I've come across my first client that refuses to pay or even communicate. I'm a bit unsure how to approach this but at this point it seems small-claims is the only avenue. I'd greatly appreciate how other designers approach a problem like this.
I've done five projects with a well-known Melbournian bar late last year and after sending the full invoice for the last two jobs I don't hear anything for some weeks. I found out from my contact he's been let go as the bar is trying to run a tighter ship. He gave me the number to accounts, I chat with accounts and he's a bit evasive (1) the current marketing person does not like the design even though both items were specifically requested by management, and underwent several iterations after contributions and reviews were made by staff (2) he hasn't seen the designs and asked me to supply them to present at a meeting. Since the initial call he ghosts me. No return calls, no replies to half a dozen emails. My contact has tried emailing regarding this to be met with silence.
If they aren't open to communication I think the only avenue is small-claims. I was hoping it wouldn't come to this as the formal approval was via internal emails which can be omitted.
Firstly, that sucks. To think that people don't pay us for our services is rank but - hey - it happens.
I have been in a similar spot where communication was cut off completely. I engaged a debt collector and they finally stated responding via email. No payment was made and it was just a mess of back and forth emails.
On a side note I was very unhappy with the debt collector's communication. It was just unprofessional and came to a head when they replied to an email simply with 'LOL'. I told them to cease all contact there and then.
I prepared all of the email communication and approved estimates, etc.. and they didn't even bother to rock up. Since then I have been issued a VCAT Order which basically entitles me to the money.
That was submitted to the Magistrates Court a fair few months ago and - you guessed it - still no cash.
1. Just let it go. Life is too short. (Good advice even though I didn't take it!!)
2. Don't use a debt collector if you can avoid it.
3. Let them know you will go to VCAT unless payment is made.
4. Bring as much paperwork as you can. If you have done the work it's up to them to justify why they shouldn't have to pay you (from a VCAT perspective). You don't do their work just for fun!!
Great advice above. I would add to that something about this that you wrote:
::"after sending the full invoice for the last two jobs"::
I always invoice 50% before commencing, and 50% once done for smaller jobs, 30/40/40 for larger jobs, even with clients I've been working for years with, so that if this was to ever happen (touch wood) I would get the majority of my work time covered.
I once engaged a solicitor to write a stern letter and that worked for that case. Lesson learned long ago. Like Dave said get some payment upfront. And don't hand over any files until full payment has been made.
Yes, a letter from a solicitor often does wonder for all types of "debts", tells them you're serious about pursuing the matter (even if you're not) and then they start to balance up the possible costs of fighting it, and will usually come back with some sort of offer or all that they owe.
::It's a bummer there isn't some site where you can name and shame::
If you want to leave yourself open to being sued, yes. But if your comments could be construed to have damaged the business you've "shamed", no matter what you may be owed for work done, then you could be sued for far more than the amount they may owe you.
The old saying "two right don't make a wrong" is never more apt legally than when you're talking about enacting some kind of "revenge" on someone for not paying you.
If you could legally get away with it I couldn't give a rats arse about old sayings. Especially if it stops them from exploiting people in the future. Of course it would be stupid to leave yourself open to being sued but we're not talking about someone who is making false or outlandish claims.
In any case I was thinking more about some way of flagging to others to be aware of them for potential work or to at least have some expectations about their past dodginess.
Not that I was talking about social media but as an aside - people post shit on facebook all the time to complain about poor customer service. Can't someone say pay me for my work? How could that lead to being sued? For what?
Anyways I'm just hypothesising. I agree that its probably not worth the time trying to go after them but I do hope the avenues previously suggested by others work.
It would suck for anyone but it would be worse for those that are living invoice to invoice and can't afford to not be paid.
re: 50% before commencing and 50% before delivery. For me that's been difficult, particularly with this client where deadlines are so short and the design needs to be printed and displayed yesterday. And then there's delay in payments for tax reasons etc.
@TIMBUG there isn't a head office. The contact I have is surely taken orders from the higher ups to ignore.
I'm planning on going through VCAT. I'll document the process and keep y'all updated in the unfortunate event someone else needs to go through the process.
Yes, it's horrible when a business decides not to pay what you are owed. But it's really important to keep to legal channels to address that, otherwise you really are opening yourself up to legal repercussions.