For the first time since I started freelancing I've had to turn over a delinquent bill to a collection agency. I've had a good run since I've been freelancing for over 20 years now. I guess it's the economy or it was just this guy.
What really bothers me is that I helped this guy out in a jam on several levels:
1- It was rush and I didn't charge rush.
2- It was over a weekend.
3- I gave him a great deal.
4- He loved the work... he sent me an e-mail telling me how great it was.
This fellow presented my work to some heavyweight clients (SC Johnson and Coors to name just two). I was promised my final payment on a certain day. A week later when I called him to see if the check went out, he didn't answer so I left a message. 2 days later an e-mail. 2 days later another call, then another e-mail.
I finally sent him a strong e-mail telling him that I had to bring the matter to small claims court if he didn't respond.
I immediately got an e-mail back.... "I had no e-mail or phone reception for the past week".
What business man travels without a laptop? He had a blackberry. How can a businessman in the United States be out of touch with the world for a week? There's no internet service in hotels?
Now, I tried working out a payment schedule with him... but what can you do when someone refuses to talk to you and when they do talk to you they lie?
I felt really bad but I was forced to hand it over to a collection agency... I couldn't trust this guy after he said he'd pay me on the 18th then he say's he'll pay me 60 days later.
Bottom line: Work with people. Help them out. Become part of your client's team. If your client needs more time to pay, work with them. Sometimes people have cash flow problems. Do everything you can to help them if they are HONEST with you.
This fellow lied.
I will get my fee, minus the collection agency's 20% and hopefully in the future this fellow will learn that if you make a promise, keep it. You're only as good as your word. I promised that when he went into his meeting he would have his presentation boards. I delivered... he didn't.