my co-host at a workshop will be someone who didn’t pay me for my work

A reader writes:

I am the sole proprietor and member of an LLC that sells products and related services, specifically consulting on a topic of my expertise. I’ve recently learned that for an upcoming workshop I’ll be delivering, one of the co-hosts is someone who didn’t pay me in the past for agreed upon work. I’m not sure what to expect, and I’m not sure what my specific question is – I guess just looking for insight in how to prepare for whatever may happen.

The background is that in 2021, I made a consultation visit and a follow-up design plan for a project at a client’s home. I informed the client up-front of the cost for each item. I billed them after completing both and giving them the design plan. They didn’t pay, I sent the invoice reminder two times, and when it still wasn’t paid, I let it go. The total amount was just over $600. This is the only experience I have had with a client not paying. I learned a lesson from it, so I now bill and receive a 50% deposit for projects that exceed a certain amount before putting further work into a project.

This is no big deal in the grand scheme, and I hardly think of it at all anymore.

In the period when I was dealing with it, there were times when I was being more generous in my reflection, explaining to myself that the reason they hadn’t paid could be because they somehow never got the bills, or because they were experiencing financial hardship and did not communicate that. Being less generous, the reason could be that they were jerks who didn’t hold up their side of the transaction. Or other reasons, who knows.

Fast forward to the present. A local organization has hired me to deliver a workshop on my topic of expertise. The organizer has arranged four locations that the group will visit as part of the workshop. Today I learned when I looked at the workshop map that one of those locations is the home of this client, and the workshop subject overlaps with the consultation and design work I did. The client will be present at the workshop.

I’m not confrontational, I’m professional, and really, this was behind me. I’ve thought about mentioning it to the workshop organizer – since the client’s inclusion in the workshop confirms that the organization is providing services to them, and I could see the value to the organization to know my experience with this client. I wouldn’t say anything to the client about the non-payment, but I am anticipating some awkwardness (although maybe we’ll all keep it hidden inside) when we’re in the workshop together. This presumes that they’ll remember me and the unpaid bill. Maybe the awkwardness will only be for me. I am also curious to see if or how they used my design at their home.

I think you’ve got two options here, and either is legitimate; it just depends on what you feel the most comfortable with.

The first is to speak up. I know you said this isn’t an option you’re considering, but I want to make the case for at least thinking about it! It was one thing to decide to write off the cost when you couldn’t get a response … but this person stole from you, probably figuring they wouldn’t ever see you again. It’s going to take an incredible amount of chutzpah for them to co-host a talk with you that’s at least in part about the work you did that they never paid for, so this could be a perfect time to get the invoice in front of them again.

To do that, you could email them ahead of time and say something like, “I just saw that we’re co-hosting the Gardens of Oatsville event at your home. I’m looking forward to it. Before the event, I’m hoping you will take care of the outstanding payment for the work I did at your home in 2021. I sent several invoices in 2021 but didn’t hear back so I’m attaching the invoice again here. Thanks in advance for taking care of this.” That’s perfectly professional, and you’d be on solid ground in doing it.

It could be worth mentioning it to the event organizer too, in case the client tries to misrepresent the situation to them. If you want to do that, you could say, “I want to be transparent with you about a potentially awkward situation around co-hosting with Jane Valentine. Unfortunately, she never paid the bill for the work I did at her home a few years ago despite several reminders. I’m going to do one final nudge about payment now so that hopefully it’s not still outstanding when we’re discussing the work at the event. Ideally we can just take care of it with no hard feelings! But it has the potential to be a little awkward, so I wanted to mention it to you in case it comes up when she speaks to you.”

The other option, of course, is not to say anything and just go to the event with a detached curiosity to see how they’ll handle it. Will they feel awkward? Will they apologize? Do they even remember it? (What I really want to know is whether this is out of character for them and they’ve felt ashamed of their actions this whole time — in which case they might even take this opportunity to apologize — or was it so par for the course for them that it won’t even register with them as An Issue when they see you?)

It sounds like that’s the option you’re leaning toward, but I hope you’ll consider the first one. Either this person deliberately and knowingly ripped you off, in which case they don’t deserve the polite fiction that they didn’t … or it was an honest oversight on their part, in which case if they’re a decent person they’ll be glad you told them and genuinely eager to make it right. Either possibility warrants speaking up.

I think I hear in your letter a sense that there’s a certain kind of dignity and grace in choosing not to chase after payment in a situation like this — a certain power in writing the person and the lost payment off. And you’re not wrong about that; there can be! But I’d argue there’s also a dignity and power in standing up for what you’re owed for your labor, and in calmly and steadily asserting what you’re due.

{ 245 comments… read them below }

  1. Earlk*

    Them having to see you after ripping you off is so poetic. I really hope the LW chooses to request payment.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        Please, OP! I know this may be unprofessional, but, should your follow-up email to the delinquent deadbeat go ignored, I would be tempted to hold copies of these unpaid invoices in front of (delinquent deadbeat)’s face and say “Pleased to meet you again. Remember me?” Let the awkward soothe throughout the house as said delinquent deadbeat tries to conjure up an excuse. I would bask in the karma.

        1. Bookwurm*

          I would absolutely take the opportunity to hand deliver an invoice in a situation where I can’t be ignored. “Here’s a copy of the invoice for the work I did for you in 2021 since my emails must be ending up in your spam filter or something like that. I’ll wait while you write a check.”

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Except…don’t they already know this is happening? The group is going to this person’s home to view the work that the LW did. The client obviously had to okay that, and the chances of them not knowing the LW is involved are slim to none. So either they’re really disorganized or they’re really shameless.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I have learned to NOT underestimate the audacity of those willing to rip off contractors and designers.

        1. bird*

          Yep, ESPECIALLY people who are “pillars of the community”. They know they can sow doubt and lean on their reputation enough to get the benefit of the doubt, especially “low” amounts like $600. Who would believe a person wealthy enough to be part of this kind of house tour would screw a designer out of $600?

        2. Vero*

          speak up to the organizers nd invoice the crooks. if you do t you give them opening to misrepresent things

      2. Susan-shaped beehive*

        I suspect shameless. I once worked for a popular leading light in my industry with loads of fans. What was less well-known was her propensity for stiffing the artists who worked on her projects. She would put off paying artists for months or even years past project completion and contract-stipulated payment date. A group of us had to threaten legal action just to get the few hundreds we were owed from this extremely rich person!

        Worse yet, it was *only* the artists, so we had no immediate allies. The writers all got paid, and with no lag! Baffling and maddening.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          I worked for an interior designed who was doing work for a Very Important Billionaire. He quietly only paid for purchases, not services. Once they caught it, all work halted until he paid in full – a five-figure sum. He was neither upset nor ashamed and work resumed. Some people (shakes head disdainfully).

          1. bird*

            This is SO common with wealthy people in my opinion. “I’m spending all this money on materials, they should just give me the services for free!” only they don’t actually NEGOTIATE that, they just never pay.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              That or they conveniently ignore “scope creep” by adding more services not included in the original scope of work, then arguing with you when you go to charge them for EVERYTHING you worked on, not just the original contract.

              Moral of that story, don’t agree on any work without an add service agreement!

        2. Daisy*

          This isn’t unusual. There is a guy who brags all the time about how rich he is on national forums known not to pay small contractors on a regular basis. This isn’t an “oops” it is his regular business practice. Many established businesses won’t do business with him, unfortunately, that just leaves the new business owners who haven’t been burned yet.
          Sadder, IMO, is some people think this is a smart business practice.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              I mean, he STILL gets lawyers/firms to agree to represent him, so I guess there’s really no bottom to that barrel as long as you have no principles or conscience.

        3. There You Are*

          I co-own a residential window cleaning. The only clients whom we have had to file contractors’ liens on, and/or take to small claims court are the super-wealthy ones, particularly lawyers.

          It’s so bad that when we get a call to bid on a house that’s over 5000 square feet, I Google the owner. If they’re a lawyer, we just say we’re too busy to bid them / get them on the calendar and wish them luck. If they’re not a lawyer, we ask for payment before we start the work.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      I really do hope you request it too.
      I am a recovering alcoholic now, but years ago I was an active alcoholic. I came to school drunk, passed out in first period drama class, and threw up ALL OVER a girl’s backpack. She didn’t tell her dad, who happened to be the high school principal. But she did request payment for the ruined backpack loudly and frequently for months until I finally did it. I was annoyed and embarrassed but you better believe I paid her back.
      I hope you do the same.
      Please also consider mentioning getting a 50% deposit for work in your presentation. You don’t need to name names, but if you said that it is to avoid theft and your audience would be wise to avoid the same situation you found yourself in years ago, I think it would be okay to say that.

      1. SleeplessKJ*

        For future late/no pay situations: after you’ve sent an invoice and a reminder, it’s time for an actual phone call! We all hate the phone but it’s entirely possible they didn’t see the bills – or someone else in their organization was responsible for paying it and they assumed it was taken care of (many solopreneurs use accountants or bookkeepers that they just forward everything to.)

    3. Artemesia*

      Me too. I was sort of envisioning a sub-lesson in the presentation about how to deal with the constant problem of contractors being ripped off by dead beat clients — in the abstract of course. But of course you can’t do that.

      At minimum take Alison’s excellent advice and wording and send that invoice one more time. And give the organizer a heads up.

      Or plant someone in the audience who will say ‘How much does design work like this cost?’ And run with that.

      1. An Australian In London*

        Serious question: why can’t OP do that? That’s exactly what I was going to suggest!

        I wouldn’t even do it in the abstract. I’d use Alison’s script for a payment reminder, and if it wasn’t paid by the time of the workshop, specifically call out the work as work that I’d done… and hadn’t been paid for.

