It’s been 30 days since you sent a big invoice to that big client for the work you performed, and they still haven’t paid.
So you send a polite reminder note despite the panic and frustration rising up inside. (You don’t want to burn a powerful bridge, after all, and maybe it was an honest mistake?)
They apologize for their oversight and say the money is on its way.
Another month passes with no payment. You send a another reminder that’s a tad firmer, but still far more polite than the, “Where the $&*% is my money?” you’d prefer to send.
Still no payment, although they do offer a myriad of excuses as to why they can’t pay you.
You begin to consider things like small claims court, social media intimidation tactics…or the more likely fact you may never see that money you were counting on to pay your bills.
If you’ve been a freelance writer for any significant amount of time, there’s a good chance you can tell a similar story.
Sadly, there are plenty of bad clients out there who have no qualms about giving you the runaround (or, worse yet, ignoring you altogether) rather than ponying up the money you both agreed they’d pay for a job.
It’s nerve-wracking, rage-inducing, and it can throw your entire life into disarray.
Which is why Simon Owens decided to do what many freelancers have only dreamed of, and publicly call out the big-name client who stiffed him more than $2,000.
Why he did it
Owens wrote that his delinquent client is Leslie Sanchez, an analyst, author, CBS News contributor and regular guest on CNN. In other words, the kind of person whose clout could easily scare a freelancer into rolling over and accepting defeat.
Insummer 2015, Owens agreed to write a business plan for Sanchez’s new digital media company. The final bill for his services came to $2,662. At the time he published his tell-all piece on Medium.com, he’d been attempting to collect payment for this bill for 15 months.
In the piece, he lays bare every dirty detail of his issues with Sanchez, even going so far as to include screenshots of their emails illustrating her ever-evolving excuses for non-payment.
Now, $2,662 is no small chunk of change. (“This person had chosen to essentially steal from me the equivalent of two months’ worth of rent,” Owens writes.)
Still, going public with a grievance against a well-known client is a risky move for any freelancer.
So why did Owens decide to take this risk?
“Well,” he writes, “At this point in my career I feel secure enough that any reputational damage will be minimal and I’ll continue to get work. I’ve also given up on the notion that I’ll ever receive payment from this person, so the least I can do is warn off any other freelancers who might consider working for her. I might even teach a few future freelancers some valuable lessons along the way.”
These lessons, which he elaborates on in his post, include lessons like watching for red flags, getting everything in writing and asking for a deposit before you start your work.
He also wanted to send a message to delinquent clients everywhere:
“We’re not just line items on a spreadsheet, and no matter how you rationalize your actions, what you’re doing is theft, plain and simple.”
To which we say: hear, hear!
You can read Owens’ full piece on Medium.
Your turn! Would you ever publicly call out a client who hadn’t paid? Why or why not?
Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor; follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.