Incessant follow-up emails have their time and place, but when it comes to freelancers collecting pay from clients who have stiffed them, a clever new service offers what it hopes will be a more effective option.
Called “Williams&Harricks,” the service charges $3 to send a paper letter, complete with an official-looking letterhead, to the delinquent client.
Though “Williams&Harricks” sounds like the name of a law firm, it is no such thing. The brand was created by And Co, a company that sells software freelancers use to manage tasks like invoicing, expense tracking, and contracts (incidentally, signing up for Williams&Harricks automatically signs freelancers up for a free And Co account). “We were thinking of, what is an easy way for people to get paid? “And Co co-founder Leif Abraham says about the new letter-writing service. “Most freelancers don’t have a lawyer to talk to.”
Freelancers who use Williams&Harricks have the option to send letters ranging from “a friendly reminder,” in which Williams&Harricks writes to a delinquent client, “We would ask for your prompt attention to this matter, and request that the Total amount is paid immediately,” to a “breach of contract” letter, in whichWilliams&Harricks writes:
Neglecting to pay this sum represents a breach of the initial arrangement established. Should legal action be required to resolve your current nonpayment, this letter will be offered as evidence of your unwillingness to meet your legal obligations. You will additionally be held liable for any legal costs in the course of advancing proceedings to court.
Williams&Harricks sends alerts to freelancers when their clients receive the letters by certified mail.
The service’s website is careful to point out that it’s not actually a law firm, and if you look closely, on the bottom of each letter, a small gray footnote explains that “Williams&Harricks is not a law firm and does not provide legal counsil [sic] of any kind.”
“We are not going to go out and enforce payment,” Abraham says. “But there is an idea that there is a brand separate from you as a freelancer, that the letter you are sending is coming from a third party, so it doesn’t damage your relationship with the client.”
Abraham said Williams&Harricks just launched this week, so there are no significant stats just yet, but said And Co “has tens of thousands of members.”
In a survey conducted by the Freelancer’s Union, which has successfully lobbied for a law that helps protect New York City freelancers from being stiffed, 71% of freelancers reported losing money because some of their clients never pay.
Perhaps strongly implying that you’ve hired a law firm, even if the fine print says otherwise, isn’t the most noble approach to this problem. But when aimed at companies that have hired freelancers to do work and then failed to pay them, it’s hard to fault Williams&Harricks for introducing the tactic as an easy option.