        They’re the one who made this awkward. Return to sender.

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          That’s not just awkward for the deadbeat, though… if I was an attendee I would be deeply uncomfortable with one of the presenters confronting another presenter in the middle of the presentation. I probably didn’t sign up for the workshop because I wanted to be an unwilling jury member in a contract dispute.

          1. An Australian In London*

            Hmm. Now I’m torn.

            I understand that and respect it.

            I also am thinking how arguments for harmony are always arguments for maintaining the status quo.

            I don’t think I was quite imagining whipping out the invoice and asking for payment. I’d discuss the quality of the work, its significance in the field, and its significance for me as a practitioner in that the cohost’s refusal to pay for the work had caused me to change my business processes to avoid similar deadbeats.

    4. OhNoYouDidn't*

      Me too. I’d be tempted to do a combo of Allison’s suggestions. Go and do the event with her and see if she says anything. Then, when it’s over, pull out a paper copy of the invoice and say something like, “I’m so glad to see you again! Your project turned out so great! When I saw your name as a co-host, it brought to mind our working together. Back then, I had emailed you the invoice a couple of times, but never heard back from you. I’m thinking you never received those emails, so I thought I’d just bring you a hard copy. Feel free to pay by credit card, cash, check, etc. How would you like to take care of that?”

  2. Cynical*

    I am firmly in the Speak Up camp, OP. It’s possible they forgot, didn’t receive the invoice, etc. But otherwise? People who do these things do so because they think they can get away with it. I’m always happy to relieve them of that notion.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      And on the off chance this is a real mistake, it would be something that I personally would prefer to have someone bring up. It would be mortifying and I would be eager to fix the error as soon as possible.

      I know that is an unlikely scenario, but if the person meant well, it is a kindness to remind them; and if they did not, then they deserve to be called out (in a professional way).

  3. Peanut Hamper*

    In the US, this is the kind of thing small claims court is for.

    After fees, you may not have recouped all of your costs, but it does send a message.

    1. anononon*

      And here in the UK too (although the costs can be added to the bill, so you’re not out of pocket!)

        1. JSPA*

          Nope, put a construction / contractors / mechanics lien on a house or other building for unpaid labor or materials is absolutely a thing. That’s why when buying property, as part of the step “title search,” finding and paying off or negotiating liens is part of the process. (Which is to say, it’s not just unpaid taxes and utilities…though those do also end up as liens on property.)

    2. MK*

      Any legal process requires not only money, but also time and energy. I am assuming small claims court is an inexpensive process, but many professionals might not think the effort they will have to expend worth the payout.

      1. B*

        It’s definitely not worth it if you value your time at anything above, say, the equivalent of minimum wage.

        1. BubbleTea*

          In the UK at least, you can claim for court fees plus interest – so it’s always worth it unless the person who owes you is sufficiently unscrupulous that you don’t think a court order will get them to pay. You can also pass enforcement costs onto them but it starts to get less likely to be worthwhile once you need to instruct bailiffs.

        2. JSPA*

          Depends where; some small claims courts are a pretty quick in-and-out. Winning won’t help if the person involved is judgement proof (doesn’t have the money beyond minimal living expenses); but for someone locally high-profile who’d probably prefer not to have their name in a searchable form, for small claims judgements against them? It can be worth doing.

          1. MK*

            In my experience, the only quick in-and-out legal process is one where the other party does not contest the debt, Even if the OP had a written contract for the work, as well as written confirmation they completed it, they would still need to gather their documents, fill in the forms for the claim (which may have been reasonably easy or it may have been designed by Satan himself), file the claim (best case scenario electronically, but many courts still require you to get in a line and physically file paperwork) and spend a minimum of one day in court.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Not a particularly significant one. OP has already long since moved on and there is zero evidence that going to small claims court will somehow teach the former client turned cohost a lesson. I fully agree with those who have said it is worth it to send an email or bring it up in person and inform the organizers. But small claims court to “send a message” does not pass the sniff test.

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            I don’t mean small claims court now; I meant it something like 120 after the original invoice was due.

  4. S*

    I would go further than Allison: I seem to hear in your letter the fear that you’d come across as petty and vindictive for not letting this go. No impartial observer would view you negatively for calmly asking for what’s owed you. It’s been 2 years, not 20.

    1. MK*

      I disagree that OP’s possible fears on that score are necessarily groundless. AAM commenters aren’t impartial, because we take it for granted that the facts of the case are as OPs write them. An impartial party, say the organization running the workshop, will want to get the other side’s story, and the client may well convincingly claim it was a free consultation and paint OP as unprofessional at best and scummy at worse. I don’t blame the OP for not wanting to raise this issue and the potential for drama with their current client.

      1. Artemesia*

        This is why you give the organization a heads up — you did this two years ago and sent the invoice 3 times before letting it go and now you will awkwardly be discussing your work while standing in that unpaid for space. So you are going to send that invoice one more time. Pre-empt the excuses of the client. ‘Oh I thought it was free’ is going to ring hollow when you have already indicated to the organizer that you send multiple invoices for the work.

        Or just give a little talk about the challenges to consultants in getting paid by deadbeat clients — but yeah, no, can’t do that. But tempting.

        1. MK*

          “Two years ago OP did a consultation for some work in my house, which to my understanding was free; and then she tried to invoice me for a whole project, in fact the project she will be commenting on in the workshop! I refused to pay, of course, as I hadn’t agreed to it”.

          No, it won’t necessarily rign hollow, getting your story in first only works with some people some of the time; the rest of us won’t assume that the one who happened to beat the other party with their complaint is the one in the right. It will largely depend on the credibility both parties have with the organization, and it might even lead to decide this is more trouble than it’s worth and scap the workshop altogether.

          Not saying any of this will happen, but it’s a valid concern.

          1. Curious*

            I agree. Even if OP is objectively right, Deadbeat has every incentive to claim –and, because, humans, may even fool themselves into believing — that OP is wrong (because, eg, shoddy work).

            Even with all of that. I agree with option 1 — but, OP should first consider the downside risks.

          2. bird*

            They know better than to believe that that type of work in their field is free… they’re paying OP just to talk to them about it.

            1. MK*

              Legal work hardly has a reputation for being free, and still free initial consultation with a lawyer is not that uncommon. This really isn’t an argument.

              1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

                Yeah, but actual legal work and actual design work, like OP performed, is not part of a free consult!

          3. Crap Game*

            “I refused to pay.” “How did you communicate that?” “…silence.” Anyone paying attention will see right through that. If it was supposed to be free, the client would have an email they sent saying “this was supposed to be free.”

            1. MK*

              Eh, it’s extremely unlikely that they will start interrogating the house owner. They are more likely to think the whole thing was a misunderstanding and that OP should not have involved them in it.

              Look, it’s one of the best thing about AAM that the commenters are generally starting from a desire to help OPs and help the advocate for themselves. But that’s not the point of view of, in this case, the current client finding themselves having to deal with this dispute.

              1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

                I think they likely respect OP as one of the hosts at least as much as this home owner. And OP is just giving them a heads up that she is requesting payment again and that she never heard back from them. As long as OP is not telling the organizers that the owner’s failure to pay was definitely intentional on the owner’s part and says she is just going to gently nudge them about it, the organizers will probably not get involved unless the owner comes to them throwing a fit. At which point, the owner looks a bit over the top and OP can just say, “Well, I thought it best to give her a gentle reminder, but I plan to let this go now to keep the peace,” OP will look like the reasonable one.

                OP is fine for nudging, as long as she does it professionally and gently. She just has to frame it from the beginning as something she intends to gently remind owner of, but not something she plans to push too hard on.

  5. Spero*

    If she did use your work in her home, it would be incredibly rage inducing to stand in an example of your work talking about your work knowing you weren’t credited or paid. I strongly vote to address ahead of time so you don’t have an on-the-spot rage slip. Or add an unplanned section of your talk about clients behaving unethically as a small business challenge while staring directly at her.

    Or you could address ahead of time and still add that last bit. You know, in service of helping other entrepreneurs.

    1. True Faux*

      “stand in an example of your work talking about your work knowing you weren’t credited or paid.”

      Rage inducing indeed. When I read the headline, my reaction was sort of meh, sounds awkward but shouldn’t interfere with the talk. The explanation, where LW made clear that the talk was about the unpaid work, changed my initial reaction entirely. I wouldn’t bother invoicing the customer, at least not prior to the talk. I would bring it up to the organizers as a potential source of awkwardness and even ask if the location could be changed. I advise avoiding any impression of putting the organizers in the middle, though.

      1. HonorBox*

        I think your last sentence should be in ALL CAPS. If (nay, when) it is brought up to the organizers, it is worth suggesting to them that you’re in no way asking them to step in or be an intermediary. Rather you’re just bringing them in on the potential awkwardness so they’re aware when the homeowner is acting chilly.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          Agreed. Take Alison’s script and tack on that LW isn’t asking for their involvement, it was an FYI should that portion of the day prove awkward due to the client.

          1. La Triviata*

            Also, is it possible – or likely – that other contractors the co-host stiffed would be there?

    2. Boof*

      Yep. I would even go so far as to say it isn’t ok! We still don’t quite know what happened but if they actually used your work (as having a workshop about it seems to imply?) it’s really important not to devalue your contribution by pretending it’s ok not go get paid for skilled work in front of an audience!!!

      1. bird*

        There’s no way they didn’t have to apply in some way using OPs name relating to the work for all of this to have happened, they just likely didn’t expect them to reach out to OP as a paid speaker for their property. Delightful schadenfreude.

