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I am a creative professional that's been having a lot of trouble getting paid by one of my clients - What are my options?

New York, NY |

Client is an arrogant individual with a history of late and delinquent payment - I have outstanding invoices which go back 10 months. The amount he owes me is nothing compared to some of my colleagues, one of which he owes over 300k. I'm afraid that he's stockpiling profits before going out of business and with each passing day my window to take action is closing.

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Attorney answers 6


This sounds like a contract issue, not an ethics issue. I've shared your question with Avvo's contracts law forum, where your question may be seen by more attorneys who practice in this area of the law. I suggest you re-post in the New York contracts forum because contact law varies from state to state. *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***


1. Sue immediately, or

2. Retain an attorney and sue immediately, or

3. Do nothing.


Hire a lawyer right away without further delay.


Do nothing or hire an attorney right away. Waiting is not getting you paid.

If this answer is helpful, then please mark the helpful button. If this is the best answer, then please indicate it. Thanks. For further information you should see an attorney and discuss the matter completely. If you are in the New York City area, then you can reach me during normal business hours at 718 329 9500 or


Yup. You absolutely need to either hire an attorney and file suit or file a pro se suit in small claims, depending on the amount in controversy. Your only other options are to wait it out or just write the debt off as uncollectable. Which is never something a freelancer wants to see happen.

In the future, you may want to start asking this client for partial up-front payments (or full up-front payments) to offset his tendency to not pay in a timely fashion. Or, you know, just STOP WORKING FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T PAY YOU.

No information you obtain from this answer is legal advice, nor is it intended to be. You should consult an attorney for individualized advice regarding your situation. No attorney-client relationship is formed by my responding to your question.


In addition to my colleague's suggestions, if by "creative" you mean that for a fee you provide the client with copyrightable things [logos, designs, photographs, etc. etc.] then one option is to have your own copyright attorney explain to the client that his failure to pay breaches your agreement to transfer to him the copyright in those things or a copyright license to use those things. If those things are vital to his business, but you alone have the right to use them, then threatening to sue him for his use will get his attention right quick. Speak with an intellectual property attorney. Good luck.

The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.

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