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HOWTO: Get a contract employer to pay you

A friend of mine just showed me by example some techniques for getting a delinquent contract employer to pay for work performed. Here's my retelling and condensation of her great tips. Disclaimer: I AM NOT A LAWYER! Any advice I give is the result of drunken hallucinations and should be ignored for your own safety...


  • Make sure you get some kind of letter of work in writing up front, even if all it says is that there is an agreement for you to contract/consult.
  • Make sure to get a commitment up front from the company on their billing cycle. Are they net 30 days? If so, there's no point in bugging them before day 31. Remember, once you've agreed to work for them, your bargaining power will be greatly diminished. Be sure to get the terms you want first.
  • Invoice frequently and reliably. Be careful to retain copies of all invoice letters.


  • Never work way ahead of your pay. If you find yourself owed more money than you could afford to lose, stop work until your outstanding invoices are honored.
  • Don't be shy about asking for your money. Make a real effort to be talking to the person who has the power to give it to you.
  • My friend explained that if the employer was unable or unwilling to pay, she'd at least like a letter from the contractor saying the money was owed, so that she could either turn the debt over to a collection agency or write it off. This apparently got the employer's attention.
  • I believe that it is also possible to obtain a "Mechanic's Lien" on the employer's real property. I have never done this, but it may be as simple as wandering down to the courthouse and getting a form.
  • Things to never, ever do include taking employer's property "to cover the debt" or sabotaging employers' work either as coercion to pay or as revenge for non-payment. These things are illegal amd will get you in trouble.

Rmember, you can't win them all. Sometimes you just have to walk away before you get mired deeper. Hopefully, some of this will help you get there less often.