few laws guarding freelancers all over the world but not those in Kenya.
In Kenya, you’re on your own but the laws regarding a freelancer don’t have to be solely by country but online.
After all, freelancing that you do is online and there are platforms on Facebook pages or Upwork, Fiverr or Freelancer among other freelancing platforms where you find a community to turn to when a client refuses to pay.
On these forums you will find seasoned and newbie freelancers asking questions about dealing with the toughest question – My client has refused to pay me or ghosted me after submitting work, what should I do?
How to Deal With a Freelance Client Who Won’t Pay Kenyan Freelancers
How do you deal with a client who after completing the task handed to you, ghosts you or doesn’t talk with your bank account?
The following are ways of dealing with freelance clients who won’t pay and they include:
I have learnt a few tricks since I started freelancing in Kenya. Talk with your client.
Keep in touch, don’t be a silent freelancer who only talks after 3 weeks of getting an assignment.
Agree with your client during the interview what your communication frequency will be.
Communication helps when a client won’t pay you. Kindly ask in a gentle tone, It’s now past my payment date, sir/madam, should I be concerned?
I am hoping I completed the work according to your expectations and what you desired as the outcome.
Is there something holding your finances and when can I expect to get paid?
Should we make a new contract about the expected date of payment as the last one we made expired?
You’re being firm, not forceful. Plus, you’re showing genuine concern in case your client ran into unexpected problems.
Consult your freelance contract
What did you state in your freelance contract? Was part of the agreement for you to complete a task at a specified time?
Did you honour the contract as agreed by completing the task or are you asking for payment for work you never did?
Did you in your contract include the terms of payment? Are you asking for cash when you said via a cheque?
Before accusing your freelance client of not paying you, ensure you review every detail in your contract and what you may have missed.
Then ask your client if there was anything he/she didn’t understand while signing the contract.
Don’t keep on working
When one of my long-term clients didn’t pay at least twice a month, I got a bit concerned because my bills fell behind, back in 2018.
That’s why the most important thing between you and your client is communication.
My client believed he’d pay me before the month ended but ran into more difficulties with frozen accounts due to tax evasion.
He’s reviving his companies in 2020/21, thank God.
I never forced him to pay me, instead, I waited patiently. He advised to stop working and to leave the pending work until he sorts out his financial mess.
I, however, worked on the pending projects and submitted as agreed and got a big bonus for the extra thought.
Research your client and his/her company
When you research a company and the owner you get to know what the company culture looks like. Company culture can be about how the workers dress, when they go to work, the structure.
Upon researching a company’s culture you get to uncover some secrets like when they pay their workers and what excuses they give during pay time.
I know some employers who make a ton of money daily yet refuse to pay their workers.
You don’t want to work for such employers because you will forever have headaches with your boss and paying your bills.
Related: Why Doing Company Research Is Critical For Freelancers
There’s nothing better than learning through experience, at least I have learnt.
Experience is the best teacher. When you don’t get paid by two or three freelance clients, you learn how to respect your tears and blood.
I got clients asking me for my writing samples back in 2012, they’d never get back to me.
I’m a sleuth by nature, I stalk the internet for information and on one of my vacations on Google, I found a client who asked for a sample and told me he won’t hire me and published the same article, word for word.
He gave the credits to himself and it was the most soul-crushing incident in my life. He wasn’t the first one but maybe the 10th client.
I was so happy to give samples to clients and never heard from them.
It was embarrassing to admit that I was getting duped online as a writer. I resorted to being a virtual assistant.
I learnt never ever send any samples your client tells you to write or do without saying whether they’ll pay you or not.
And that turned me off from clients who say, Write a 250-word article, paid, about this story. This is my way to gauge your writing. Honey, if they cannot see the samples you sent, you’re getting duped, run away.
Get advice it helps to share the sorrows and pains of fake-ass freelance clients
If only I shared the horrific nightmares I underwent in the name of clients wanting free jobs.
But I learnt to never ever give free samples and I will never do it, paid or not. I avoid such clients.
There’s no shame in getting duped online.
But, when you tell others you work online and they wait to see results, how can you say you’re wasting time on clients who dupe you?.
The answer I’d get is, ‘get a real job’.
I started working online as a Kenyan when it was and is still is a new concept, not quite understood.
Who would I share my sorrows with when the closest ones to me waited for my downfall?
