Don’t Let a Client’s Money Drama Become Yours


One of the ways I see entrepreneurs staying small (and frustrated) is by not being serious enough about how they manage their receivables in their business. Receivables is simply money that is owed to you. For example, there isn’t a business owner I know who hasn’t had at least one client’s payments become an issue, so if this hasn’t happened to you yet, know it most likely will. However, if you have certain things in place, it will be a lot easier for you to handle these situations, gracefully and respectfully.

So, let’s take a deeper look at that most common scenario: a client is late with their payment. When you address this with them, they tell you their situation and while you can and should listen with compassion, it’s imperative that you not take on the problems that they’re having and make them your own. That doesn’t serve either of you.

While we all can have money issues from time to time, if the client takes no responsibility for it – and yes, even when it seems it’s completely out of their control – then they’re coming from a victim mentality. But you can’t let them make you a victim of their situation as well.

First and foremost, ALWAYS listen to your intuition when signing on a client. You’ll only make the mistake once of not doing so before you regret it and realize taking them on didn’t serve either of you.

But there are also times when this situation comes up with a great client too. While the money situation is still theirs, for you, it’s a boundary issue. And it’s an opportunity to tighten your parameters and policies too.

We need to remember that we are running a business and as a serious business owner, we are entitled to monies owed to us. It’s why having clearly written and signed agreements and a written policies page are so important.

So while it’s the client’s responsibility to pay what’s owed, it’s your responsibility to collect what’s owed. This can and should be handled gracefully and respectfully. And it’s as easy as staying detached from their story and creating a plan to handle the situation.

If you commiserate, let the payment slide, and/or don’t make a plan on how it will be handled, not only will you start to feel resentful, but you’re also enabling the client to continue this disempowering behavior.

This is a perfect opportunity for you to step more fully into being a powerful model and mentor for them. When you’re talking with your client, tell them that you understand that this is a difficult situation for them, and then ask them what they are going to do to resolve it as soon as possible.

I know it feels easier to avoid conflict and commiserate with the client, but I have found that if you do that, the situation just keeps happening until you no longer put up with it. When you’re firm on your boundaries, you respect yourself and your business enough so you attract more and more ideal clients who are a joy to work with. I know this to be true.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this – it’s a hot-button issue for lots of business owners and clients alike, so please leave your comments below.


  1. Alicia,

    This is a great topic, and one that many business owners avoid. I have a 2% per month late fee written into the contracts that my clients sign. Then, when they are late, I remind them that they are about to incur a late fee of 2%, and ask if they can pay within the next 10 days, or should I send a revised invoice with a 2% adder? This is a great trigger to get monies owed, and to also get additional compensation if they are not paying….

    Mary McD

  2. I agree, this will of course come up from time to time – and in my experience it certainly doesn’t need to be an end of the world thing. I’ve always just reached out to someone to say “hey, payment is due (in a nicer way of course) and 9 times out of 10 we get it figured out asap. Even if it means changing payment terms, giving them a bit more time or whatever – really boils down to just having a professional conversation, and standing your ground. Not getting caught up in the drama.

    The only time i’ve had *bigger* issues with payment was when I didn’t pay attention to my intuition. As you said Alicia, there are a couple of times specifically when I knew – at a gut level – that I shouldn’t have accepted someone into a program but I did anyways. And yes, in both cases payment became an issue… but can’t say I was surprised. When faced with that in the future it becomes a matter of me being honest with *myself* in the sense that this person may not be ready for X, even if they say they are (and say they can pay.) If I know otherwise I think it’s my responsibility to both them and my business to refer them to a lower priced option, look at alternatives or simply say no thanks (for now.)

  3. Yes Changing the time payment, I have found to work well and I agree keeping those boundary clear has worked, I had one client that knew the boundaries but for her paying for an appointment she had missed because she forgot and did something else was different and payment was still required. After talking with her she realized that the appointment was for her alone and not available to anybody else.
    Payment was received.

  4. I just went through this again with a client in France that I did not trust my intuition with. I got my money back by the grace of God! I learned something from that; to trust my intuition like you said. But because I live in Greece and the economy here is so bad now, this late payment issue has become a way of life for us all. I don’t get paid by many people now and therefore I can’t pay either. There is no cash flow here in Greece.
    We have changed our policy and but I think a written agreement would be a great idea. No one here does that, believe it or not. I also like the late payment charge of 2%. I will suggest this.

  5. Great Article Alicia!

    I haven’t had an issue with collecting money, but I have had to put policies in place where a client wants to reschedule a session – due to something coming – without paying for it.

    It’s been a while since this has happened, but I explain the policy before they make the decision to work together.

  6. I’m going through this right now. I have a friend whom I have mentored, who just became a client doing a partner workout with her friend. Since they share (time) payment, but are responsible independently, it is critical that we are all on the same page.

    I didn’t follow my procedures and boundaries, and allowed partial payment in advance rather than full. Well, the partner pulled out, and it has taken me a week to collect payment. Although it was handled on both sides with grace, and was paid, still, the stress of asking and the delay of receiving is unnecessary.

    How much do we bring upon ourselves? In my case, this was me. Time to change the policy (I LOVE the 2% late fee), uphold the boundaries, and use wisdom with client selection.

    Great, timely post, A!

  7. I receive all of my fees in advance and if payment is not made by the next session, I politely and respectfully advise that the session is on hold until payment is made.

    Although this initially felt uncomfortable it has been excellent at setting the boundaries and not allowing for clients to undervalue their committment to payment.

    If they are unable to make a session (with prior notice), after having paid, I simply push out the renewal date 1 session so they still get all sessions paid for.

  8. I was JUST thinking of this exact phrase this morning, that I remembered from this valuable article from you. Perfect timing today as I thought about this phrase and wrote to a client about their payment due. Thanks Alicia, it’s all set now!

  9. Peace Be With You!
    Soooo on time this article is!! I have had a very unsettling situation with a client who I had given already lenient terms to pay and now she’s stopped her sessions abruptly and not paid the last half of her payment for the last month. It’s only been 3 weeks but it has truly challenged me and the resentment I have to admit has crept in increasingly…
    I love the 2% rule!!
    Anyone know the general outline for policy, procedures and payments?? I’m sure everyone’s is unique to their business but I can sure use some help with this one!!
    Alicia is there maybe an outline or guide in 21 steps? I don’t remember seeing one…
    Many thanks entrepreneur Angels!! 🙂

  10. Great post Alicia! This is one of the reasons I keep my client’s credit card info on hand and manually charge their cards when payment is due. I never have to worry about check being in the mail or waiting for them to respond. I’m very up front about how we handle payments, and typically don’t have any issues. Since our services are administrative in nature and on a monthly basis, if there ever is an issue with payment, we just suspend our services. We’ve been very fortunate so far and not had anything sticky come up.

    • Thanks!! and absolutely, Terry, that being upfront about expectations is key! We have a primary (and a secondary card) on file to keep the process as seamless as possible for any monthly payments. And checks are for full-pay only. 🙂


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