How to Respond to Client Refusing to Pay for Services

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Business Owner Only Wants to Pay Half of the Invoice for Custom Work


Submitted by G and conversation shared with permission.

“Thanks so much for getting back to me! So, honestly, I am interested in what Best Practices are for many businesses. After a very negative client interaction in January, I took a step back and resolved to make my policies a little more clear.

I am now experiencing my first difficult client interaction after having communicated these policies, and I’m about to have to enforce them in a way that comes across as an ultimatum. I am anxious and want to make the right decisions, sticking to the policies in place will result in the client either begrudgingly paying what they agreed to, or walking away with nothing. I don’t want to break my policies and settle for half, which is what the client wants.

So, I really just want to streamline the nuts and bolts of my own business, find a way to effectively communicate things with clients, and also my own checklist of crossing my T’s and dotting my I’s would be helpful.

I’m curious how others stay organized with each client being so different, but -without- reinventing the wheel, which I feel like I spend a lot of time doing. So wordy here, thanks for reading, and I hope that made sense!”


Best Practices

Every business has different best practices based on their individual needs. Outlines and topics may be similar but the actual practice will vary. For example, think about return policies which vary from store to store. Because no two businesses have exactly the same service and client your practices will be tailored to the needs of your business. The needs of your business being brand values, financial objectives, service standards, etc.


Getting pushback is a part of business and life. Pushback is a learning opportunity for us. It challenges our confidence and forces us to know our truths and recognize our value. How will others recognize our value and respect our work if we do not stand up for it? You can stand up for your worth and provide excellent service at the same time. It is not an either-or situation.


When making a decision what precedent are you setting? People talk. Think about a pebble thrown in a pond. Your choice will have good and/or bad repercussions. So you have to weigh out both sides and be prepared to face both without wavering.


For 3) a lot of people I’ve talked to have said “if she has a bad experience she will tell everyone”– that’s entirely possible, but also a “what if”- and I can’t run a business on hypotheticals and fear of displeasing everyone.

She ordered $XXX worth of images and wants to cut it down, two weeks later, to $XXX. I’m not pushy in sales, client always decides what they want to buy. I was taken aback when at the end she said she couldn’t pay that day– it’s not happened before. Asked me to send the order in an invoice. So I did. I waited two weeks, as she and I had discussed until she had had time to sort out any financial strains. I reached back out and she wants to cut the order down.

Contract states client agrees to pay for what they order and that all sales are final. I offered a payment plan, with no interest, was declined. Am going to offer it again tonight. The 3 options I was going to present were: 1) pay invoice as submitted without any late fees or issues. 2) take a payment plan, spread out the cost, get images after. Zero interest or extra expense. 3) cancel sale entirely and part ways.

This is custom. I can’t turn around and resell it. I want to give good service and plan on listening and being kind and empathetic, but we went over the contract multiple times together.

I’d rather set the precedent of sticking to my guns, but I don’t want an angry client either.



Agree. I don’t let the threat of negative feedback dictate my business decisions. 🙅🏼‍♀️ bloop bloop 🤣 I meant (referring to setting precedent) if you give her an inch will you also give others an inch?


Feeling a little stuck. She’s flaked on our calls twice and wasted my time– rather I wasted my own time. I’m not sure how to deal with negative feedback should that happen, but yeah. My husband thinks I should settle– uh, no! I am so glad you agree with that, truly!



You are running a business. I don’t care what she chooses to do with her money or business. It is a contract she signed. Big girl pants. You are being kind to give her choices after the fact.

In the future revisit your policies and processes so you can reduce this type of predicament.

The flaking on calls shows she doesn’t respect you.

**Note: When a client does not have the courtesy to show up to appointments it says they do not value your time. This is made worse when it is a fellow small business owner who doesn’t show up or shows up late. Life happens and everyone can find an excuse, but that still doesn’t make you more important than the other person. Respect and professional courtesy are a two-way street. How you treat someone else’s business reflects on your character.


❤❤ If I could go back and redo it I would have her sign the order right then that evening and demand at least a small deposit. ❤ Thank you for your level-headedness. And I agree. At first, I was afraid she wouldn’t want to work with me again– maybe I don’t want to work with her if she’s so disrespectful? She loved her images, she required lots of time retouching to her specifications, and I deserve to be paid.


I agree with the response to require a deposit at time of contract. Especially when it is custom work. She could also require payments through the process with final payment at time of delivery.

If the client refuses to pay, you do have additional options for recourse. The information below is not legal advice.

  1. You can send frequent reminders for payment. Check your state’s collection laws first.
  2. You can send a letter of intent to report the debt to a credit bureau or seek help from a collection agency or lawyer.
  3. You can file with your local small claims court. There is a fee and most times you can represent yourself. It may be worth the research.
  4. Contact an attorney for additional options.

There is no wrong or right answer as it will be different for each business. Unfortunately, many of us learn exactly what works best the hard way. If we learn it the hard way, take the lesson and adjust accordingly.

“If it happens once it’s a mistake. If it happens twice it’s a choice.”


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