If I have a client that owes me money for services already rendered, how can I get her to pay legally?

UPDATED: Feb 15, 2011

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If I have a client that owes me money for services already rendered, how can I get her to pay legally?

I own a freelance graphic design firm. One of my clients already has the artwork for a logo and business card I designed. We agreed on a payment plan but every time the date comes near, she makes up an excuse not to pay. This time around, she got very defensive and started attacking my business. How can I give her an ultimatum to receive payment but keep her from sabotaging my business and using artwork that she has not paid for. I would assume I still own the rights on the art since we have not signed an “Assignment of Copyright” contract yet.

Asked on February 15, 2011 under Business Law, Colorado


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Do you have a written contract here (I hope) rather than an oral agreement?  If you do not then this should teach you a valuable lesson.  You can absolutely have an oral contract but trying to collect on the terms can be somewhat difficult.  I think that you may need some legal help here.  What are the terms of payment?  Are they installments?  If they are installments then you may only be able to sue her after each payment date has come and gone unless your contract states that a default allows acceleration.  I would send her a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested stating your agreement and that she is in default.  I would request full payment (again, I do not know the terms of the contract) and state that her failure to pay will result in legal action on your part.  Then seek legal help.  Good luck.

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