    3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      This is why I think it is best for OP to reach out and gently remind the owner about the invoice. While it is unlikely, it is possible that the owner genuinely overlooked the invoice. Better to address it quietly in advance than to engage in passive aggressive behavior during the presentation!

  6. Samwise*

    Ahahahahaha!!! Justice!!!!!!!!!!!

    Take option 1, and include the heads-up with the organizer.

    If the client/co-presenter is a thieving weasel, then they deserve the embarrassment/shame/calling out.

    If they have a good reason, this is an opportunity for them to explain.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Never had a situation like this at any of the events I’ve organised, but I’d definitely want to know about something like this so I could arrange a backup plan in case it all went sideways and one or both of you decided not to speak.
      I hope that this event helps the OP to extract payment from this client, preferably with interest and late fees added on!

  7. Lydia*

    I really feel like Option 1 is the way to go. We have this idea of the “higher road” being the best option, but it’s weird how the higher road always seems to be staying quiet and letting someone get away with something. That really only serves one party, and frequently (not always) the party served is the one who did the wrong in the first place.

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      To be fair, I don’t think Option 1 is the “low road” in this case. I’d view it as more of a fork in the high road.

      The low road in this case is to go to the home, stand next to whatever work it was that OP did, have her use it as an example of X at the conference, then loudly announce that she had to change her payment collection policies because the client has never paid her for X and advise the audience to learn from her mistakes.

      I don’t think OP should take the low road. But if it was in a movie, it would be funny and satisfying to witness.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I’m flashing back to being told that the grade school bullies were “just jealous” and that’s why they mistreated me.
      No. They mistreated me the first time because they are jerks.
      They continued to do so because I was unable to stand up for myself.
      OP, you can tell yourself whatever you want. In the end, you will be the same person you are right now.
      Whether you
      get your money and the person apologizes,
      get your money and the person calls you money grubbing, petty, unprofessional…etc
      don’t get your money and the person acts like they don’t know you
      don’t get your money and the person calls you money grubbing, petty, unprofessional.
      You can only control yourself. You can’t make her pay AND make her happy about it.
      Might as well take a shot at getting your money.
      And definitely being the one to start the narrative!

    3. Warrior Princess Xena*

      To me the “low road” in this case isn’t asking for payment as much as it would be making a scene mid-presentation that would result in unnecessary harm being done to the organizers/unaffiliated presenters. It would be unkind to damage people who are completely uninvolved in this whole affair and would probably support you if they were told about it.

      But asking for payment in a professional manner is not the low road.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, I would avoid any “Ha ha I confront you!” zingers to open the workshop, which are likely to land to workshop participants and organizers as “…. so OP is someone who brings a great deal of drama.”

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          This is the type of thing that is extremely satisfying to watch in a film, but would absolutely be the stuff of nightmares for an event organiser. I don’t want my speakers to fight with each other! It’s hard enough to get time to give me their freakin’ titles and show up on time, I don’t want to have to referee a sniping session on top of everything else.

        2. Lizzo*

          Yes, and why introduce potential drama that only reflects poorly on OP and the organizers, when it may not have the desired effect on the old client? I suspect they are aware that they did not pay and have no shame about it. Attempting to shame them publicly won’t have the desired effect, IMO.

      2. Boof*

        Yeah, the only low road oprion here would be ripping down anything from their designs mid presentation :p. And/or calling them out mid presentation with no heads up. I’d even say it’s ok to decline to participate in the event if it’s about work you didn’t get paid for; why dress up exploitative practices? “Oh artists don’t need money, surely they live off exposure and love of creation!”

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          I’d opt for sending the reminder invoice and if no future payment/communication is made after about 1 week reach out to the organizers and let them know about the situation. Something along the lines of “Hi Bob, thanks again for the invitation. I wanted to give you a heads-up that I am currently in a payment dispute with Karen, who’s scheduled as my co-presenter. I understand that this might be an organizational challenge for you; if you deem that it would be best for me to step back from presenting, I’m happy to work with someone else or present at another time. Thanks.”

          It would be awkward but 1000% more professional than going on a Reddit-worthy rant mid-presentation.

        2. Magenta*

          A builder I know wasn’t paid for a porch he build, he gave them several reminders, offered a payment plan etc, they wouldn’t pay and when he kept chasing the homeowner then tried to claim that the work wasn’t up to standard and they should get a discount.

          He went round with a sledge hammer, knocked it down and started loading the bricks into his van.

          The homeowner called the police, when they arrived and asked what he was doing he said he was taking back his property as hae hadn’t been paid for labour and materials. The police said fair enough and told the homeowner that he should have paid if he didn’t want this to happen.

    4. Caroline*

      Totally!! ”you must forgive FOR YOUR OWN BENEFIT” has always seemed strange to me. How does it benefit me to let someone screw me over and get away with it? I mean, sure, there is value in learning to let things go after a time and especially if there’s nothing to be done, and obviously stewing obsessively is not helpful.

      OP, please contact them ahead of time. Remind them of the unpaid invoice and ask for payment. Do it in a courteous, unvarnished way. They know they owe you money.

      1. True Faux*

        The idea is that you forgive them while still holding them accountable. Using this letter as an example, LW can forgive the client for their past actions while still making a decision about whether, when, and how to address the situation with the event organizers and to pursue payment.
        Forgiveness is a mindset shift that allows you to stop ruminating and to pursue what you are owed (if anything) rather than pursuing revenge.

        1. Lydia*

          That may be what forgiveness is intended to do, but that is not how anyone is asked to use it. In our current culture, forgiveness is a cudgel used to remove accountability while tricking the forgiver into thinking it will lead to their peace of mind. Forgive if you want and when you’re ready, whether that’s before accountability is had or after.

        2. David*

          FWIW I’ve noticed that different people seem to ascribe different meanings to the word “forgive”. For some people, like you, it’s a mindset shift, something that happens purely internally; for other people, like me, it means acknowledging that whatever supposed wrong was committed was in fact not wrong in the first place, or at least was minor enough that it’s not worth any sort of punishment or retribution. (Like, in this case, the latter meaning of “forgive” would necessarily involve the letter writer deciding not to collect the money – it’d literally be forgiving a debt.) I’m sure most people would agree that forgiving in the first sense is a good step for the letter writer (and perhaps one they’ve already taken, based on what they wrote), but forgiving in the second sense is probably not.

          This distinction between different meanings of “forgive” confused me for a long time and it took a discussion somewhere in the comments section of this site to make me realize that not everybody uses the word the same way.

      2. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

        Forgiveness is a completely unrelated thing to letting people take advantage of you or continue to harm you.

  8. Busy Middle Manager*

    It’s not unprofessional or harping on the past to follow up more on payments. My job does a series of calls and emails and then will send it to collections. You are too nice here. Also you followed up so few times it’s possible it got lost in the shuffle for delegated to someone (even a spouse) who them simply forgot to pay it.

    Definitely speak up

    1. Pat*

      Also, $600 is a lot of money! And I agree with the people who suggested adding late fees and/or interest.

    2. Alexandra*

      As someone who also does this for a living, the approach can definitely make a difference. I’ve asked, “Would you give me the check information for the llama grooming invoice payment? I don’t see it in my records.” I find that’s a good diplomatic way to either get what I need or alert the customer that they have outstanding balances. In my environment there’s a good chance something went wrong so I have to be cautious.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Yeah, and this is actually a *chef’s kiss* perfect way for OP to bring it up again. “Hi Jane, excited to see that we’ll be discussing The Llamas Have Ears design for the workshop. I was looking over my notes from the project in preparation and realized I don’t have payment for the final invoice. The invoice is reattached here — thanks for taking care of it, and I’ll see you soon!”

    3. B*

      Agreed. Whether intentional or accidental, the client is the one putting LW in a horribly uncomfortable situation, and that is extremely unfair. LW should give themselves the permission and the grace to redress this problem that is not of their own making.

      I think this is one of those cases where it can be helpful to imagine it was happening to your friend or family member rather than yourself. What advice would you give them? If it were happening to me, I’d be inclined not to make a fuss, but if it were happening to someone I cared about it would be crystal clear that they should politely but firmly address the unpaid bill.

  9. Anne Elliot*

    Wow, Alison – as someone who has definitely internalized the cultural value of rising above it and letting things go, especially when related to money, it is so important to hear your reminder that “there’s also a dignity and power in… calmly and steadily asserting what you’re due.”

    Whatever ends up being right for OP in this situation, I (and I would guess others!) really needed to hear that.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Yeah, I think of this as similar to the difference between genuinely coming to peace with things through spirituality and spiritual bypassing. Bypassing is like toxic positivity and skips all the hard work…also known as gaslighting.

  10. RubyJackson*

    As part of your presentation, talk about being a sole proprietor and running a business, and emphasize the part about getting 50% payment upfront in case the client doesn’t pay the balance, while looking the ex-client right in the eyes as you say it.

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      If the client ignores the invoice again, and the orgs don’t change the plan, then I would 100% do this

    2. Just Another Zebra*

      I was coming here to say this. Admittedly, I tend to swing spiteful and petty. But I’d be so inclined to throw in a line about changing your payment policies after a client ignored and refused to pay an invoice for $600. Then smirk and comment that it’s actually still outstanding.

    3. ecnaseener*

      I was thinking plant someone in the audience to ask questions about how payment works and have you ever been stiffed. LW prooooobably shouldn’t do that but it would be very funny ;D

      1. Laser99*

        My choice would be to tell every other person there about how this person behaved. Everyone will gossip, eventually someone just won’t be able to help themselves and bring it up. Ha!