It’s a freelance job for a reason, you work virtually/online and there are forums and Facebook groups where you can share stories about clients who dupe or cheat you.
You want to share your story with those who understand your situation as a freelancer and not those who put pressure on you or judge you.
Ask yourself if you want to keep pursuing the client over non-payment or keep on working
I chose to never ever follow up any of my clients because who would believe me that the samples were mine?
What did I have to show about my samples? It’s the biggest factor, getting duped, that made me start my blog.
I chose to move on with my work and not waste time where I’d argue with people I don’t know back and forth.
Never ever give up
No matter how many times you get duped, don’t ever give up.
Freelance clients aren’t the same and many of them appreciate the work you do to expand their businesses/brands.
If you give up, you won’t ever know what lay ahead of the curve.
Contact the freelancing site you met your client on
It’s best if your client, the one who doesn’t want to pay is one of the most popular online websites for Kenyans, like Freelancer.com, Upwork.com or Fiverr.com.
If you meet your clients outside the freelancing websites, like I mostly do, it becomes so hard to deal with such a client.
That’s why a freelance contract is a good branding step.
Some clients though don’t love the presence of a freelance contract, choose if you want to work with them or not.
There are policies in place to help guard you against clients who won’t pay on freelancing websites. With escrow payments/where a client releases a part of the payment into the website to assure the freelancer that their money is in safe hands. Then the rest of the money is released to you upon completion of work.
Even then, on freelancing websites, clients, some of them have found easy ways to scam freelancers.
They claim you didn’t finish the work, and if the freelancing website finds the fault was the client’s, the client goes ahead and gives you a poor rating.
It’s so much to decide who to work for and who not to work for.
Related: The Signs of a Freelance Client You Want to Avoid as a Freelancer in Kenya
Charge for a late fee by including it in your freelance contract
I didn’t know I could bill my clients for late payment by getting it on the contract. Now, I know, that’s the power of research.
I found this in one of the articles to make a living writing, I have provided the link in the resources page.
Let this clause in the contract state what late fees mean and how much interest the client will incur. A great deterrent for clients who won’t pay.
Complain about your non-paying clients on public freelancing forums and groups
I got disgruntled on Jumia one day in 2014 when I bought a printer that never arrived and posted it on this blog.
It was the beginning of my content going viral but I didn’t realise until much later when people kept reaching to me via my website telling me they found me on the blog and article.
I talked about the whole ordering process and exactly what happened that made me angry about shopping on Jumia.
I was ready to hype about online shopping until Jumia made me angry. When complaining about your freelance client, say what happened.
What the process was like. What made you so angry. Describe it so that the forum readers understand the situation.
Shaming can go well or awry depending on how you describe it. I realised don’t add or negate any feelings you had/have.
Make sure you kept your conversation with your clients civil, don’t name-call them.
A professional freelancer doesn’t call bitch, motherfucker to clients and on online forums.
You come as rude, lack respect and manners, plus who would want to help a motherfucker who keeps calling others motherfuckers?
Also, don’t go on rambling about things which don’t matter or concern the subject like I see people complaining about how the client dressed, looked, smelt, talked, or walked.
That comes off as rude and unprofessional. You want to say the situation as is. Don’t belittle anyone on their appearance.
How To Professionally Shame a Freelance Client Who Won’t Pay on Twitter, Freelancing Forum or Facebook Group
Publish your content and copyright it
If you want to completely ruin your freelance clients’ reputation, make sure you quickly publish the content meant for them.
This is used as a last resort when the client refuses to pay completely.
If you find they published that same content report to Google as copyright material.
And have the client axed for life for copyright infringement.
In some cases, you may get asked for proof of ownership, make sure you take this step when you have all the materials at hand.
How to Avoid Clients Who Won’t Pay Freelancers
You’re a freelancer whose money depends on clients and the pay.
How do you avoid clients who won’t pay freelancers in order to have stress-free freelancing as a Kenyan?
The following are ways of avoiding clients who won’t pay freelancers in Kenya and they include:
I respect a freelancer with a brand. I came to love everything branding in 2018 when I knew how to create logos for myself.
I haven’t created a freelancing website yet, I’m hung on the name and still working on it.
I start a brand from a website, a website gives you the freedom to write whatever your heart desires.
Then find your voice, mission and vision in order to keep your brand going.
