What to Do if Your Client Ghosts You

Ugh, it’s the worst. And it happens. 

As an online coach, freelancer, or service provider, there's nothing more frustrating than completing a project or delivering services only to have the client disappear without making the agreed-upon payment. Or having a client miss a payment.  Or having a client disappear months before the end of the contract.  

Just like when that dude who you had a really good date with doesn’t text back, ghosting can leave you feeling helpless and unsure about the next steps to take (do I text him…again?). Let’s talk about what YOU CAN do if someone ghosts your contract without paying and how to protect yourself from such situations in the future.

Stay Calm and Gather Documentation

I know, easier said than done. Figuring out that a client has ghosted your contract can be super disheartening, but it's crucial to remain calm. Start by gathering all relevant documentation related to the contract. This includes the signed contract, invoices, communication records, project details, and any evidence that demonstrates your completion of the agreed-upon work/services.

Now, if this happens and you DON’T have a contract - Sorry Charlie. You can try the below steps but without your legal safety net, you don’t have a lot of ground to stand on. Oh, and go buy a contract like NOW at the Destination Legal® template shop.

Reach Out to the Client

Before jumping to conclusions, email your client or reach out over DMs. Sometimes, there could be genuine reasons for the delay in payment, such as an oversight or an unexpected circumstance (like their credit card was stolen and they are waiting for a new one in the mail…Hi it’s me, it just happened and everyone from my gym to our yard guy had to ask me to pay up). Give the client a reasonable amount of time to respond to your attempts at communication. 

Send a Payment Reminder

If the client still hasn't responded, consider sending a friendly payment reminder - it’s best if you have a team member do this and stay out of it. Mention the outstanding payment, reiterate the work completed, MENTION the contract (attach it to the email) and provide a deadline for payment. 

It’s time to Escalate…Send a Formal Demand Letter

If all attempts to reach the client fail, consider sending a formal demand letter - that can come from you or an attorney (if you have the funds for an attorney, this will definitely get more attention). This letter should clearly state the amount owed, the services provided, the due date for payment, and the consequences of non-payment - that is, if they don’t pay now, you are going to take some further legal action. In some cases, a formal demand letter may be enough to get your client to address the issue.

Legal Action - Mediation, Small Claims or Collection Services

If your client continues to ignore your attempts to collect payment or fulfill the contract, you may want to explore mediation services or debt collection agencies. Mediation can provide a neutral platform for resolving disputes and can be done via phone, while collection agencies can assist in recovering the outstanding payment for a fee. Claims court is a bit more tricky.

How to Try & Prevent Ghosting

While it WILL happen (and if it hasn’t yet, it will at some point in your business), there are a few steps to take that can help. 

✅ Clear and Detailed Contracts and Terms of Purchase: Ensure that your contracts include clear and detailed terms regarding payment schedules, late fees, and penalties for non-payment. Make sure your clients KNOW your payment terms and what you will do if they don’t pay. I’ve joined courses where the biz owner actually made you watch a video about payment of payment plans prior to even getting access to the first module - great idea!   

Need a solid Contract or Terms of Purchase? Head over HERE.

✅ Partial Payments/Retainers: If you are a service provider or freelancer, implement a system that requires partial payments or milestone payments throughout the project's duration. DO NOT WORK IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN PAID.  This approach can provide a more consistent cash flow and protect you from non-payment.

✅ Communication and Follow-Up: Stay in regular communication with your clients (this can be your team!) Some of them may just need to work out a payment plan. 

The reality is, dealing with a client who ghosts a contract sucks. But now you know what to do and just remember, being faced with non-payment is something all business owners face, you aren’t alone and now you have some steps that you can take.  

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