  11. Prunella*

    2021? I’d prepare some words to say in case the “client” says something like “oooh but that is sooo loong ago we figured you didn’t care about the money! You know, we were so pleased with your work that we’ve talked about you to all of our friends and you must have gotten SUCH good business from that!”

    1. The New Wanderer*

      “We didn’t agree to payment in ‘exposure’. You agreed to pay me the fee for the work I did, and I expect you to honor your commitment.”

  12. Anonymous 75*

    I say take option 3. Attend the event and make sure to work in as part of your lecture topic how to handle deposits and issues with clients for non-payment of services. Especially when those services might be a couple of years ago.

    1. bird*

      Maybe there’s an option 4: Tell the organizer that you’re surprised this person is willing to host an event and publicly discuss this work when they ignored several invoices and never paid for that work, and send a list of other nearby homeowners you’ve worked with who may be better options to avoid the awkwardness?

      I guess this depends on whether the host or the designer was the highlight of the event, but people don’t generally just “forget” to pay for two years then host an event to show off the work they got for free. The kind of people who are organized enough to be part of these kinds of events don’t “not notice” multiple emails. Not paying in this case was likely an active choice.

      Honestly I’m petty enough to send a final email copying the organizer with all previous attempts to collect payment forwarded with something like “Good Morning, I see that we’re both participating in X event to discuss X work completed on your home! As we’ll be discussing work that I have not yet received payment for, I’ve attached your outstanding invoice for $600 from X date.” But I’m petty!

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I agree with your first paragraph. I think OP is not comfortable telling the organization about the person who stole goods and services because it will fall under “causing drama” or “tattling.”
        Well, it’s not drama. It is facts.
        It is not tattling to let the organization know that they are putting their reputation behind someone who steals goods and services.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Agreed! I doubt the organization would be too keen on having its own good professional standing be possibly tarnished by promoting a thief. Because that’s what this co-host is asking them to do. If word gets around that they’re “willing to overlook” things like this, their reputation will take a deserved hit.

      2. Laser99*

        It’s not even petty. Petty is seething because your co-worker didn’t pay back the two bucks borrowed for the vending machine. $600 is not chump change

  13. bird*

    Of course you can’t know one way or another, but the kind of person who goes through life ripping people off like this while outwardly portraying a model citizen typically does a LOT of triangulation and groundwork to get ahead of any accusations. Everyone I have known like this would see OP on the event docket and start doing pre-emptive damage control to protect their reputation, so I’d DEFINITELY let the organizer know even if I chose not to pursue the money.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This. That OP is speculating reasons why she wasn’t paid indicates that she may not fully understand people who don’t pay simply because they don’t want to.
      They know you can go to small claims court. They don’t have to hire a lawyer. They don’t even have to show up. Summary judgement, you win. Whoopidee do. They don’t bill them or garnish wages. They point you to where you can spend more money to continue the process to get a lien on property.
      Then what?
      They send you $100 in “good faith” money that doesn’t cover what you’ve spent to have them served. Are you going to follow up every six months with this? It becomes madness.

      1. Random Bystander*

        It might depend on the jurisdiction, though, as far as collection goes.

        I live in Illinois, and one of my sons sued an ex-roommate/tenant (they had a written lease, the roommate had a private bedroom and use of the rest of the house plus a spot in the garage). Ex-roommate had moved out after stiffing my son on rent and not returning the keys/garage remote. He later claimed to have thrown away the remotes because they were “broken” (without ever having indicated there was any issue … I’ve never really heard of a remote of that sort ‘breaking’ other than perhaps needing a battery change). He also left the bedroom filthy from spilled food/drink such that it took my son 2 hours to clean the carpet in a room just over 9′ square. So my son sued ex-roommate (who had burned the friendship also with other things). He won the unpaid rent, costs for cleaning the room (including 2 hours labor, even though son had supplied the labor for an added $100 over the unpaid rent), and the cost of buying a replacement remote + the court costs and the costs of having the sheriff serve the ex-roommate. They made a payment plan, and ex-roommate didn’t keep up with that. Son said he would take him back and garnish his wages, and the ex-roommate suddenly had the several hundred dollars to pay up all but $40 of the judgement (less than 10% of the total), and son decided not to pursue the final $40, but he absolutely could have garnished wages … and the costs of that would have been tacked on to the total debt that would be paid through the garnishment.

  14. Lurking Tom*

    I feel like I’d be inclined to go a different petty route and act as though I had never met this person and had no idea who they were. If they insisted we knew each other, I’d say “you must be mixing me up with someone else, I would definitely remember someone who’d paid for my work!”

    1. Sloanicota*

      Heeeee “I looked through all my paid invoices and you’re not a client, can you reference the billing date so I can refresh my memory??”

      1. Grim*

        Agreed! What’s the next step for this option if the non-paying client just… goes along with it? Which they might well do, because it would probably be very convenient for them if the person who they owe money to is acting like they’ve never met before.

    2. wEn moon*

      Being direct is the best way to go. Sarcasm might be a way to blow off steam in the moment, but it’s passive aggressive and won’t fix the issue. I would also do a combo of sending the invoice again and alerting the organization.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      That doesn’t make sense if you are specifically at their home talking about work you did there.

  15. Mostly Managing*

    Also on team “Speak Up”.

    And let the organiser know you are going to.
    It’s entirely possible that the client never thought they’d see you again, and will be very uncomfortable having you in their home. (as they should be- but if they don’t say anything til the last minute, that puts the organiser in a tough spot through no fault of their own)

  16. Delta Delta*

    The way I read this, OP did some design work, Client didn’t pay for it, but potentially used it, and now it’s being showcased in an event. I think not only would I reach out to client this way, but I’d mention how awkward it will be that Client didn’t pay and now they’re presenting togetehr.

    It’s also possible Client legitimately thought this bill got paid. I personally have had it happen a couple times in the last year where I’ve made a request to my bank to have a check sent and they just didn’t do it. (My bank is terrible, which is a different story all together)

    1. bird*

      The client would have had to have applied and specifically mentioned OPs work in the application though! There’s no “potentially” used if they hired the designer to talk in that clients house about that specific work.

  17. Spicy Tuna*

    I am very interested in hearing the outcome! Also reading the comments. I am SUCH an incredible wuss about collecting money. I feel terrible about charging money for my services and if I don’t get paid, I never say anything. It’s an awful way to run a business and I am desperately in need of a way to feel comfortable speaking up! I feel like if I speak up, people will think I’m greedy and overly focused on money

    1. i like hound dogs*

      No, get paid!

      Neutral and no-nonsense, like Alison recommends, is the way to go.

      “Hi! I haven’t received payment for our August work. Resending the invoice now. Please let me know if you have any questions!”

      I do empathize … I once took on a small freelance job ($100) and never got paid after sending the invoice twice. I had a newborn and I just lost track of it, then felt like it was too late to ask for payment. But it probably wasn’t! (It is now, lol … my son is 8 and I don’t even remember who the client was.) But I’m still kinda pissed about taking precious hours out of my new-baby schedule to do work for these jerkoffs who never bothered to pay me!

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Do you also have trouble asking for clarification on project details, such as:
      – what is the deadline?
      – how many of XYZ do you need?
      – what are the dimensions/colors/names/etc. of ABC?

      If the answer is “no, of course I ask for that information because I need it to do my job,” then I suggest thinking about asking for payment as being in the same category as anything else you ask your clients for. You need money to do your job! If no one paid you, you wouldn’t be able to do this work, because you would be looking for other ways to get money.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Agree, I admit my first thought was “hmm, for $600 I probably wouldn’t pursue it” (and would likely just opt out of co-presenting) but reading the responses is changing my mind!

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      People will think I’m greedy and overly focused on money.
      You know how we roll our eyes at employers who don’t want to interview people who seem like they work in part to earn money, rather than just volunteering for the sheer love of designing online takeout menu pages and they would just do it for joy?

      If you didn’t want money for your work, you would be set up as a charity. Then you would be choosing to help people who by some vetting process particularly deserve your assistance, rather than offering free stuff to those with the chutzpah or bad organization to just not pay. What you’re doing now is not a way to channel your charity toward nice people who are trying their best.

      While I think some people who don’t pay are fully cognizant of that behavior and would describe is as a “life hack,” a fair number assume that if you stop asking them for money that must mean they paid you.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      Know what the going market rate is, charge that amount, and ask for 50% upfront. There is no reason to feel bad for doing that. Your skills have value. When people get your services for free, they feel as if they got something without value. If someone doesn’t want to pay you, they don’t deserve to benefit from your skills. Make sure you get paid!

    6. CM*

      I really liked Alison’s comment that if the client is a decent person, they will be GLAD to pay money they owe.

      Shift the focus from you (“is it ok for me to ask for this money??”) to the customer, who should WANT to pay to fulfill their ethical and legal obligations.

      And you can look at it this way — if you agreed to pay somebody $100 to do work, and they did the work but never asked for the $100, wouldn’t you contact them and say, “hey, how can I pay you the money I owe?” And if they said, “no, forget it,” you would probably insist on paying, as originally agreed.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        The other week at work, I realised that we hadn’t paid a £100ish invoice due to admin errors on our end and the vendor’s end. I was so mortified and glad to be able to sort it out!

    7. Lily Rowan*

      Consider this: Are you mad at other people when they charge for their products and/or services? No, right?

    8. Seashell*

      I can see feeling awkward if you’re doing work for a friend or family member, but for someone you don’t care if you ever see again? If you have already asked more than once, send a letter that gives them 30 days to pay or you will be speaking to your attorney about your legal options for collections. (If you don’t have an attorney, they don’t have to know that!) Make it so they have to sign for the letter, so you know they actually got it.

