Everyone has that one friend that always tries to make any excuse to avoid paying. From those with alligator arms that can’t quite reach the check, to those with false claims such as “I’ll pay you back later,” these friends are always trying to take the cheap way out.
Clients like these are commonly found in the business world today. They demand lower prices, use tactics to get work done for free, and force business owners to waste time and energy chasing after money that’s rightfully due to them. These types are identified as “freeloaders” or “feegoaders.”
The problem with these nuisance types is that they are difficult to spot. A client that may seem normal and able to pay can come out of nowhere and swindle you with tricks and demands that can hinder your business. The best way to protect yourself and receive pay from your hard work is to understand how to combat these deceptive types. Below are six freeloader clients and tips on how you can prevent them from getting you to work for free.
Get four steps to help protect your business from these freeloading clients.
Free Advice Freddy
Problem: A potential client contacts you about doing some work for him. He asks for numerous materials from you—a written proposal, samples of your work, references, ridiculously long introductory meetings followed by long follow-up conference calls … but still he offers no real work.
This type of client is using up way too much of your free time with free advice. Although these may seem like leads on a potential client, you should not risk giving out your expertise and end up not getting the work.
Solution: In order to avoid freeloaders from free advice, you should establish a time when a contract or payment must be made in order to go further with this customer.
“Sample” Work Suzie
Problem: You’re asked to do sample or “spec” work, for which you won’t be paid, to ensure you’re a good fit. But somehow, the work is never up to par, no matter how many hours you spend redoing it.
If you ever find yourself in this situation you are most likely being used for free work. Like the situation above, spending too much time doing free work for a possible client is not worth your time.
Solution: Don’t offer time up to clients who are not going to pay. Instead, put together a portfolio with information and your best work that potential clients can refer to. Also try and ask yourself if you really want to deal with a client who will constantly be asking for things to be redone. Do you really want to waste time and effort dealing with that?
Do More Danny
Problem: You’re hired to do a job that you’re really excited about. You’ve signed a contract stating that you’ll do the work at an agreed-upon price, and you’re confident about your ability to complete it in the time allotted. But shortly after you get started, the client calls you and says, “I forgot to tell you, but we need this other thing done, too. Can you take care of that as well?” Before you know it, you’re doing twice the work you’d originally planned, and only earning half of what it’s worth.
In this situation, the seller was smart in creating a contract that states that the client will have to pay for the work done. However, when working on projects, plans tend to change.
Solution: Include in the contract that if the scope of the job changes, extra charges will be made. Also note that if the client is being vague, you must get clarification. This is another way that freeloaders can trick you into doing more work for less money.
Commitment Issues Cynthia
Problem: One of your clients is keeping you busy … too busy. In fact, her constant changes and updates are eating up all your precious time. But it’s not making you any extra money. Until it’s done, she won’t pay you, but it seems it’s never done because the client keeps changing her mind.
This type lacks commitment. These clients can be dangerous due to the fact that if they are unhappy with the job, they could decide upon not paying you.
Solution: Make the amount of revisions you are willing to do apparent in the contract. Go through all the details of the job beforehand with your client so that you both are aware of the costs of redoing the work.
Problem: A potential client contacts you about a job and asks for an estimate. You work up what you know to be a fair rate for such a job, but the client thinks this is an opportunity to try haggling with you over the price, and insists that he knows other people who will do the same work for less.
This potential client only sees your price as an opportunity to bargain. By making other claims such as knowing other competitors with lower prices, these clients are just trying to set you up to lower your price for them.
Solution: To avoid this situation you must hold your ground and justify to your client why your prices are so. Try and explain the value you provide for that rate over your competitors. You can also assure him that you’ve set a fair rate, but if he truly thinks he can get the work done elsewhere for less money, he should probably go ahead and do it. This anti-sales pitch, while seeming to hurt your business, is more effective than you think.
Problem: A client who, by all appearances, seems completely normal and pleasant, completely changes after you send your invoice. All of a sudden, everything in her life is falling apart and keeping her from being able to pay you—there’s been a family emergency, she’s been in the hospital, she was forced to pay the IRS for some unaccounted-for taxes, business has been slow and money’s tight … but she’ll “put the check in the mail as soon as I can.” You never receive it.
This is a classic example of a freeloader avoiding paying for work. Just like the friend that will “pay you back later,” this client is just making excuses to get out of paying.
Solution: In these cases, you have to stand your ground. Refer to the contract that you made and let your client know that you are not afraid to take legal action in order to be paid. You can also receive help from a collection agency to assure that you will be paid for the work you have done.
When you notice a potential client showing these freeloader symptoms, the best thing to do is to avoid them and not accept their business.
However, if stuck in a situation similar to the ones above, the best way to stop the freeloaders from winning is to have a concise contract. This contract goes over all the instances in where toxic clients can fool you and protects your work from being undervalued.
You must also make it apparent to your toxic client that you have a collection agency if they are reluctant to pay for your work, and that you are willing to take legal action.
For more information on how to deal with freeloaders and feegoaders, be sure to check out Garrett Sutton’s newest book Toxic Client.
Learn 4 Actions to Protect Against Freeloading Customers
How do you know when you should walk away from a potential customer that you have a bad feeling about? What should you include in a contract to prevent being taken advantage of? Learn these tips in our single page guide with advice from “Toxic Client: Knowing And Avoiding Problem Customers,” by corporate lawyer Garrett Sutton. The book equips business owners with the tools to detect and avoid toxic clients before they poison the business.