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I am Dale King, a specialist dental copywriter. I love to share my knowledge of working within the dental niche with other like-minded individuals. 

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dealing with late paying clients

How To Deal With Late Paying Clients As A Freelance Dental Writer – The Do’s And Don’ts

Today, I thought we’d talk about something very close to my heart and that’s dealing with late paying clients. As a freelance dental writer and business owner, it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter a client, who… how shall we say, inadvertently extends the payment deadline beyond what you’d like for completed work.

Now, there may be endless reasons for a late payment, but you can bet your bottom dollar that it won’t be long before you’re faced with this situation. So, you need to be prepared for it.

The problem is, when clients don’t pay promptly it’s an inconvenience for sure, but at worst, it can cause serious cash flow problems that can impact you in a big way. So it needs to be handled in the right way.

With this in mind, let’s talk about how to deal with late-paying clients along with some do’s and don’ts.

Setting boundaries

Here’s the thing, every business owner, and freelancers are no exception, have different expectations. What constitutes a late payment for one freelancer may be a standard payment agreement for another. There’s no right or wrong timeframe here but one thing’s for sure. The minute you agree to work with a client, payment deliverables should always be discussed and documented. This may be in the form of a formal contract signed by both parties or a simple email outlining payment stipulations.  Either way, setting payment boundaries and getting them in writing is one of the best ways to protect yourself against late payers. If you don’t, it’ll be harder to enforce a verbalised agreement should your client falter. Remember…

  • Don’t assume that verbal agreements will be adhered to and,
  • Do outline payment boundaries in writing.

While it’s true that setting up an initial agreement does go some way in protecting you, what should you do if the client still falters on payment and their invoice is now overdue?    Here are some hints and tips…

The softly, softly approach

As with all businesses, life can sometimes get in the way. Mistakes happen and things get forgotten. So, I give the client 7 days from the invoice deadline lapsing. If I haven’t heard anything at this point, I’ll drop them a friendly email, something along the lines of…

Hi (insert name)

I was just going through my records and I noticed that the invoice I sent you on xxx is still outstanding. It’s no problem but if you could settle this as soon as you can, it would be really appreciated.

Thanks and have a great week.”

From experience, I would say that an email like this solves the problem in eight out of ten cases.

Dealing with late-paying clients doesn’t have to involve sending in the heavy artillery from the get-go. In most cases, the softly, softly approach works and more importantly, it keeps the freelancer/client relationship on an even keel. So…

  • Do, give them some degree of leeway after an invoice deadline and,
  • Don’t get heavy from the get-go. A gentle nudge often does the trick.

If they still don’t pay or don’t respond after three days, I’ll resort to plan B…

A WhatsApp or direct message

A follow-up message on your direct messaging platform of choice is really the next logical step. So whether, that’s via WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Facebook Messenger or any other DM service, it doesn’t matter, what matters is that you’re contacting the client in real time.

Again, keep it civil and professional and say something along the lines of…

Hi (insert name)

I hope all is good with you,

I sent you an email on (insert date) regarding an outstanding invoice, did you receive it?

If not, no worries, I’ll attach the invoice again here. If you can settle this today, it would really help me out.

Thanks and best regards


In the vast majority of cases, you’ll get a response; Usually something along the lines of…

“Apologies for the delay on this, I just found your original email buried in my Inbox. No Worries, I’ll make the payment now.”

Essentially, when you establish contact, give them reasonable time to respond, in most cases, this is within 24 hours, particularly if your client is in a different time zone. What you don’t want to do is to bombard them with messages as this will only inflame the situation. So, as a top tip…

  • Do remain professional while giving them the time to respond and,
  • Don’t bombard them with further messages. One should be sufficient.

But what if there’s still no reply? How do you deal with late-paying clients then?

Pick up the phone

So you’ve been given the cold shoulder, even after emailing and messaging. While it may seem like the client isn’t going to pay, we still can’t assume that, even at this stage. It could be that they’re away from the office on vacation or are unwell and haven’t responded to messages of any kind for those reasons. One way to know for sure is to pick up the phone and call them. If they answer, then great, you can have the conversation, if they don’t answer, then you’re either being ghosted, or they’re simply unavailable. If they aren’t responding to your calls, it may pay to contact another team member saying something along the lines of…

Hey (insert name), I’ve been trying to get in touch with (insert name) and they aren’t currently answering my calls or messages, I just wanted to know if everything is okay.”

They may come back and say that the person is off sick or on vacation. That’s good news because you know they aren’t avoiding you on purpose. In this case, it’s important to again, give them sufficient payment leeway. However, if they come back and say that there isn’t a problem and the person is around, you know that you’re being ghosted and there is, of course, a problem! At this stage, it’s important to remain calm and avoid discussions with other workplace members about the situation. Only discuss the problem with the person you’re dealing with. So,

  • Do, remain calm, even though it might feel like you want to rip someone’s head off, and,
  • Don’t discuss the situation with third-party colleagues, leave it for the person in question.

Let’s be honest… things rarely get to this stage. I’d like to think that most clients are honest and that there’s always a workaround solution to a late payment. In fact, in the 14 years that I’ve been freelancing, I’ve only ever had one client that has ghosted me completely and that’s because his business went bust and was declared bankrupt. Oh, and I did get my money back eventually but it took time to process through the right channels. Talking of the right channels, what’s the next step for dealing with late-paying clients who ghost you completely?

Escalating the conversation

If you’ve tried every other avenue to pursue payment for work completed, you now have two options…

1) If you notice that they already have your content posted you can threaten them with a copyright notice. Remember, any unpaid content is yours until paid for.

2) You can start proceedings via the small claims court to retrieve any money owed. 

At this stage, communication should come across as more formal. Simply, reiterate the problem, in this case, non-payment of invoices, and make them aware of the action you’ve now taken to resolve the situation.

At this point, it’s not worth threatening to do something as it’s unlikely to garner a response. Instead, you should simply do it and tell them that you’ve done it, and let lawyers and courts do their thing.

You may also want to speak with an attorney or legal advisor who can tell you more about what you can and should do. 

Essentially, you…

  • Do want to remain polite but make the conversation more formal and,
  • Don’t make threats, Instead, take action and tell them that you’ve already done so.

How to deal with late paying clients as a freelance dental writer – The bottom line

When you start a new client relationship, it’s important to have discussions around invoicing and to establish a documented standard payment agreement. Doing so right from the start tells clients that you’re serious about your business and receiving timely payments. In situations where these rules are broken and payment lapses, it’s important to initiate a pattern of events to retrieve the money owed. If you follow this sequence of events and remain professional throughout, there’s no reason why you can’t get your money back while still retaining a good client relationship.

If you are looking to get into dental content writing but haven’t yet taken the plunge. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Simply head over to the Dental Writers Club website and download my free guide to getting started.

It tells you everything you need to know about becoming a well-paid dental content writer, so take action, click through and I’ll see you on the other side.

Here’s to your success!