    9. Anonosaurus*

      I work in client services and I do sometimes feel uncomfortable about billing individuals rather than companies. But then I remind myself that I don’t go to the grocery store and ask them to wave me through the checkout line, nor do I expect to be comped when I go out for dinner. I also don’t walk out of stores with free clothes. It took me nearly ten years to put myself through school and professional training. I’m entitled to charge for the work I do, and damn sure everyone I purchase goods and services from expects to be paid by me so why would I be the only one giving it away?

    10. KathyG*

      Spicy Tuna, if you don’t value your time and services, how can you expect anyone else to? You & your clients have made a deal: your services for their money. What’s wrong with expecting them to honour their part of the bargain, when you have done your part?

    11. Harper the Other One*

      I don’t know if your work is sufficient to support it, but sometimes this is a great argument for hiring a designated AR clerk (even if it’s part-time) or an AR agency. Then they can be the ones invoicing and collecting and you can focus on producing the work you enjoy producing.

  18. Jellyfish Catcher*

    This is karma; don’t mess with karma.
    The former customer put themselves in this position, by signing up YOUR design as one highlight of the workshop.
    Send them another invoice, with a brief “looking forward to seeing you” note.

    1. Goldenrod*

      Agreed. This is karma at work!

      I’m with Alison – I vote for Option #1. Get the money, honey!

  19. BH*

    Freelance writer here.

    Take Alison’s advice. Send the invoice again. Don’t let her get away with this.

  20. Dancing Otter*

    I’m not recommending you do this, but I would be so tempted to say something on the spot. Discuss the design work you did and the client used, “and by the way, Jane never paid me for it. That’s why I always insist on advance deposits now.”
    But only after making one more attempt to collect before the event.

  21. Sparkles McFadden*

    I vote for speaking up. Let the organizer know the situation and that you are sending an invoice. Then contact the client again using Alison’s language. I see two possibilities:

    – The person was genuinely going through a tough time and will be grateful for a chance to make up for the missed payment.

    – The person is one of those people who tries to get out of paying for everything. These people feel no shame or embarrassment because they convince themselves they are in the right, and the service wasn’t up to par, or you cheated them somehow, or “Oh, I just forgot!” and then they hide from you to avoid paying or just lie repeatedly saying they paid you already.

    Asking for payment is the right choice in either case.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Well, there is a third option – some people are just completely disorganized and you have to get pretty nasty with them to make them concentrate on your need. They think, “ah, an invoice, yes” and then it slips out of their heads and they never pay and if nobody makes them do it, it gets mentally deleted. In which case resending is completely appropriate. Also possibly an admin error where they think it was handled – especially common among rich people.

      1. Boof*

        That is sorta covered by option one. There’s basically no scenario where asking to be paid after a client ghosts then rises from the grave is inappropriate; quite the contrary.

  22. Bookworm*

    I am also on SPEAK UP! The organizer deserves to know (as they may not). I haven’t had exactly what your situation is (like, quick consultations of less than an hour so no product, etc.) where I was given a “boost” and “exposure” but went absolutely nowhere. So I can relate about this being behind you.

    But there are lots of people who don’t change unless there is some form of accountability. It is, of course, up to you but I’m definitely on Team Karma.

  23. Lacey*

    Speak up.

    I’d bet money that this was intentional.
    But, I’ve been in situations where I knew I needed to take care of something and it was important, but I just couldn’t make myself do it. A fun depression/anxiety combo. I hated myself for it, so a nudge later when I was in a better space, was honestly all I needed to make it right. And it was a HUGE weight off me.

    That doesn’t sound like what’s happening. It sounds more like my friend who was irate on my behalf that another friend requested the money I owed her. “It’s not that much, why did she make a big deal out of it?” Ok, it’s not that much, why shouldn’t I pay her?

    A couple years later the same friend refused to pay me several hundred she owed, because it’s not that big a deal! Right?

    That’s almost certainly who you’re dealing with. And why should they get free work?

    But either way – speaking up is better.

  24. Dr. Doll*

    This reminds me irresistibly of the James Herriott story about how Siegfried Farnon used to try to get paid for the veterinary bills, something along the lines of “He had the PNS system in which he placed great faith. People would get a Polite letter, then a Nasty letter, then a Solicitor’s letter.”

    It was not notably successful although some people who received a Polite letter responded immediately and with apologies. The Nasty and Solicitor’s letters always went to people who were entirely used to such communications!

    Until they got a secretary, Miss…Harville? Hargrove? She was a strong figure who immediately straightened out the entire business side of the practice.

    1. Susan-shaped beehive*

      Haha, I was also thinking of the P,N,S system! The LW needs one more P under the circumstances, but if that doesn’t bear fruit she should consider skipping straight to the S.

    2. Sharpie*

      10/10 for the James Heriot reference. I think the secretary was Miss Hargrove but it’s been a hot minute since I read any of the books

    3. Dr. Doll*

      Oh wait, I remember another detail. The people who received the Nasty letters yawned at them. The Solicitor letter was a *threat* to contact a Solicitor, not a letter *from* a solicitor. So they yawned at those too because they knew Siegfried would never follow through and actually engage a solicitor.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      The whole “our cash system is a bunch of one pound notes in a pint pot on the mantle” giving her conniptions is the best!

  25. track-changes-for-hire*

    I would definitely speak up. In my experience (12+ years chasing freelance payments) It’s certainly true that people deliberately try to get away without paying. But the threat of looking bad, or of having to pay interest, is often very motivating!

    It also seems possible they’ve just forgotten to pay. Two follow ups — while, of course, two more than you should have to send! — is still far fewer than it can sometimes take. You know your business best, and YMMV, but I frequently have to chase clients 3-4 times, or even more. Again, it shouldn’t be this way, but, when it comes to paying bills, people often seem to operate on the assumption that ‘if they’re not chasing me, it’s not owing’.

    I think Alison’s wording is spot-on, for what to send to the client and the organizer. Good luck!

  26. Jm*

    My hubby tells of an incident that’s similar but ends with looking the debtor in the eye, with witnesses, saying there’s no point in paying because I’d hate to have to change my opinion of you now!’ Letter writer is much nicer

  27. Falling Diphthong*

    I would bet a plate of pumpkin cookies on the person not remembering–OP at all, or that the bill was unpaid.

    That will at least be what they try to convey.

  28. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    If I were in this situation, I’d go with the “speak up” option because I know I still need practice with navigating confrontations and other uncomfortable conversations. I won’t make any assumptions about the OP, but I think a lot of us are conditioned to think that there’s something *un*dignified about pressing people for money, even if it’s the money they agreed to pay you for work you’ve already done for them. Of course that’s not true; there’s plenty of dignity in sticking up for yourself, and Alison’s script for doing so is perfect IMO.

  29. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    People like the client get away with this, and know they can get away with it, because we’re socialized to be weird about money.

    Don’t be weird about money.

    Take option 1. Email the client. Email the organizer about the situation. I’d even send it certified mail so they can’t claim they never got it this time.

    As someone else mentioned, they have to have seen your name too. And they haven’t reached out. So odds are, they know what they did and they feel no shame about it. So get your money! (Small chance they don’t feel weird because they think they paid it, but I’d say that’s slim)

    This reminds me of the Friends episode when Phoebe puts her foot down with the “grieving” widow who’s trying to weasel out of paying for the catering. These people know what they’re doing! They are relying on you being to shy or nervous to actually stand up and say “no, you owe me what I’m due.”

    Stand up, OP. Send that invoice.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      I thought of that episode too: “Hey, Widow. We provided a service and you ate that service, so pay up.” That’s what you have to do. (Though give a head’s up to the event organizer to preserve that relationship.)

      You have to have the same mentality about negotiating for pay with an employer. Management is counting on your discomfort around money to keep you from asking for proper compensation.

  30. Falling Diphthong*

    Also, this spring I needed to shake money out of a company that I was quite certain had intended to pay me. And it took a lot more than 2 polite emails to the (unresponsive) project manager–sending emails to everyone I had an email address for asking for help getting paid, and one of them connected me to the person with the power to get my invoice unstuck.

    I should not have had to do this. You should not have had to do this. But sometimes well-intended individuals or companies have crappy systems in place to keep track of these things, and escalating with Increasingly Firm And Pointed contacts when they have ignored two polite invoices is a thing you might need to do. (And then you put in a half-up-front clause, as you did, or make a note to avoid working with them if that’s an easy option.)

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      A lot of business people are terrible at business. That’s why no one should feel bad about sending repeated invoices.

      My company did almost everything internally, so, on the rare occasions where we had to hire someone from outside for a task, we’d hand them a contract that stated outright how long it would take to get paid, because certain types of vendor billing were processed ridiculously infrequently (6 – 8 week or more). It never made sense to me.

  31. Grits McGee*

    If I were the organization, I would definitely want to know about the backstory here- at the very least, it lets them know to be on the lookout for potential disruption from this other client if they cause issues or potentially back out.
    From a reputation management standpoint, it’s also very useful information to have. If old client stiffed you, there’s a not insignificant chance they’ve cheated other people, and that information has a way to making it’s way into public knowledge. The last thing your current client would want is to be blindsided with the news that they are promoting someone who has a history of shady actions.

  32. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

    I’ve never done freelance before, but I’m a little confused as to why OP’s original response to having their invoice ignored, was just to… back off and not pursue it further? I don’t see why that was even on the table. They received the services so you need to get paid for them.

    It seems like the obvious next step would’ve been calling them, trying to meet them in person to make sure they got the invoice, or having a lawyer send a letter? I see people on here all the time wishing they had thought to bake in late fees to their contracts, or learning to receive a deposit upfront, but it would not have occurred to me to just give up so easily on receiving payment you’re owed, no matter how little the amount, it’s a business! It’s not personal. There’s nothing classy about letting it go.

