The Last-Ditch Letter That Might Help You Get Paid

finalnoticeIn our last post, we discussed ways to help make sure clients pay for your work. Most clients are fine, upstanding ones, and they’ll usually demonstrate that they uphold their end of the agreement, even if they’re not happy with the work.

But sometimes, despite your best efforts, you’ll run into a client that has no intention of compensating you for the work you’ve completed and delivered.

He’s gone. He’s walked off with the goods. He’s also not answering emails, and you’re short the money. What should you do?

You have a few options. You can stress out, get angry, complain to other people and feel used or frustrated. You can feel like a failure and cry over losses. None of that is very healthy.

You could take steps towards legal action, if you choose. Should you go that route, you may be in for more heartache and headache than you need. It’s nice to see justice occur, but it may be a long road before you see any money from a client who refuses to pay. You also may not ever see money, even if a judge grants you the win.

The truth is that legal action probably isn’t an option for you, especially if your client lives in another country.

But you do need closure. You need to know that you’ve done everything you can to be fairly compensated for the work you were hired to complete. You need to be nice, be fair, be understanding and be ready to compromise or make arrangements.

Failing that, you need to make one last-ditch effort to be paid in a way that lets you cut your losses and walk away with your head held high.

Here’s a letter that you can use to accomplish just that. And before you ask, yes, we’ve used it exactly twice in our career. It worked both times.

Dear Client,

I’m writing to say thank you for reaffirming that you can’t trust everyone and that caution in the freelance world is a must.

I believe that people are essentially good and that they won’t take advantage of me. I like to think that everyone I work with is essentially decent and fair about business. But you’ve shown me that it’s important not to become too comfortable with that mindset.

For all the times I’ve told myself that people are inherently good, you’ve proved that it just ain’t so.

When you ran off with [insert work description here] and didn’t pay me for the time and effort I invested in its creation, you reminded me that there are still plenty of people out there ready to screw me over. It’s sad, but it’s true.

I earn my living through [writing/designing/marketing/whatever]. I work hard for long hours. Sometimes my kids complain that they don’t see me enough. Sometimes my family has to eat Kraft Dinner, because I’m certainly not a rich person.

Having you walk off without paying the [insert dollar amount here] hits hard, but I want to thank you anyways.

You’ve helped me be a better person, and you’ve given me a life lesson I can pass on to my children. It’s hard for me to tell them why they can’t have that new toy or why we’re eating spaghetti for the third night in a row, but I use those moments to teach them that staying positive is important.

I’m going to share the lesson you taught me to tell them a story about good values, like trust, faith and not giving up, even when times are hard. People will hurt them, people will disappoint them, and they have to look for the good in the bad. You’ve reminded me how important all this is in life, so thank you.

I honestly wish this situation between us didn’t have to happen. I wish we could have settled the matter like adults. It seems we can’t, despite my best efforts, so I have to move on.

Please note that I retain full ownership and copyright for [insert description of project]. You cannot post this work, publicize it, use it in any way or alter it in any way.

Should you decide that you feel benevolent and want to pay the outstanding amount, my PayPal is [insert account here] and the amount due is [insert amount here].

Thanks again,

Your Name Here

Alright, so the letter plays up the guilt factor an awful lot, and it taps into some seriously psychological strategies. You can edit out what you don’t like and keep what you do, but we feel that all’s fair in love and war. A client who takes advantage of you definitely deserves a letter like this.

Even better, a letter like this makes sure you come out of this in a good light. It demonstrates a cool head, diplomacy, and a positive attitude. No one can show others this letter to try and make you look bad. They’ll just look like an ass.

Most important is that this letter lets you get the closure you need.

You’re telling yourself that you’ve done all you could, and that you’re closing the books. You’re giving yourself a message that it’s over now. You’re taking control of the situation, and you’re not going to stress any more.

You’ve done what you could. There are good people out there waiting for you, and it’s time to move onto better things, don’t you think?

Would you write a letter like this? Have you ever needed a way to get closure on a bad situation? What have you done to achieve that peace of mind? Share your thoughts and let us know.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.