How can one deal with a client who might skimp on full-payment?
September 20, 2014 8:46 PM   Subscribe

Okay, so recently, a friend of mine got me a freelance job to do the corporate identity for a friend of hers. The problem is, my friend tells me that her friend is not to be trusted. I really need the job at the moment, so how can I take it on and still protect myself?

What I mean by "not to be trusted" is that her friend has a history of not paying the agreed-upon amount, not of skipping payment entirely. Either way, I can't afford a lawyer in case her friend breaches the contract and even if I did, he lives in another country so there is no jurisdiction. Also, there's no way that my friend can control the situation or talk to him in case there's a problem. I can always ask for 50% down-payment, but I can't guarantee that he'll pay me the other 50% upon delivery. Plus, I can't send him a watermarked version of the final files and tell him to pay me for the unmarked versions because, what if he hires someone to trace my work? Anyway.. what can I do?
posted by cyrusw8 to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Take the job, do it, waste your time, not get paid the right amount, hope you get the money.

Or, listen to your friend, ignore the shitty client, and call up a temp agency or something like that.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:51 PM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ask for double what you'd normally charge. If he only pays half, so what. If he pays the whole pie, bonus! If he tells you to pound sand, no big loss.
posted by notsnot at 8:54 PM on September 20, 2014 [28 favorites]

Believe what your friend tells you. Don't take the job.

But if you must, make the terms thus in a signed contract: 50% up front. 40% at the halfway point. The last 10% on delivery. Don't start work until the contract is signed and the check for the non-refundable deposit of 50% clears. Stop working the instant you don't receive payment. Worst case scenario is that you only get 50% of the pay for doing 50% of the work, or are out 10% at the end point. My guess is that the client will not agree to the terms, indicating that the client didn't intend to pay you in the first place.
posted by deanc at 8:55 PM on September 20, 2014 [17 favorites]

Require an escrow account with contract.
posted by quince at 9:02 PM on September 20, 2014 [8 favorites]

Do 50% up front and 50% on delivery, but make delivery contingent on proof of payment after approval.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:06 PM on September 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I agree you should charge double than what you'd settle for.

I also like 50% down, 40% at halfway, and the last 10% due upon completion.

I also like the idea of escrow.

I know people like this. This person will likely screw you over. You want to build that into your billing.

Some people just enjoy being cheap like this. Plan ahead.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:11 PM on September 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I remember a guy I used to do business with. People said, don't trust him, he always screws people eventually. So I played it that I never did too much work for him before I'd request/demand that he pay me. And it worked. We even became friends. Sort of. Because he did finally screw me on the last check.
posted by philip-random at 9:15 PM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

50% down the rest in escrow
posted by edgeways at 10:52 PM on September 20, 2014

Why would you work for someone you can't trust? He's not the only client in the world, far from it. Get 100% up front.
posted by Leontine at 11:01 PM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another way is to approach out like their hiring you for your skills. You agree what the amount is, you do the work, and they decide whether they ultimately want to use your professional interpretation of their needs on their own time. This means you ask for full payment up front, which you say you always require for international clients.
posted by rhizome at 11:03 PM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not worth the hassle. If you really want to go there, I agree that you should inflate your prices and require 50% down, and then not even bother trying too hard to collect the rest.

But really, there are good clients. Find one. It will make your life so much more pleasant.

I spent 6 weeks working for a start-up once and then close to a YEAR trying to get full payment for that work from the owner of the business. Even aside from the fact that I lost money to legal fees, the constant unpleasantness and stress from having to continue dealing with the schmuck would have made it a bad deal at twice the price.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 1:35 AM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Factor the risk of not getting paid into your quote, get a good downpayment, and agree on a staggered payment plan as milestones are beeing reached.

On top of that, be prepared to:

a) Stand your ground and refuse to deliver the work when they try to weasel out of the payment plan

b) Not be paid for the full amount.

Point (a) is where you usually get screwed over - shitty customers plead, fake emergencies or try to use minor slip-ups or entirely made up deficiencies in your work to push you. Be prepared to give them a good dose of Fuck You Pay Me .

The fail state for this strategy is that you refuse to deliver, and they refuse to pay you - you are the one at a loss here, since you have already spend your time doing the work. Know what amount you are prepared to say goodbye to, so you can tell them to get lost when they try to get the last bit out of you for less than the agreed amount.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:54 AM on September 21, 2014

Money up front or don't do the job. Better to not get the job & not get paid, than to do the job & not get paid.
posted by wwax at 8:02 AM on September 21, 2014

Unless you can get 100% of the money up front, politely decline.

Phrase it this way, "I always require payment up front for international clients."

Great if he goes for it, you haven't lost anything if you don't.

Keep hustling for new work.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:15 AM on September 21, 2014

The tactic I would use is increasing my rate by 30% so as not to price myself out of getting the job. If your contract does not have a clause about copyright, then put one in that the client does not have a license to use the work until the final payment has been paid.
Then if he does what you fear, you can threaten him not with a little lawsuit for final payment, but a huge lawsuit for copyright violation.
I think if you really need the work, and you can be firm (have it in writing that you get the time you need) then it won't end up being a bad thing due to "opportunity loss".
posted by Sophont at 9:16 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

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