    1. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

      Not trying to make OP feel bad about a decision long past, just seems like they’re applying a “close friend who hurt my feelings and won’t apologize” lens to a “someone is stealing my business’s money” situation.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      As someone posted upthread, we are conditioned to be weird about money owed to us. (It’s definitely a feature, not a bug, of capitalism.)

      Because it was the first time this happened and it was a small amount, LW wrote it off.

      The client is someone who takes advantage of this kind of conditioning. (The former occupant of the not-quite-round office also did this consistently.)

      1. Liz the Snackbrarian*

        Plus if OP is a woman, women are also conditioned not to be confrontational, so that could be adding another layer of complexity.

    3. Tommy Girl*

      I’m assuming the OP is a decorator/contractor and the client is likely pretty wealthy. Word of mouth is really key to those fields, esp keeping in with the hoity toity set in town, so I’m guessing the OP didn’t want to get her name smeared with the clients’ social set by being too persistent.

    4. Double A*

      I do have to say, “I sent three bills in the mail” seem pretty… minimal. As someone who is neurotypical and pays all my bills, I have absolutely had bills slip through, or that I was juggling, that I have not paid until the consequence was imminent.

      This is NOT to excuse not paying the bill, but it is surprising OP doesn’t have more persistent means of collecting payment.

      1. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

        Exactly, that’s what I’m wondering, why there seems to be no escalation beyond repeating step one a couple times and then throwing up your hands.

    5. Bee*

      As a person who professionally chases money on behalf of other people: I can understand why, after a certain amount of trying, you might feel $600 wasn’t worth the continued effort. It’s frustrating and draining to keep trying to get money out of someone who’s ignoring you (someone who’s on-purpose avoiding paying will definitely not answer your calls or agree to meet), and it’s time that you could spend on NON-aggravating work for people who will actually pay. And the longer it goes on, the more effort you put into it, the worse it feels to get nothing in return. It’s not right, but I can see why the OP decided this amount wasn’t worth getting caught up in that spiral.

      But I 1000% agree with following up on it now – it’s VERY easy to send that invoice again saying “in preparation for the workshop, I was going through my notes on this design work, and realized this invoice was never paid! Here it is, would love to have this settled before the event.”

      1. Goldenrod*

        There’s even a perspective by which it is actually a kindness for the money now – you are allowing them to save face, pretend they “just forgot” or there was a “misunderstanding” – and after they’ve paid their bill, they won’t have to feel embarrassed or awkward at the event. (Or at least can feel less embarrassed or awkward!)

    6. fhqwhgads*

      I was surprised they decided to stop asking after 3 as well. However it depends. If they bill in the millions annually, chasing a $600 invoice is probably not worth their time. It’s about proportions, ya know? Still, if we’re talkin’ the 30, 60, 90 day invoices went unpaid, I’d sort of expect them to at least continue billing quarterly til the end of that year before writing it off. But there’s a trade off and OP decided this was the right trade off for them.

  33. Tommy Girl*

    I have a third potential option. Where I live, the mail service is very bad and things are lost all the time (we think it’s tied to the distribution plant and our former congressman spent a lot of time working on it). Anyway, if the physical mail was a part of the process at all, could you email her ahead of time, and say the workshop jogged your memory and you realized you never got paid for this, and you’re assuming the invoice or her payment got lost in the mail? This is a common face-saving device where I live!

  34. Flames on the Side of My Face*

    Former freelancer here who has had clients try to stiff me: Speak up, speak up, speak up!!

    I like Alison’s phrasing. It is direct, factual, and does not imply intentional theft. You’re allowing for the possibility that this slipped through the cracks, but you’re also shining light on it so the client can’t hide from organizers if it was intentional.

    And if they did intentionally stiff you, this phrasing gives them a way out while saving some face. Sometimes that’s what’s needed in order to finally get the check.

  35. K*

    I think it’s wild that the dude agreed to host OP after not paying for their work. That’s a weird decision.

  36. Vaca*

    Send the invoice and insist that it be paid. If she doesn’t pay you, first thing you say when speaking is that they stiff their contractors.

  37. HonorBox*

    OP, if this situation was simply that a client didn’t pay a couple years ago and you’ve written it off, I’d definitely support you if you wanted to just move forward and pretend like it didn’t happen. $600 is a lot of money but it might not be stress and worry level money.

    But you’re going to the home of the person who didn’t pay you. Your work is being showcased. It is hard (as we can read into as we read your letter) to be put in a position of facing the person who didn’t pay, showcasing work you weren’t paid for.

    High road here would be giving them the benefit of the doubt that perhaps the invoice wasn’t received, bank error occurred, check was lost in the mail (which unfortunately was a THING during the height of COVID), whatever other potential thing happened that caused a payment not to be received. Invoice them and send a gracious (if you want) note along with it. Acknowledge that while you weren’t pursuing it more than you had, being in the home and showcasing work reminded you that you hadn’t received the payment, and would like to have that taken care of before the event. Give them the opportunity to lie and provide the excuse they’ll provide as they make payment. That’s a high road that still gets you the payment you deserve for the work you provided.

    And absolutely let the organization know. Not that they need to step in and help, but just because they should have opportunity to be aware of the potential for an awkward portion of the event – which is on the homeowner’s shoulders, not yours.

    1. Double A*

      I mean…it might not even be a lie. The check may have been lost in the mail and they’re well off enough they didn’t notice How many letters and comments do we have here from people who struggle with executive function and could lose track of something like this?

      Personally I assume that if the bills stop coming then I don’t owe on them any more. I would especially assume this is I sent a check (I am not well off enough to not notice $600 but I could easily lose track of $100 and $600 is a smallish amount to plenty of people).

    2. Boof*

      Yes this: asking them to pay prior to the event without a bunch of late fees etc and letting them spin whatever excuses they want is 100% the high road!

  38. Addison DeWitt*

    If somebody screwed me over in some way, I’d be perfectly happy telling the event organizer, “Actually I will be unable to do the event at X’s house because they screwed me over on a bill– for that house– and I really don’t care to see it or them ever again.”

    1. JustKnope*

      OP shouldn’t lose out on an opportunity to showcase their talents at this workshop just because of an unpaid bill. Pulling out doesn’t serve OP in any way. OP can communicate the issue to the event organizer and still get the professional benefits of participating.

    2. Jellyfish Catcher*

      I’m all for confronting the deadbeat, before and/or privately during the workshop. But don’t bring Drama to the workshop, which will spill over on everyone, look bad and burn bridges.
      Be professional, calm and cordial.

  39. The OG Sleepless*

    Send the invoice. Since it’s been awhile, be prepared for some spluttering, either from confusion or a guilty conscience. I sent two invoices to a client of my husband’s a few months ago, from jobs in 2021 and 2022. They sent this reply, verbatim (we don’t know these people apart from occasional professional dealings, they’re not our buds up the street or anything): “Guys this is insane these files are over two years old please check your records.” A bit of back and forth ensued, where they got more and more worked up and I kept politely replying “if you have any canceled checks or deposit records, please send them so I can update my records.” Eventually they sent a curt email saying “payment issued for invoices X and Y” and sent payment. These are people who, any time we were doing work for them, would send frantic daily/twice daily emails asking for immediate status updates.

  40. Ticotac*

    I would also go with Speak Up, specifically to the organizers.

    I’m going to assume that, in the great scope of things, $600 may not be much for you, and since it’s not much for you it may feel petty to you to keep insisting on getting it back. Maybe you consider this a case of, “if I lend someone five bucks and they don’t give them back, at a certain point it’s just tacky to keep asking for them back no matter how justified I am.” And maybe you’re right! Maybe this is little money in your work!

    If that’s so, however, I would urge you to recalibrate the way you’re thinking about this. You’re not trying to get $600, you’re telling people that this is the kind of person who refuses to pay $600. That is egregious. How am I, as a client, supposed to trust these people? If they won’t pay $600 because “eh, who cares?”, can I trust them to pay $6000 dollars? Can I trust them with any kind of budgeting at all?

    Maybe the client has a perfectly innocent reason for not having paid you. If so, great! Let them justify themselves and clarify that point! Because let me tell you, OP, if they *can’t* justify themselves, then they are not to be trusted.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      You make a great point. Especially if this is any sort of event where people may exchange business information and this former client could possibly reach out to others at the event and not pay them for services rendered.

  41. Falling Diphthong*

    If OP wants to go after payment one more time (and I think she should) I would start polite and businesslike. Allow for the possibility of “Oh. Oh god that was when my mom was in the hospital and everything else collapsed into a blur–I’m so sorry. Here is the check.”

    a) Sometimes an outside disaster you would empathize with is in fact what happened.
    b) If not, a lot of people would like to preserve the fiction that of course that is the only reason they didn’t pay you. They are more likely to do the right thing if they get to save some face.
    c) People are saying “she knows what she did” but it is quite possible she does not. That she is disorganized and, since a few days after the second invoice, has not given the matter a moment’s thought.

  42. Not Mindy*

    I fully agree with the speakup option, especially the “thanks in advance.” As Allison has said before, act like _of course_ they’ll do the right thing!
    However, in reality, that’s more of a do as I say, not as I would do. Because I’d go the seething route. Passive Aggresion thy name is Not Mindy.

  43. I'm an anony-mouse for today*

    If OP does go after the client for payment I think they need to talk to the even organizer before reaching out to the x client. Because if this person is any level of petty (which not paying after several attempts leads me to believe they could be) then I could see them dropping out of the even at the last minute and blaming the OP.

