There’ll come a point in every business when a customer or client simply refuses to pay. Sorry, but it’s true. It won’t be that the work was below the desired quality, or the service failed to meet their expectations, they’ll just be unscrupulous little so-sos trying to save themselves a buck at your expense. In some cases, you may consider legal action to make the debtor cough up; however, for many businesses, particularly SMEs, the sums involved do not warrant the stress, time and hard work associated with legal action. So, what should you do, if anything, to ensure non-payers get their just desserts? Preventing non-payment with a free company check The prevention of non-payment is certainly preferable to the cure. Thankfully, there are services out there which allow you to delve a little deeper into the histories of prospective clients and customers before you agree to do business. RMonline is one example of a free company check service, which scrutinises past transactions and financial behaviour to enable suppliers to make more informed decisions about who they work with. If the free company check reveals details such as CCJs, insolvencies, late payments and non-payments, would you want to take the risk? Unfortunately, there are plenty of times when non-payment comes as a bolt from the blue, with no method of predicting such an unfavourable outcome. So, in this instance, what should you do? Beware a potential lawsuit It’s remarkable that non-payers can sleep at night, but while you’re lying awake broiling with anger, they’re probably fast asleep, without a care in the world. It’s infuriating of course, but the worst thing you can do is to act in anger. An example of an ingenious if perhaps rash response was the reaction of this web designer, who countered her client’s non-payment by taking their website offline and replacing it with an invoice. This might sound like a great idea, but what happens if there’s a legitimate reason for the client’s non-payment? Well, you could find yourself in court. Please don’t try to blackmail your clients The fury rises from deep within and before you know it you’re threaten to blackmail your non-paying clients. That may sound far-fetched, but it became reality for this web developer, who replaced his client’s website with a long, rambling rant, the words of crazed man, along with a demand for payment. Unfortunately for the developer, the client suggested this act was akin to blackmail, and given the circumstances of this particular case, it seems the web developer had probably overstepped the mark. Protect your reputation It can be incredibly difficult not to act out of anger, but you should not lower yourself to the non-payers level. You run a good, honest business and work hard to satisfy your clients’ demands, so please don’t let one non-payment turn you into a bitter, vengeful maniac. Act professionally at all times and pursue the non-payment using legitimately methods. Right, well what should you do? First of all, learn from this lesson and perform due diligence before agreeing to work with any new clients. As noted above, a free company check service can help you lift a company’s corporate veil and look more closely at those working behind the scenes. If it’s too late, and you’re stuck in the middle of a non-payment saga, pursue the client using legitimate channels. Do not threaten them; do not libel them; and certainly do not blackmail them. If the debt is undisputed then you should issue a statutory demand which gives non-payers 21 days to settle payment. Once this period is up, they then face a winding up petition. If that fails to prompt a satisfactory response, then they’re probably just as stupid as you thought they were. How have you resolved cases of non-payment? Have you found a system that really seems to work? We’d love to hear from you, so please your thoughts in the comments section below.