Top ten excuses for not paying up

One of the benefits of a conventional employer / employee relationship – apart from the free pens – is the certainty of a regular salary. However, when you step off that merry-go-round and join the freelance dodgems, all manner of hurdles can get in the way.

Here’s my countdown of the inexcusable, the incomprehensible and the downright laughable. I hope they amuse you – they were hard won – and that you enjoy the comments in brackets. I would also love to hear the pleas of poverty you’ve had to put up with, and what you did about them.

Here we go…

10. I’ve had a lot of outgoings this month (paying other writers, maybe?).

9. I went on holiday for a week (although the payment deadline was actually before you vacated).

8. I wanted feedback from friends first (and maybe a whip-round).

7. I was too busy making money to pay you. (A work of genius.)

6. Crowdsourcing hasn’t come through yet (now you tell me…).

5. I was in an accident. (Sorry to hear that. However, you only need one finger for Paypal.)

4. I didn’t like what you produced, although I’ve never told you before – and I can now specify my requirements fully.  (Better late than never…)

3. I kinda thought, despite our agreement, that you’d work these two hours for free, as an opportunity (to starve).

2. I’m broke (and it’s your responsibility now).

And the number one spotÂȘ – which also genuinely happened to me…after chasing the client for weeks.

1. Sorry, I’ve been really busy – I’ve got a new puppy. (She gladly showed me the picture when I asked. ÂșIt was a cute Dalmatian. However, despite assurances that she would now pay the invoice, ten days went by with nada contact. I lost patience, fired her and kept the work she hadn’t paid for. She being the client, not the puppy.)

Going forward

Setting clear expectations at the outset can help, as can getting references from a client (it may seem a disproportionate response for a single piece of work though). The best approach is to have standard terms and conditions that you both sign off against, which effectively becomes a contract. Most importantly, treat your business with the same consideration that you would a client’s. 


  1. Monika says:

    Simon and I laughed A LOT at Number 5. He gets "the check is in the mail" at least once a week. We've never had the new puppy excuse. She could have said the dog ate the check, I suppose…or she got the check mixed up with the piddle papers.

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