FREElancer doesn't mean 'free work'

Excuses every freelancer has heard

It’s no joke or laughing matter when statistics tell us that one in two freelancers say they struggled to collect payments in 2014. Or that on average, a freelancer will lose about 13% of their total income, annually. The reasons for lack of or late payments can vary drastically, some being legit, whilst others tiptoe the absurd line of “it’s not you, it’s me…” or “a bird flew off with my homework”. I’m sure many of you freelancers out there, who have been in this industry for at least a few years, know this story all too well yourselves.

Grab a coffee and let’s go over 7 selected (and real life!) excuses:

1. “The cheque must’ve gotten lost in the mail”

This seems to happen to some companies with such surprising frequency that one would suggest - it’s probably time to consider changing their postal service or indeed to start sending tracked mail. The first thing you should ask for is the cheque number and what type of post it was sent on, (ie. 1st or 2nd class post) so you can try to track it.

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2. “Your invoice was misplaced/never received”

This is also around the time that they might ask you to resend it, buying them a handy bit of extra turnover time. This excuse is always one to stump, seeing as most invoices are sent vial email or through a reliable digital service such as Albert. It can almost be likened to laughing off an awkward situation when an acquaintance asks why you didn’t return their calls or texts and you say you ‘misplaced their number’. 

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3. “We’re out of money”

If your client/employer is saying they (all of a sudden) can’t afford to pay you - either they’re bluffing; or there’s a simple enough reason, such as the fact that they’re waiting on a payment. Remember, if so, this is not your problem, so you have the right to press the matter or to insist on being immediately paid a part of the overall sum. 

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4. “The quality of the work wasn’t up to par”

Is there really any reason to dispute the quality of work? Also, is there really any way of knowing whether this is true? No, not really. But the client may well find a good reason and so you will need to urgently establish the specifics of this, in writing, so you can rectify the situation asap - and demonstrate that you have – in order to be paid. Don’t sit around sulking or feeling sorry for yourself; waste no time in handling this matter.

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5. “So and so died”

This is, of course, a sad affair to be treated with gentility. But of course, business is business, as usual, and the show must go on. A tactful phone call, expressing sympathy first and foremost and then querying what is to be done next regarding the business side of things, can largely be beneficial to the cause. Though a respectful wait, on your part, may be necessary; if it is a limited company - a LTD, PLC or LLP – then the business should continue to trade.

6. “We’re in the process of changing banks”

Although reasonably suspect, it is not the most uncommon claim to be made in this current financial climate. But it also begs the question of whether and why all business has to go on pause in the meantime. Normally, provisions will have been made to access certain funds. Establish whether the client can pay by credit card or PayPal transaction instead. If not, then establish an exact date by which the problem will be resolved and you can expect to be paid by, after which time you will apply an interest to the amount owed under the Late Payment Legislation.

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7. “We are bankrupt”

If they claim to have ceased trading or are in the process of ‘liquidation’, too often this claim is false and more a way of avoiding paying up. If you think there might be some truth to it, it’s up to you to find out how the company has ceased trading: is the company in a ‘formal insolvency’ - eg. Liquidation, receivership, bankruptcy or IVA? If so, find out the name of the firm handling the insolvency or dealing with the case’s administration and contact this company asap to make a claim. You will need to provide evidence that the company has signed and accepted your Terms & Conditions. Without this, or if the business has just simply ceased to trade, it is at your discretion to decide whether or not it is worth it to pursue the debt through legal channels.

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