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If a client refuses to pay after the first invoice for services rendered, what step should I take next?

Napa, CA |
Attorney answers 4


You don't provide much detail, but you might consider filing a small claims lawsuit. You can file such a lawsuit without a lawyer for claims up to $7500. Before you file the suit, you might consider writing a letter demanding payment under the threat of a lawsuit. Check the link below for for information regarding small claims suits.

Disclaimer: This response is for information purpose only and does not constitute a legal advice. This response does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Before you think about suing, check your contract, if you had one, to see if it limits you by agreeing to arbitration or mediation or by sending a notice of breach and giving the other party time to "cure," or suing in a particular court. Also review it for your available remedies. Interest? Late fees? Attorney's fees?

Did your client refuse to pay, or just not pay? Was your invoice payable on receipt, or in 30 days? You need to comply with whatever it provides. Maybe they didn't even get your invoice. So first send them a demand letter citing the contract language, if you had one, or the invoice, if not. Please see the Nolo form linked below.

Your demand letter should outline your claim for the services and everything you get to add to that debt. Send the letter by certified mail, FedEx, registered rPost email (, or some other provable method of delivery so you know they received it. Give them a firm deadline to pay you, or you'll sue them in Small Claims court (assuming the claim is under $7500 or you're willing to waive any excess). Then follow through.

I'm only licensed in CA. Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Well, have you asked the client/customer what the resistance to paying might be. If it is a complaint about the services or if it is an inability to pay, that would be important information to know. There are lots of reasons why you might not be getting paid...there are also lots of free business mediation of which is the CBDC pro bono business mediaiton services.

By Grace...
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No communication resulting herein shall create an attorney-client relationship unless a separate retainer agreement is signed by attorney and client. The information provided is not legal advice nor is it conveyed in the course of an attorney-client relationship, but is intended merely as a general overview with regard to the subject matter covered. You should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel such as any attorney in this office in a subsequent email communication (agreement) and the formation of an attorney client relationship.


There is insufficient information to advise you what to do. For example, what services are you talking about? In some instances, just stopping to render further services will cause the client to pay up.