What to do with People that Owe Me Money?


questions and answersThis post is part of the weekly Q&A section. Just use the contact form if you want to submit a question.

Bilingual Blogger asks:

Hi Daniel,
I have a question that is very timely in light of the current economic climate. It’s about professional blogger etiquette and how to handle non-payment for posts.

Another blog in my niche approached me a few months back about becoming a regular contributor to his blog. He said he was willing to pay. I agreed and filed 14 posts on time and with no problems. For the past month, I’ve been trying to get paid. He owes me over $500. I’ve heard several excuses mixed in with promises of a payment “next week.” Finally today he told me that he doesn’t have the money and that he will try to pay me within the next 30 days, but obviously I’m not counting on it.

So, my questions are the following:

Should I delete all my content from his blog or should I let it stay there? (There is another contributor to his blog who I know has been paid because she told me so. Also, he had given me a username and password to his blog so that I could write my posts directly, so that’s how I would be able to delete them.)

On one hand I think it is not right that he has had the use of tons of original content that I spent several hours writing specifically for his blog. But on the other hand, I don’t want to burn any bridges since the niche I’m blogging in is kind of a small circle of the same people.

All of my entries on his blog have links back to my blog, so at least there’s that benefit, right? Although, to tell you the truth, the traffic I’ve gotten from his blog has been minimal.

So, what do you recommend? Should I send him an email notifying him that I’m deleting my posts and he doesn’t have to worry about paying me? Say nothing for now but wait 30 days and then delete my posts if there is no payment? Or just leave everything as it currently is (meaning leave my content on his blog)?

That is a tough question. As you correctly pointed out, any action that you take has benefits and drawbacks.

My preferred course of action with any dispute or problem is always the friendly one. That is, I try to talk with the other party to see if we can come to a solution that is good for both of us.

Why do I prefer to work in this fashion? First of and foremost because it is business, not personal. If someone owns you money, it is probably because he really is in a tough financial situation, and not because he does not like you or wanted to fool you.

Of course there are all sorts of scammers around. But even for them it is business. They are just trying to make money the easy way.

When you have a friendly response to problems, most of the times you will be able to solve them without further head aches. If you get aggressive right from the beginning, on the other hand, you will make dialogue harder, and if you take actions, you can be sure that the other party will retaliate and try to harm you too. In the end both of you will lose. Lose money. Lose rankings. Lose credibility. And that is regardless of who was right and who was wrong to begin with.

The only situation where I would not try to settle friendly first is when someone deliberately tries to hurt my business. For example, if someone stole the content from one of my products (say an ebook) and tried to resell it to make money, I would get lawyers on the matter right away (and I would try to make as much damage as possible).

Going back to your question, I would suggest for you to wait the 30 days and then see whether you will get paid or not. If you don’t, try to talk with the person to find a possible solution. Negotiate to receive part of the payment in money and part in advertising, spread the payment in several months and so on.

If you can’t get paid no matter what, and if you get the impression that the other party is in bad faith, then yes try to minimize your losses by getting your content back and using it somewhere else.

In the future, though, try to avoid entering into similar situations. Do not deliver your services or goods before you get the payment, unless you trust the other person 100%.

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24 Responses to “What to do with People that Owe Me Money?”

  • tony

    LOL — My grandfather was a plumber —

    When he would finish a job he would get paid. If he did not get paid at that moment he went up on the roof and dropped a ball down the sewer stack.

    Now when a person would do the dodo and flush the toilet would plug all the time . The customer would call and complain — He would say — Pay the bill and i will fix your problem.

    Nuff said — yall can take it from there.

  • medyum

    I am in the same situation currently, awaiting payment from another webmaster..I too will go for the 50/50 rule next time…

  • Cheap iPhone 3g

    It’s horrible when the other person involved dosn’t hold up on their end of the bargain but you make the effort and keep your side. Glad you got paid though, good tips.

  • Tyrone

    Well I think money is not greater than relations. But if someone is taking your unfair advantage then forget the relation and think about money.

  • Mr. I

    @ Bilingual Blogger Finally, You got your payment! Happy to hear that. 🙂

  • Bilingual Blogger

    Thanks, Daniel, for addressing the question.

    I’m the person who sent in the original question and who had this problem. Normally, I would’ve demanded full-payment upfront or a 50/50 arrangement, but this blogger who I had the problem with initially hired me to be a permanent contributor to his blog with the arrangement being that I’d get paid monthly for x number of entries.

    Anyway, here’s the update:

    It took 3 months but I finally got paid yesterday, on March 6, 2009, for work I had completed during the fall of 2008. But getting that payment was like pulling teeth. A difficult and unpleasant experience. Hindsight is 20/20 but here are some of my “lessons learned” from the experience:

    1). Just because someone has a great-looking web site, with all the bells and whistles, doesn’t mean that its owner has money. As my mom says, “Champagne tastes, beer pocket.”

