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I was working as a freelancer during my free time for a client overseas, I was programming in a framework that isn't very popular, so there aren't many programmers doing freelance for this particular framework.

I did a few jobs for him and his company over the past two years and I hade never had a problem with him paying me.

The last work i did for them was in November of 2019. I made an invoice and send it to him, due January of 2020.

I waited two months and received no answer. Then COVID hit Europe.

A month and a half ago he asked me for a new invoice in order to make the payment, I sent the invoice but he has stopped responding to my messages.

I submitted two invoices so far and have received no payment. I am sure that he and his company continue to work because they post regularly in the forum of this framework.

How can I proceed?

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    Talk to a lawyer
    – mmmmmm
    Jul 13 '20 at 16:26
  • Get a lawyer. Having a lawyer is cost of doing business for every freelancer.
    – Philipp
    Jul 14 '20 at 10:02
  • Where are you and they located? As a legal question, this may affect things.
    – Unfair-Ban
    Jul 15 '20 at 3:23
  • You're almost certainly completely screwed unfortunately. It happens to everyone. This is the reason working freelancers ONLY work on a payment in ADVANCE basis.
    – Fattie
    Jul 15 '20 at 13:02
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Considering you have had an existing relationship that previously worked, and that your client asked for a new invoice, it seems he has an honest intention to pay, but it is currently difficult for one or multiple reasons.

Submit another invoice with a late fee included, and a schedule for additional late fees. At this point, submitting invoices with the same amount ad infinitum tells your client there is no penalty for neglecting to pay you, and he will kick the can as long as he faces something more pressing. Adding late fees makes ignoring you cost something; he will likely address it sooner than later.

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  • The main problem in continuing to make invoices without charging them is that in my country this has a high maintenance cost. It is possible that the state interprets that I am having income for this and will charge me other taxes that are quite large
    – LizardStd
    Jul 13 '20 at 18:59
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    @LizardStd You will be charged additional taxes for sending a "second/third/final notice" invoice? As if each notice is an independent work/compensation agreement?
    – buckminst
    Jul 13 '20 at 19:49
  • the goverment controls the amount of each invoice independently of the invoice cause. And they tax you for this, i know it sounds hard to believe but my country have laws and politics hard to believe
    – LizardStd
    Jul 13 '20 at 20:30
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    @LizardStd Sorry to hear that. It sounds like you have some pretty tough obstacles to navigate. Could you send them a reminder and refer to the previous invoice at the same time informing them that you will start to charge late fees at a given time? Or does that run into the same problem?
    – buckminst
    Jul 13 '20 at 21:16
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    These aren't new invoices they are reminders and/or duplicates. You should title them as so and refer to your original invoice. Thus there is only one invoice. At least that is what my phone provider bills say.
    – mmmmmm
    Jul 14 '20 at 8:32
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Find out what legal jurisdiction this falls under, your country or their country, and then send a Demand for Payment letter to the client based on whatever jurisdiction this falls under. If you're so inclined you can engage an attorney to advise you. In most cases, at least in the US, your only legal recourse is to sue them.

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    Thanks for the answer. I don't want to involve lawyers because the cost of the job doesn't justify it. The work done was a small project so it would have more cost to continue with legal actions at the value of the work itself
    – LizardStd
    Jul 13 '20 at 18:53
  • Some jurisdictions also have "small claims court", which deal with things on the low end of the spectrum. In some instances, you would not even attend with a lawyer. Jul 14 '20 at 11:54
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I think a lawyer will get very pricey because it is international. Chances are you're going to need a lawyer in the country that it happened, rather than a lawyer in your current country.

I assume when you say "overseas" and you speak of Europe that you are actually in the USA. In the USA, a little different state-to-state but generally the same process is that when you default on a contract with non-payment, the law office would put it in with their collections department. First they ask the party to pay the cost with a demanding letter, then if they don't respond after a time, they get sent to the court for a judgement. It usually takes 60-90 days pre-COVID, but today with the courts backed up, it might take even longer.

Now internationally it might be the same process in other countries, but across nations generally you talk to a lawyer from the country where the person default. They would find that person, ask them to pay then if they don't, I imagine the process is similar to USA.

However, since it is international, you're talking about a pretty high sum value here. You pay conversion charges, etc. So a simple $200 fee might turn into $500 or more when you do conversions and all that good stuff.

My thought is try to talk to a lawyer in the USA. Keep in mind lawyers might consult for free but generally speaking it might cost $250 an hour just to talk about something. Some places are really nasty about it and insist you pay up front before even talking to the lawyer. So shop around.

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At this point, all you can do is resubmitting the invoices, and stop coding for them until you receive payment. IN THE FUTURE,

When working for overseas/out of country clients:

  1. NEVER deliver source code until the final payment has been delivered
  2. Always have a "kill switch" in your code that you can activate in the event of non-payment. (time stamp, value set at a URL that you control, et cet)
  3. Always have a contract
  4. Be familiar with the laws of that country
  5. Do not remove the kill switch until you have final payment
  6. Know where to go to file a complaint in that country
  7. Price the possibility of getting stiffed into your bill, then lower rates for clients who establish a reliable record of payment with you.
  8. Even when they establish a reliable record of payment, don't forget steps 1 through 6
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    "Always have a "kill switch" in your code that you can activate in the event of non-payment. (time stamp, value set at a URL that you control, et cet)" This may be illegal to trigger, I would carefully check with a lawyer before implementing, not to mention using, anything like that. I know that it seems like a power move, but if you disable work you did for someone over a delayed payment, you can be in trouble in some places. Also what if someone else triggers it? Just a bad idea. Jul 13 '20 at 23:03
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    @TymoteuszPaul even loan companies are installing them on cars, it's a common practice, and it's also why I included point #4 Jul 13 '20 at 23:08
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    @Old_Lamplighter that's a whole other situation between installing a backdoor into software and having insurance-led device in your car. Unless OP is selling hosting, triggering it may actually be even as bad a criminal offense in UK and probably a lot of USA (you are crippling someone else system without authorization, which is rarely proportional to a late payment or other disputes). So I would suggest to at least markup this point with a big warning that this may be illegal in your country, and for sure drop the "always" from it. Jul 13 '20 at 23:11

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