Sad dog

In a survey of nearly 500 of its freelancer and micro-business customers, we discovered that sick pets, fake illnesses and a CEO’s “sailing holiday” have all been used as genuine excuses by clients for why they had not paid outstanding invoices.

The top 10 outrageous excuses for late and non-payment included:

  • Can I just buy you a pint and call it quits?
  • Our chief executive is still on his sailing holiday
  • I have been in hospital for 2 weeks to have my tonsils taken out (they hadn’t)
  • My cat is sick
  • My dog ate your invoice
  • Your invoice was unethical
  • I have no money left, but you’ll get what you’re owed if you work on my new project. And move with me to Qatar.
  • You didn’t chase me enough for payment
  • (to a professional photographer) The photograph you took is of me, so I don’t need to pay you
  • I referred you to a friend, so I thought that would mean you wouldn't charge me.
Other unusual excuses highlighted in the poll included one client who invented entirely new, fake contracts with additional non-payment clauses in them, and another who copied work that had been completed for them and then claimed that they had done it themselves. One client even claimed bankruptcy as an excuse for not paying when, in fact, they had actually sold all their assets and fled to another country.

The survey also uncovered the most common excuses for late and non-payment, which included:

  • I didn’t end up using the work you produced, so I’m not paying you
  • I don’t have the money to pay you
  • I haven’t received your invoice
  • I’m waiting to get paid by a client and can’t pay you until then
Late and non-payment is a huge issue for people who run their own businesses, and our research shows just how many awful and ridiculous excuses clients give for not settling their debts.

We found that many clients claim they didn’t receive an invoice or say that they don’t want to pay up because they didn’t end up using the work that they commissioned. And some even tell flat-out lies about their financial or personal circumstances, just to get out of paying what they owe - and that’s unacceptable.

Very few micro-business owners can afford to wait months, or even years, to get the money they’re owed, so it’s vital to chase up late-paying clients as soon as possible. Send frequent reminder emails, call clients regularly, review any relevant late payment legislation and check what kind of debt recovery or small claims options are available to you if your client still won’t pay. Otherwise you’ll just be putting your business’s cash flow - and potentially its future - at risk.

By Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent