Why I'm Celebrating my First Ever Non Paying Client

Ridiculous as it may sound; I’m delighted to have just (only yesterday) encountered my first official non-paying client.

I was mailed back in November by a prospective client who was in a muddle with WordPress and desperate to get her website whipped into shape so that she could start taking paid clients. Having recently left her employment to pursue self employment full time, I was keen to help if I could. I hugely discounted my hourly rate in the absence of income. Here was a woman just like me who wanted to shape her own future. She had chosen to reach out to me and I was able to help her move forward. Why wouldn’t I help?

I asked for a deposit up front equivalent to two hours work. With this paid I set to work. As we progressed I was asked to expand upon the work I was doing for her as she was so pleased with the results. I explained how many hours I thought this would require each step of the way and waited for the green light before continuing.
With the work finally complete in mid December; I sent a final invoice along with an email breaking down the costs.
To be clear; I had:
  • reduced my hourly rate significantly
  • Not charged for the full amount of time worked
  • plus invited discussion on payment options if payment in full would prove difficult

Half of the invoice was paid and I was told that the second half would follow later that week. I was pretty happy with that arrangement. Until the second half didn’t materialise.

I sent several emails again offering discussion on payment plans or ways to help. I was eventually replied to on 4th January and told that I would be paid that week. Friday came, still nothing and form that point on all of my emails were ignored.

I sent a tweet checking if all was ok and eventually opted for a Facebook message to ask if my emails were being received and for confirmation of when I could expect payment. I had a reply that said:

“Wow. I believe there is still outstanding work to be done.”

Erm… que?! I had literally just logged into her site to fix a widget she was struggling to tweak FREE OF CHARGE.

I knew at this point I was on to a loser. I should have cut contact at that point and stopped perpetuating the situation. But I wanted to clear my name! I wasn’t being unreasonable. Far from it. How could she not be paying me after all the work I had completed?

I replied asking for clarification on the work she believed to be outstanding. And this was the real eye opener:

As soon as you can calm down a bit and recognize that there are other things going on in people’s lives besides you, we can try to reconvene this. A lot of life has been intervening here.

This was a new one on me! Total avoidance of the issue at hand and now trying to sspin it so that I’m the one in the wrong? I don’t think so lay-dee :)

I left it at that. Until yesterday.

Ready to start B School with a clear mind; I wanted to let go of this. I was still harbouring frustrations around the communication breakdown and toxic energy that surrounded this whole ordeal. I sent a polite email asking how she was, filling her in on my plan to start B School and that I would really appreciate her helping me move forward by paying the final invoice.

The reply came late last night and was like an epiphany. It read:

Laura, Marie is great and if you can afford the time off and her classes, you’re doing well.

I won’t have a payment for you unfortunately.

I’m pleased to have a professional correspondence from you, the others were a bit shocking.

So there it was. In black and white. No payment and apparently my carefully constructed, non ranting emails were ‘shocking’.

What did I learn? I gotta get me payment up front!

If you’re reading dear non-paying client (you know who you are!); a very genuine – thank you. You’ve confirmed that I’m clearly not taking my business seriously enough. If I was? I wouldn’t have been in this situation.

I’m done with it. The door is closed and I’m a movin’ on. An uncomfortable lesson; very well learned.