    The event organizer may want to know who they are dealing with.

  44. ragazza*

    One option I’ve used to follow up on late payments from clients is to create an email for an imaginary assistant or accounts person to follow up. OP could use such a tactic to address the issue–it helps make that person the “bad guy.” Also, I don’t know the OP’s gender, but (sadly) using a traditionally masculine name for the fake assistant often results in faster results.

  45. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    I know this is 99.99% unlikely to be the case… but part of me wants this to play out where they never got the bill you sent and you never got the payment they sent (because I’d find that somewhat cosmically amusing).

    This is likely because I hired someone to do some exterior work last Feb, they got around to it in maybe June, and I have followed up several times to get a bill (over a month apart) and have sort of given up on being able to pay them.

    I also hired someone else to fix something about a year ago and they… just never did. So maybe I’m just looking for storybook type closure.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I ended up in front of a judge for one of those in my misspent youth. I got a traffic ticket, sent off a check, and in the subsequent months moved, changed banks, and moved again, and as is the case for many ND 18 year olds, I was not on the ball with my administrivia. So imagine my surprise when it turns out that they never received my check, I never received their notice of my court date for non-payment, and the first I heard about any of that – or the bench warrant issued for skipping the court date – was when Officer Friendly showed up at my parents’ front door and marched me off in handcuffs to go explain the whole mess (through a wreck of bawling) to a very polite judge who helped me get it all addressed pretty much on the spot.

      1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

        Oh my! I’m so sorry that happened (and so glad the judge was very polite)!

  46. Ms. Murchison*

    Seconding Alison’s suggestion to say something to the event organizers. It’s possible this former client has already said something negative to them about LW to cover their ass just in case LW decides to bring it up. But someone that brazen, to just blow you off after $600 of work, I wouldn’t trust to not trash talk you. They think the rules[laws] don’t apply to them.

  47. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    No matter what you decide, I hope you’ll send in an update!!! I am interested in seeing the results either way. :)

  48. WellRed*

    I’d assume OP and the non paying client would be expected to touch base ahead of the actual event. It seems odd they’d co present blindly and with no moderator or event organizer steering the presentation a bit? I also wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the client backs out of this whole boondoggle. But as others have said, never underestimate the chutzpah of people who feel free to take from others.

  49. Hiring Mgr*

    I would say to just be businesslike and do as Alson advises – send an invoice with a note referencing the upcoming event. Unfortunately this is part of freelancing – definitely a good idea to look into getting deposits, etc if you haven’t already

    Don’t do any of the clever/petty things advised in the comments – always better to stay professional.

    Also, while you should obviously have been paid, I’m not clear why you gave up on it after just a couple of attempts.

    1. bird*

      Sometimes getting up and co-hosting an event is seen by others as an endorsement of them as a client, and might result in others being ripped off in the future.

  50. KR*

    I like Alison’s wording and I also wanted to borrow her idea from other articles she’s done. Act like it’s truly casual and low key if you feel that way, and it will set the tone for the whole transaction. Like if you approach it like “You may not realize this but I never got the payment.” with the assumption that of course she would want to fix it and she probably has no clue the payment didn’t go through, she might be more inclined to be like, Oh right here you go. Because you’re giving her an out right away in the conversation and showing that you aren’t accusing and of course she wouldn’t rip you off on purpose, I think you’re more likely to get the money back and have the whole interaction be less awkward. And really for all we know maybe she fat fingered the bank transfer, or she sent the check out and it got lost in the mail, or she was going through some really hard stuff personally and truly forgot. It happens

    1. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

      Agree, letting her save face makes “her paying you” into the path of least resistance. It’s much harder to decline to pay someone for something you bought from them when you’re in-person.

  51. lost academic*

    I have a few thoughts. The most timely and relevant is – you wrote the debt off 3 years prior. If you wrote it off financially, it means you should write it off mentally and emotionally too – in particular since you say you’ve instituted additional practices to limit late payments or other bad debt. If it’s written off, don’t be the one to bring it up.

    But from a business perspective, since consulting and thus payments, payment terms, budgets, debt write offs, etc being my unfortunate responsibility even if no one likes dealing with something like that… I would say that just sending an invoice twice more doesn’t constitute a significant effort to collect a debt. What we encourage here (and basically require) is that after sending a follow up invoice, a conversation needs to occur to determine what the payment problem is because the vast majority of the time it’s something essentially administrative. There’s a problem with the receipt of the invoice, the payment type, some missing information required by accounting – you name it. It’s something easily fixed once a dialogue is started. And while my clients are the ones responsible for paying me, it’s still my responsibility to make sure the payments are occurring, ideally with minimal future time and intervention effort, and that requires fixing the real problem.

    Should you have to do more to collect debts that aren’t paid? No, but at the end of the day you want the money and it’s in your best interest. It sounds like you’ve made changes that have helped in your business and this might not be likely to ever recur, but it’s something to consider for the future.

  52. the Viking Diva*

    “there’s also a dignity and power in standing up for what you’re owed for your labor, and in calmly and steadily asserting what you’re due.”

    this is why I come here!

  53. Boof*

    This is not an excuse but sometimes life gets out of whack; i have rarely missed payments on things (and sending invoices!). I really try not to but i can see both fairly forgivable circumstances (depression, coordinating many invoices/tasks and one slipped, etc) and villainous (a deliberate habit of trying to get away with bilking vulnerable folks). Either way this is a golden opportunity to bring it up again, and while I understand the impulse to just let it go, consider that this person shouldn’t get to profit off work they stole from you!

  54. Raw Cookie Dough*

    During the presentation I would make it seem like I’m about to go public with the non-payment, but then turn it back to the topic at hand, just to make the non-payer squirm, but ensuring no one else has any idea.
    Example – “One of the most frustrating things for me is when people don’t pay….attention to the details in design. Take this vase for example!”
    “It can be upsetting when you call multiple times, and send duplicate emails requesting, no DEMANDING…wholesale discounts on wallpaper!”
    Have fun with it.

  55. Weez*

    OP, before you bring it up to a third party, do yourself a favor and double- or triple-check that you didn’t since receive the payment and mislabel it or similar. That’d be awkward, and potentially disastrous for your reputation.

  56. La Triviata*

    Wasn’t there a letter on AAM from an employee whose manager thought she was being unreasonable in expecting to be paid for working there? I seem to remember that the company had missed paying her for the first pay period, at which point she went to HR and then missed the second pay period, at which point she went back to HR and her manager was pulled in and was indignant that she wasn’t willing to wait for the situation to be straightened out – or work without ever being paid.

    1. Laser99*

      Was that the letter where the boss told the LW she was “not being a good human” for wanting to be paid?

  57. Bluburry*

    I am so genuinely puzzled that this particular project was selected by the organizer. Like …. How did it get selected? If OP is the expert, surely they didn’t recommend that project as one to be workshopped, which makes me think there might be a partnership or potential business happening between the organizer and the project host (or some sort of other professional relationship). That could spell trouble for both the organizer and OP, so option 2 seems like a logical way to go *if that seems to be the case*.

  58. umami*

    I think I would first check with the organizer about the location and client. It’s entirely possible the old client no longer lives there! It would be easy enough to mention the address is familiar because you did some design work in the past and wondered if they are still there.

    1. Bluburry*

      This is an excellent point! I wasn’t assuming the person lived there, that it could be a business or something, but you are absolutely right and the person moving on is entirely possible. But if not, I’d hate for the organizer to be sucked into a potentially bad partnership or business agreement with someone who made a habit of not settling up invoices.

  59. Coverage Associate*

    2 stories about people not paying bills, because it seems like there’s a consensus this is intentional. “Never attribute to malice what incompetence will explain.”

    First, my husband is terrible with medical bills. There’s a lot of shame leading to avoidance in the background, and I didn’t handle things well early in our marriage when I didn’t understand the shame, avoidance, more shame for avoiding spiral. He has definitely received a medical bill 3 times without opening any of them. I could see something similar happening if the OP’s work were a similarly necessary, unplanned expense, like designing a plumbing or electrical fix instead of an art presentation. I know it doesn’t change the outcome for the OP, but it’s not like my husband is ever trying to stiff the doctors, just trying to impossibly figure out how to pay them without my knowledge, when we share all bank accounts.

    Second, I don’t usually handle incoming or outgoing money issues at my job for a very large law firm or for my international clients, but I was thrown into these issues when my boss left suddenly. 3 times just sending an invoice really can be on the brief end if there’s any kind of complicated process on the client’s end. Like does this client have a personal bookkeeper or someone else who handles paying bills? Does the bookkeeper need a W-9? Again, my old boss was not a jerk regarding bills that weren’t even his personal responsibility, it’s just that forwarding that email invoice to the right person (which may require looking up or even calling around to figure out who that is), then responding to that person’s questions, maybe following up with the service provider to get the answers. Like with my husband, even in the professional context, it can feel like a lot.

    Finally, I always try to pay my bills on time. Most are set to auto pay. But the ones that come only by regular mail, or the ones that go to a lesser used email, or the ones that were on auto pay until randomly they weren’t…yeah, those ones can fall through the cracks.

    I know that background doesn’t change OP’s situation, except maybe to give more scenarios where the customer really wants to pay, it’s just a mental sticking point.

