What to do when client won't pay and keeps ignoring messages?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by shaca, Nov 2, 2018.

  1. I have a client that I had photographed her lookbook for her in which she has signed my contract and paid the deposit fee. A day after the due date of the invoice I had messaged her of the status of the invoice. She replied saying one of her clients hasn't paid her so she can't yet pay me. She also said that she would pay half the first week and the second half the second week. As I thought I'd be lenient i agreed. However after the first week, I had not recieved anything so i messaged her and yet no reply and left on seen. The second week came around and still no payment and again, left on seen. It's now been 19 days since the due date of the invoice and I'd love to know your thoughts on what to do in this situation. I'm based in Australia.
     
  2. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    If the debt is $500 or more I have employed a Debt Collector immediately after "Past Due" notice has been sent and remained unanswered for seven days.

    Debt Collectors charge a commission, typically about 20% for debts $500 to $1000 and a less % for greater amounts.

    If the debt is less that $500 I would send a "Letter of Demand" and if unanswered a "Second Letter of Demand" - these are technical terms you can research.

    If the Second Letter of Demand goes unanswered, then you have a choice to either write off the Bad Debt or to employ a Debt Collector. That , in my mind is solely a business choice predicated on value for time and effort spent.

    I have never seen much business value in proceeding to any other legal remedy, other than a good and reliable Debt Collector, for small matters of debts owed (meaning anything less than $10,000.00).

    WW
     
  3. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    I wish PN would put the locations back so we have an idea where we are talking about.

    Im not familiar with the Australia legal process.

    In the USA, you can take her to small claims court which has a $5000 limit in most states, some more. Filling fees vary from $15 to $150. You can file at your local court house. You do have her real name n address so she can be served? Perhaps Australia has a similar method of recourse?

    Since you have a signed contract (smart move!) stating compensation for services specified, you will win hands down. Be sure to bring all your communications and attempts plus the canceled check as evidence.

    If you know where the pix were posted... contact the site and explain how she has no right to the pix since its a none payment contract issue, they will most likely take them down.

    good luck, and please let us know how this turns out?
     
  4. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Yes. Most States and Territories have a similar method as yours. Typically, to $10,000 claimed debt is a "Small Claim".

    In simple terms, the procedure is that the Claimant needs to attempt to recover the debt before filing a claim at the Local Court. Once a claim is filed in Court, the Claimant has a period of time (typically six months) to serve the Claim on the Defendant. Once served, the Defendant has (typically 28 days) to file a defense. If no defense is filed the Claimant can ask for a Default Judgement. If a defense is filed then the matter will be listed for Hearing.

    One of the reasons why I have used a Debt Collector, is because they are (some are) skilled specialists in this work, especially in the areas of Writing the "File of Claim" and the "Serving of the Claim" on the Defendant.I kind of look at this as similar to why people chose to engaged me to make their Wedding Photos, rather than do it themselves.

    That stated, the option to represent oneself and file a Claim on one's own behalf is there for the OP, it is just I would not use it: as far as I understand, the USA system of Small Claims is more streamlined and less vulnerable to the Claimant making an error which might see him not recovering the debt and maybe paying Court Costs.

    WW
     
  5. Why didn't you call her back after the first week to find out why she didn't send the check? Why did you stop communicating with her.
     
  6. When a client ignores repeated polite requests for payment you should promptly move to the next step.... legal action. How you do that will depend on the law in your country. Generally the first step is to send a recorded delivery letter giving them a final chance to pay (usually a 7 day deadline) and informing them that if they fail to pay in full you will commence legal action.

    If they don't pay you then have to commence legal action.
     
  7. SCL

    SCL

    Having worked in Small Claims Courst early in my life, I'd recommend that action...it's less expensive than a debt collector, although it does impinge briefly on your time.
     
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    In Australia?

    Ref Post #4

    ". . . the option to represent oneself and file a Claim on one's own behalf is there for the OP, it is just I would not use it: as far as I understand, the USA system of Small Claims is more streamlined and less vulnerable to the Claimant making an error which might see him not recovering the debt and maybe paying Court Costs."

    WW
     
  9. SCL

    SCL

    Many state courts in the uSA use a pro-forma small claims form, recognizing that the claimant may not have legal knowledge. It is important to present some sort of written contract or promise to pay as well as showing evidence that services have been performed and a reasonable attempt has been made by the claimant to secure payment.
     
  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Yes. That was my always my general understanding.

    For clarity, the point of the comment in Post #9 was to address your advice to the OP to go to a Small Claims Court. This advice was based upon your experience, working in Small Claims Courts.

    I assumed that your experience was in the USA and although you've not answered that question directly, it seems the assumption was correct.

    Because the OP is based in Australia, (and I assumed that you missed that point in the opening post), I was pointing out that advice based upon experience with Small Claims in the USA, would not necessarily be relevant advice to a Member who is working in Australia.

    WW
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018
  11. SCL

    SCL

    Thanks foo
    Thanks for clarification. My thought was that possibly similar forms may be used in Australian courts to facilitate processing of small claims.
     
  12. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    No problem. I guessed that you probably missed the details of the processes of Australian Small Claims, outlined in Post #4 as an answer to paul ron's question.

    It actually can be a pain in the neck going the DYI process as there are seemingly unscrupulous persons who make an habit of not paying and not answering Letters of Demand and they know how to manipulate the system quite well and they just wear down the unfortunate small business owner who is new to this (what should be) simple litigation.

    And then as you also mentioned, it can be time consuming.

    It seems that we might be talking amongst ourselves, anyway, the OP has not been seen for a while: I often wonder how things turn out for the OPs who just disappear …

    cheers,

    WW
     

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