Web designer and developer Stephen Fairbanks has created Crumbs, an open source holding page that aims to "gently remind" late-paying clients to clear their invoices. Fairbanks told .net that after a year and a half freelancing, he's had to deal with a disappointingly large number of clients who drum up all sorts of excuses regarding payment: "They say they're waiting for their client to pay them, or blame the finance manager – anything to avoid them having to pay on time. Usually, clients eventually get sick of the emails and phone calls and cough up the money they owe, but being a freelancer I have to wonder, what if they just decided not to pay? What would I do?"
Reasoning that some clients are on the other side of the world and that solicitors are beyond the budget of many freelancers, Fairbanks created what he considered a generic but polite holding page that could be used as a last-ditch attempt, to get a client to uphold their side of the agreement. "I would only recommend it after you've exhausted all other possibilities of getting the client to acknowledge their shortcomings – emails, invoice reminders, phone calls, Twitter mentions, sending them moody Instagram snaps of your empty food cupboards, etc.," affirmed Fairbanks. "But Crumbs is designed to be friendly enough to not anger the client/site visitors too much, but then if a freelancer has reached this point, they would be crazy to want to work for that client again anyway."
In terms of usage, Crumbs is currently on GitHub as both a WordPress theme and static placeholder, and Fairbanks said if using the former, you should remember to deactivate widgets and plug-ins so the client's settings are saved and can be easily reactivated later. Better, though, would be to never get to this stage, and be more businesslike. Agreeing with our news article last week on contracts, Fairbanks recommended always using a contract (he said docpool.co is another good source of information) and also refining it to close up any gaps where a non-payment could slip through.
"There was one time where I did a 'quick job' for a company of an ex-colleague and didn't bother getting them to sign the contract, because I foolishly believed their claims that a quick turnaround on my part would mean a quick payment from them," he recalled. "In the end, I got paid months after the job was completed because I was at their mercy. And during that time I had to carpet-bomb them with emails, tweets and phone calls. Never again."
It's a lesson Fairbanks said all freelancers should learn from: "Freelancers just starting out need to realise that there are no friends in business and although it might feel a bit awkward throwing a stern-looking contract at a brand new client, it's the only protection you've got."