    1. Nameless Faceless A/R Drone*

      Yes, I’ve done accounts receivable follow-up for a small-scale service business and have run into the W-9 thing and needing to be set up as an official vendor in their system. It’s good to just automatically send a W-9 with your bill or have the forethought to ask about any vendor requirements during the service selling/contract signing process. Also, the person requesting the service may not be the responsible party or department that pays the bill (enter the accounts payable, bookkeeper & the purchasing dept). That can also lead to the emailed invoice sitting in someone’s inbox somewhere even after rebill reminders. We had an existing client change their system of having site GMs pay bills to an offsite bookkeeper system and we didn’t know about it. Going through the GM after that was worthless (although he always paid in a timely manner when he was making the payments himself). He said he was forwarding the invoices, but some blackhole thing was happening with that on their end. Had to do extra legwork to get the bookkeeper’s email and phone # to send the bill directly to them. Then you have larger corps with set 30, 60, 90 net pays, and if you don’t have your invoice in before their set check runs or ACH electronic bank batch payouts (*with* the P.O.# on your invoice) your bill payment will very likely get kicked down the road until their next pay cycle. It also helps to make it easy for yourself to be paid by sending a pay link or some other electronic method vs. someone having to physically write and mail you a check. And that’s with private companies. It gets more interesting when you deal with government entities.

      1. Nameless Faceless A/R Drone*

        I also worked in a company in the early 2000’s where the CFO of a global manufacturing company would purposefully hold back vendor/contractor payments for whatever reason. You would have thought the money was coming out of his own bank account. When the A/P person (a very nice pastor’s wife) would get the past-due follow-up calls he would tell her to tell them that we never received their invoice and to fax it (another delay tactic when faxing was a bigger thing). A/P lady haaaaated that as she hated lying. Sometimes in-house shenanigans like that can be at play.

  60. Calamity Janine*

    so this is why Alison is the professional expert and i am not, because my advice would be to go and do the event with a big smile and at some point say

    “this is such a beautiful build and it really helped me become the professional i am today! not because of technical details, no… i got a lesson in how some folks will just stiff you for money owed. so that’s now why i charge half up front!”

    laugh uproariously, give a friendly slap on the back to this monument of audacity in the shape of a human. watch as they turn several degrees of red.

    that’s when you sweetly inquire – with the same jolly smile – if they’d like to settle the bill now that your work is so good it’s getting a tour to ooh and ah over it. you can even generously state you won’t be charging interest! (aren’t you just saintly for that, eh?)

    now, if this was a mistake, this is too cruel. it’s also not good business sense in terms of actually getting the money, because you are exchanging ever seeing a whisper of that cash for cold hard social consequences and embarrassment for them. there are many reasons to not do this.

    just maybe think of it and smile, especially if you think the person who owes you cash is going to have nightmares about this very scenario now that you’re closely in each other’s orbit.

    1. An Australian In London*

      If all of this is done after following Alison’s advice and requesting payment before the workshop, I don’t have any issue with it. Absolutely call them out in front of workshop attendees. It’s a teachable moment for everyone.

  61. Fez Knots*

    I really, really (really!) hope this LW takes Alison’s advice to heart and goes for option 1. Being paid for your work and asserting the value of your labor is such a powerful thing.

    My guess is that this isn’t this client’s first non-payment rodeo…

  62. Working*

    Just to loop back to the exposure issue.

    If you agree to do the presentation, and then try to recover the debt, I am 100 per cent sure the client will argue that the exposure was the payment.

    So my suggestion would be to decline to do the presentation unless you’re paid.

    Or, if you really want to di the presentation, write off the debt and forget about it.

    But don’t dtdohe presentation in the hope of being paid. It won’t happen.

  63. OP*

    Hi – OP here. Thank you, Alison, for publishing my letter and for your constructive, supportive and flexible response. Thank you, commenters, for chiming in with your thoughts, humor and encouragement. In parallel to writing to AAM, I also talked with a sibling and with my partner about this. They echoed what has been said here: Sibling said I should continue trying to get paid and partner said I should at least let the organizer know about the situation.
    I have emailed the organizer, using Alison’s script. They are on vacation at the moment and return to work 1.5 days before the event. The timing isn’t ideal, I realize, and it is pretty late to change the schedule or sites, but at least now they are informed.
    Today, based on suggestions in the comments, I checked and indeed, this is the same client. I also confirmed that I have not been paid by this client. I sent the invoice via email from QuickBooks and when I looked at it in there today, I can see that the client viewed the invoice the day I sent it, a day before it was due when I sent a reminder, and then once in 2022 and once more recently in 2023 – perhaps when they realized their and my paths would be crossing via this workshop.
    I am getting paid by the organization for my role in the workshop, as I’ll be sharing technical information from my expertise. Earlier in the planning process with the organizer, I suggested a particular client project as a possible host site, but it turned out that client wasn’t available on the workshop date. I’ll let you all know how things turn out, and thank you again.

    1. Raw Cookie Dough*

      Thanks for this info, OP! The org may be on vacation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean no one will be checking emails. You might hear from them about this sooner. Good luck!

    2. I Have RBF*

      I sent the invoice via email from QuickBooks and when I looked at it in there today, I can see that the client viewed the invoice the day I sent it, a day before it was due when I sent a reminder, and then once in 2022 and once more recently in 2023…

      So they know it was unpaid, and still haven’t paid it. Unless you get a check in the next few days, I would make a stink. You did not agree to work for “exposure”.

  64. A_Jessica*

    OP No. 1
    There is nothing petty about being paid for work you’ve done.
    Follow Alison’s script & request payment.

  65. Forgetful friend*

    As somebody who regularly lets things fall through the cracks in my personal life due to a stressful job, I’ve learned to be really grateful when someone extends me a courteous and non-judgemental opportunity to make things right like the one Alison drafted. And from the other side, I’ve found it really helpful to assume ignorance instead of malice in my own dealings. They may be a rich deadbeat who stole your work without a second thought, but if they are that’s the type of person who’s rarely shamed by their behavior. Even though it’s more stressful, it’s a great kindness to them to give the client a chance to prove they aren’t.

  66. Karman Hotchkiss*

    I’d like to point out one other potential wrinkle that OP should be prepared for. It’s possible that this person’s home no longer includes the work done by the OP. Or that the homeowner has altered the original work dramatically.

    I see this happen a lot—in my work as a home design publisher and because my husband is a remodeling architect. A homeowner decides they don’t like what a designer has done, so instead of addressing it with the professional they just ghost the pro and hire someone else. Justifying their lack of original payment because they “had to pay to have the work redone.”

    If this has happened, it doesn’t negate the homeowner’s unprofessionalism (and bad manners). But it will create a different kind of awkwardness on the day of the event or in the case of deciding to Say Something. And OP should be prepared for that.

    1. bird*

      If that is the case, it would be odd for the organizers to pair them with the homeowner for the discussion about their work?

  67. SB*

    Oooohhhhh…I really want a follow up for this one. I hope OP spoke up & was able to successfully have that outstanding invoice paid.

  68. OP*

    Hi – OP here. Thank you, Alison, for publishing my letter and for your constructive, supportive and flexible response. Thank you, commenters, for chiming in with your thoughts, humor and encouragement. In parallel to writing to AAM, I also talked with a sibling and with my partner about this. They echoed what has been said here: Sibling said I should continue trying to get paid and partner said I should at least let the organizer know about the situation.
    I have emailed the organizer, using Alison’s script. They are on vacation at the moment and return to work 1.5 days before the event. The timing isn’t ideal, I realize, and it is pretty late to change the schedule or sites, but at least now they are informed.
    Today, based on suggestions in the comments, I checked and indeed, this is the same client. I also confirmed that I have not been paid by this client. I use an online service for invoicing and when I looked at this unpaid invoice there today, I can see that the client viewed the invoice the day I sent it, a day before it was due when I sent a reminder, and then once in 2022 and once in the past few weeks – perhaps when they realized their and my paths would be crossing via this workshop. They know! Today I sent the client an email with Alison’s script and the invoice attached as well as another follow up via the online service.
    A few other explainers:
    I am getting paid by the organization for my role in the workshop, as I’ll be sharing technical information from my expertise. Earlier in the planning process with the organizer, I suggested a particular client project as a possible host site, but it turned out that client wasn’t available on the workshop date. As for letting it go after sending the invoice three times – I asked my business accountant for their advice at the time, as this was my first time experiencing non-payment. The accountant was sympathetic but for the amount, suggested it wasn’t worth legal action. The commenters have offered several in-between options that I’ll keep in mind if needed in the future.
    I’ll let you all know how things turn out, and thank you again.

    1. allathian*

      I hope you get paid, you deserve to.

      At the very least, I assume you’ll blacklist this client and never work with them again, not even for a 50% retainer up front.

      1. Rosacoletti*

        I agree. One of the few non paying clients I’ve had was a relative of a really close friend so I was appalled when I had to chase every payment and then finally one was never paid. I found out later it’s her MO, burning relationships everywhere she goes.

        After about 10 years she got in touch recently, acknowledging there had been ‘some difficulties or confusion’ when we last worked together but she really wanted to work with us again. I told her absolutely not. She’s obviously exhausted her friends of friends goodwill. I think it’s a type of sociopathy.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I hope they cough up the m0ney owed!

      ‘Taking the high road during a storm doesn’t stop you getting any less wet and will probably blow you over in the process’

  69. Angela Zeigler*

    My suggestion (if the other options didn’t pan out) would be to incorporate scenarios about client non-payment into the workshop. Don’t even glance at the co-host. Just calmly, professionally, instruct about non-payment scenarios and the importance of securing deposits because, unfortunately, not all clients will be reputable or respectful of your time and effort.

  70. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    It wouldn’t be the first time that a well-off person refused to pay what they owe to someone whom they assume will be powerless (either financially or emotionally) to to demand that they be paid. In fact, in 2016, someone with a long record of doing just this wound up occupying the Oval Office…

Comments are closed.