    2). Just because someone is European, doesn’t mean that they are automatically trustworthy, act with integrity and are flush with cash.

    3). Just because someone comes recommended by somebody else does it mean that the way they acted with that other person is a guarantee of how they will act towards you.

  • Ajith Edassery

    That’s a real predicament man… I am sorry to hear this. There are losers out there who do such things and because of the recession gripping harder, one could expect more such issues.

    As many others above suggested, it’s always good to take some advance towards mobilization and get partial payments as the work progresses. Never wait till the end to receive the payment in bulk.

  • Dave

    When I ran a local carpet cleaning buisness and people wouldn’t pay. I would pay them a visit at about 9 or 10 pm and say “I was in the area and thought I would stop by and collect on my bill to save you the inconvenience of having to send a check” in a polite manner of course.

  • Tom – Home Business Tips

    25% of the payment in advance and 75% at delivery is working for me.

  • iCan’t Internet

    I am in the same situation currently, awaiting payment from another webmaster.
    I too will go for the 50/50 rule next time…

  • Pet Lizards

    You should ask yourself is this a relationship you can afford to destroy for a little bit of money? In other words will you do more damage to him or yourself if you start doing stuff like deleting the content? Maybe you should ask him to remove it until he has made payment, or to remove half of it. That way you show you’re willing to work with him but still expect payment.

  • Mr. I

    I agree to Samar, demanding for 50% amount before start is alright. Whenever I have some kind of web related work to do, I make sure I have been paid 50% amount.

  • Blogger Tips

    thats very hard to learn there are blogs and webmasters effected by economical problems even on web, cos l was thinking the only folder of eco problems cant be effected was web and web ads. cos its always live and no need some1s hand to cont development.
    l wish problems solved.
    best luck

  • Dean Saliba

    The only time I’ve ever had people owe me money is when I do webhositng and I have found that if I fire off a short friendly email then 9 times out of 10 they will pay without any problems.

  • Ganesh

    From the beginning of any business transactions, we need to be professional and should not give in to personal favors.

    Being demanding is not wrong, say upfront payment but being very flexible is what sometimes makes problems.

    I would suggest you try to negotiate for amicably settling this. Extreme steps of deleting and stuff would however be futile, if he is really a scammer. Because without acknowledging you, he would put in the contents again.

    Then if amicable settlement doesn’t work, don’t delete the content but ask him to do so for you and if he doesn’t take legal actions. – My personal take…

  • Samar

    Not all bloggers are in a position to demand full payment upfront. But it is possible and well within the bounds of friendly business to demand 50% payment before you start working on the project.

    Another option for Bilingual Blogger is to draft a one page contract for all his blogging jobs that addresses issues such as upfront payment, late payment fee etc.

    This would save the time of explaining your terms everytime.

  • byajero

    Sometimes we are so much to be a friendly person by nature. It means that we dont see the negative side of others. We are just keen to trust almost always because we think that they are friendly too. But in the end there are still two kinds of persons…The scammers and the persons being scammed.

  • Dan @ PowerDosh.com

    @ROW, Using an escrow service is possibly expensive, but then you need to consider how much benefit you get from the extra cost. If you get ripped off too much, it’d be a worthwhile investment.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @eber, thanks for the heads up.

  • ROW

    In the future, though, try to avoid entering into similar situations. Do not deliver your services or goods before you get the payment, unless you trust the other person 100%.

    I learned my lesson the hard way. I did a software project for this guy who used to run a training institute in US.
    He approached me for a project and he needed it v urgently in some 2 days. In the beginning he sounded v nice and he even made some 1/3 payment upfront. I completed the project well within time and he was quite satisfied with it. God knows what transpired after that, he just refused to chat /talk with me. Neither he gave any reply to mail nor to IM.
    Finally I had to resort to BBB. They were also not able to help me much except that his training institute came in the black list of BBB. I also see that his website has been removed (I guess it was not because of my complaint but he might have tried to fool others as well).

    Now I try to take as much precaution as I can, especially while dealing online. Unless I am dealing with some very renowned company, either I take the whole payment upfront or I go for a 3rd party escrow service like escrow.com. Though the fee might be on the tad higher side but it is worth the hassle that I might have to face if the other person tries to act smart.

  • jobucks

    try to talk to the person owe you money in a decent way… do not delete your post

  • Kudzai

    IN BLACK AND WHITE… don’t do a job for someone unless everything is in writing and signed for by both parties even if you trust the person so much.

    That’s a valuable lesson.

  • Eber

    guess its owe, not own.

  • Dintz

    I don’t wanna sound like an ass, but there’s a mistake in the title (Own to Owe)

    Anyways, great read, I’m always having problems with people not paying up

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