I’ve had a few calls recently asking for help to solve “client misunderstandings”. Things happen, but there are steps you can take to make sure you are paid in full, on time, and reduce those misunderstandings.

Your contract should have a very detailed payment schedule. You should have language that clearly spells out that if the client misses a payment or makes a partial payment, for whatever reason, you will shut the job down. Check with your attorney to make sure it’s worded correctly, but it needs to be there.

If that happens, remind them of the contract and give them 24 – 48 hours to catch up. Make sure you are not in default of the contract, because if you aren’t following your end of the contract, you might not be able to hold them to their end of the contract. But if you have followed your contract and they aren’t making payments, after the 24-48 hour grace period, shut the job down. No more Mr./Mrs./Ms. nice person. Just do it. If you let them get away with not paying you either on time or the full amount, you risk having a judge or arbitrator tell you that you accepted new terms for the contract and now you must live with it. I have seen that happen.

If you really want to put some teeth in your agreement, include in your contract a provision that if you have to shut the job down due to the owner defaulting on the agreement, you will charge a $750 – $1,000 restart fee after they have caught up their payments according to the contract.

30, 40 and more years ago, we rarely saw clients not pay the monies due. People held themselves accountable and kept their word. I think for the most part, people today will do the same but the incidence of those who don’t is much higher today than when I got into this business. The only way to hold clients accountable is to put it in writing and then do exactly what you say you are going to do. Keep your word, and expect them to keep theirs.

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