A logo, let it be used to identify you as a person and as a brand so let your logo tell a story.
Related: How to Build a Freelance Brand in Kenya
Begin a Freelance Side-Hustle
There are many ways to avoid non-paying freelancing clients and one of the ways is becoming self-employed.
What service can you offer to clients former or current and get paid for? Before beginning a side-hustle, ask yourself if there’s a demand for the service or product and who your customers will be.
Do extensive market research to help you determine your market.
Related: 100+ Side Hustles for Kenyan Freelancers To Do to Earn Money Fast
Go for clients worth your time
I learnt to work with clients worth my time. Clients who value my worth.
Therefore if a client still tells me like I heard a lot when I worked on Upwork in early 2017, your rates are too high. I don’t bother to reply or argue or negotiate with them. I don’t try to justify myself.
A client even told me my rates are so high for someone living in a third world nation, I must reconsider.
I got tempted to reply so rudely but told him wherever I live doesn’t matter, I eat, work, pay bills just like he does. And I won’t want to work with him.
He ended up apologizing but I never took the apology.
Go for clients who value your work and quality of work you bring forth. I make my clients work easier in creating content strategies for their brands by coming up with content ideas.
The client must make my life easier in paying my bills, or else how would I pay for my kids’ tuition and bills among other expenses?
If you value your tie, your client will and he/she will pay you what you deserve.
When working with new clients, I love to negotiate really seriously a 75% pay and quality work.
I minimise the number of revisions too, I allow only 3 revisions unless they’re a long-term client. Some clients agree some don’t.
I give a discount to clients who pay half of the total amount.
If the client doesn’t agree about upfront payment, I move on without remorse or fear, I know I’ll get a worthwhile client.
Plus, you’ll realise when a client is so problematic at the beginning, their problems never end, they’ll give you headaches all the time.
Act immediately if payments haven’t been received
Take precaution immediately and stop working when the payment isn’t coming.
Sell your work to a client with money.
Don’t keep on working in the hopes of getting paid. That’s the good thing with clients who ask for samples. For a day or two or a few hours, you’re busy, they agree to pay you asap.
When you don’t hear from them, you know you got duped. These types of clients teach you bitter lessons so early on in your freelancing life, you keep on a keen eye on non-paying clients.
Again, no matter what niche you’re in, never ever send samples to anyone, let them refer to your portfolio or refer them to your URLs for your samples.
Be a bit sceptical when they say, ‘I pay for samples if I like your work, so write on this topic’. This client will never ever like your work, they won’t get back to you.
Have a freelance contract ready all the time
Before working on a freelance job, with a freelance contract. You have been warned.
A contract sounds so unappealing for a beginner freelancer but worth your efforts.
Take the time to draft the part of your work that scares away bad freelance clients and avoid the non-payment headache/issues.
Plus, it’s liberating to search for clients without the freelancing websites, right? That’s when you know you’re a big freelancer and must be proud.
Related: What’s Inside a Freelance Contract? A Freelance Contract That Scares Non-Paying Clients
A Quick Note About Freelance Invoices: Basic Requirements of an Invoice
What you’re billing for, the amount due, when due and how to get paid. That’s what an invoice says.
You have to include contact information, yours and your client’s and the billing department – is the accounting or the finance office responsible for your payment?. This is for people working with companies.
There has to be a tracking number – an often looked piece of important information by freelancers. A tracking number is like a parcel number you get to see if the boss shipped the payment or not, literally.
Sometimes clients forget to pay not because they’re bad but you never submitted the invoice in time.
Resources Regarding Freelance Clients Who Won’t Pay
If your clients won’t pay, consider online payments. Follow up with clients who haven’t paid.
They may be embarrassed for certain eventualities like tax evasion charges.
Always maintain professionalism, before shaming your client online on forums or on social media, ensure you paint the picture of how it happened.
Bring the facts, don’t use language that paints you in a bad picture.
Clients who don’t pay are a freelancer’s worst nightmare, I have had a fair share of my clients in early freelancing years who asked for samples and disappeared in thin air. They wouldn’t pay.
Let such clients not discourage you from being a freelancer, in fact, let them teach you to always carry your freelance contract, respect your freelancing career building a brand and also charge what your worth is.
Have you got duped by a freelance client lately? Care to share the story? Did you get paid or did the client disappear forever? Tell us how you felt when a client duped you.