What do you do if a client doesn’t pay you?

Home Forums Performing What do you do if a client doesn’t pay you?

Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
  • Author
  • #62393

    @Kathy Saffel


    Did you have a contract and/or collect a deposit? This thread interests me because I don’t use a contract, and I’ve never gotten stiffed…but I came close a couple of times. I’d like to know what people do. Seems like it would be a lot of trouble to go to small claims court.


    I ALWAYS have a contract. I get 20% down with the return of the contract and the balance is due 1 week prior to the event. I don’t care if it’s my grandmother, friend or whoever, that’s how it works for me. Everyone has ALWAYS understood this and I’ve never had any problems being paid. If we are at the one week deadline for payment . . . well, no money . . . no harpy.


    I usually get 50% down and ask for the rest at the event. I’ve had one wedding where the check bounced. After several calls and email which weren’t returned and appointment was made to bring out cash, but wasn’t kept. More calls, emails and letters were not responded too, so I decided to chalk it up as a bad experience. At least I had 50%! I partly faulted myself, since the check got tucked in the wrong pocket and was not deposited until a couple of months after the wedding.


    Sylvia- working without a contract is not a good idea. Aside from the issue of getting your money, a contract spells out what you have agreed to do, how much time you have agreed to play, the hours you have agreed to start and stop, etc. In other words, all of the details of the job. Sooner or later you’re going to have the client from hell who says that you were supposed to do this that or the other thing and you have nothing written down.


    This has only happened to me twice in thirty years, and both times were very surprising. One client was a chapel of national historical significance and the other a major university. I have never had a problem with a private individual failing to pay, in all my years of playing and performing. In the two cases I mentioned, my pleas for payment appeared to fall on deaf ears, until I finally sent each a letter saying I would not have expected such unethical conduct from their institution. That did the trick and both finally paid, months late.


    To answer Carl: The area where I live is probably not like anyone else’s. I’ve worked the same way 31 years. I would guess that newer people working this area DO use contracts, but I don’t know or care. We’re very close to Mexico, and most people are Hispanic. At the wedding, the bride’s dad usually has a wad of bills in his pocket, of which he peels off enough, or the best man or someone comes to me with my envelope. No one even asks for a receipt. I usually meet the bride at a consultation, and I request that payment be made at the event. I tell them I prefer cash because it works so well at HEB and Walmart. The exception is a function at the university or a place that requires an invoice and pays with a check. In the old days, it would all just be done by phone. Now there is lots of competition, web sites (of which I have none), etc. As for details of the job…well, sometimes the people are coming from Mexico, or the wedding’s in a place that’s a little hard to find, or they have to wait for one of the relatives to show up, or (this happened last week) during the prelude, the bride’s ring was dropped (by the kid in charge of it) in the grass, and it took everyone feeling around in the grass for about 20 minutes to find it….so it could start late, but that’s just life. A JP can get the ceremony over with in a flash, but a pastor…well, he might talk on and on. Of course, the church weddings are mostly Catholic, so the time frame is there, but sometimes even they start late. A plug for my book…if you read it, you’d probably get the flavor of what goes on here. I know you folks in big cities can’t work like that, so I’m not a model for anyone…I just made the previous post for the reason I gave…I’m curious…what if they DON’T get paid…what do they do about it?


    I have had a few clients TRY to do this, but very unsuccessfully. That is 1) due to my contract, which includes their name, the groom’s name, and often the parents’ names. I also ask for a contract for the day (usually a friend or relative) that I can contact in case of emergency. That is also there as 1 more point of contact. On top of that, I almost always get the name of the minister and his contact info. If there is a coordinator, I get their info. All of this seems excessive to the bride, but if and when they try to stiff me (which has only happened 1 out of every 100 gigs), I have several means in which to get in contact. I have been know to email/call the brides minister, family, and even the grandmother one time. Believe me, clients may think they are going to pull a fast one, but they don’t get away with it.

    Also, I actually try to collect the money 2 weeks prior, but some clients just dont mail you the check, and say they will have it that day. The area I usually see is that they give you a check, but it doesn’t have sufficient funds. I always try to encourage my clients to pay 2 weeks in advance so that they don’t run out of money before they pay me. Also, I don’t accept out of state checks the day of, nor do I start playing without money in hand (that’s easier said than done). Good luck


    The rates vary from city to city, so you should probably check with the harpist who you are filling in for and ask what he or she is getting paid. Don’t forget to charge extra for cartage, if this is the norm in your city.

Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.