When you bring someone on as a client, you might expect things to go a bit like this: you’re hired to do a job, you do the job, you send an invoice, and you get paid. And, while most of your couples and client relationships will play out like that (hopefully with a lot of fun and creativity along the way!), sometimes you get to the end of this list and find yourself hanging. Specifically, you find yourself wondering if invoices are legally binding because that invoice you sent hasn’t been paid (we’re sorry, by the way.) So, before you make your next move, let’s dive in and make sure you’re clear on whether an invoice is a legal document as well as what you can do if a client hasn’t paid one.
Are invoices legally binding?
The short answer is no. Because an invoice itself isn’t a legal document, even though it does serve as an important record of the agreement between you and your client about the scope of work and their obligation to pay for it. It’s basically a request for payment—not a legally binding one, unfortunately.
That’s why contracts are so important in any kind of creative or business agreement. A contract is the legally binding document that states the obligations and expectations of both parties involved. It’s essentially your insurance policy in case something goes wrong or if one party isn’t holding up their end of the bargain (as might be true right now for you). So while the invoice you sent to your client isn’t legally binding, you should have the leverage you’re looking for if you sent and signed a contract with them (one that included the scope of work and payment schedule).
Is an invoice a contract?
Since invoices are not considered to be legal documents, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to read they are not contracts either. That’s because an invoice is a request for payment and does not legally bind the client to pay it. A contract, however, is the legally binding document that can be enforced in court if needed.
So, when you’re signing a new client, it’s imperative that you send a strong contract and that It is signed before you start doing any of the work. That way, if you don’t receive payment for the work you’ve done, you have a legal leg to stand on.
Why you’re really here…what to do if a client won’t pay your invoice
When a client won’t pay your invoice, the best (and most professional) move is to first try to resend the invoice with a note that it is due. This can be with or without late fees (if you’ve included them in your contract, of course) but should include a clear statement about it being past due. If you get no response or no payment, our next suggestion is to ask if they would like to split payments up—but only if you are comfortable doing this. They may be having cash flow issues or simply falling behind on their payments. Either way, it’s important to start by engaging in conversation and discussing what the best solution could be for both parties.
If negotiation and conversation don’t get you anywhere, your next move is to consider taking legal action. This could range from a demand letter or small claims court if the amount owed is minor or a lawyer if it’s more serious. Just be mindful that taking this next step requires that you have a record of the agreement between you and the client like a signed contract, proof of when payment was due, and any other pertinent information. This is why having a clear contract with payment terms and expectations in writing from the start is so important—it can be your saving grace when a client won’t pay an invoice.
In the end, we understand how frustrating it can be to not get paid for your hard work. So as you find a path to payment with this situation, we also suggest making sure you’re set up on a platform that makes it easy to make it all legal—like Rock Paper Coin! Our suite of business tools includes online contracts, invoices, and payments. Get started with a free 30-day trail here!
Hungry for more intel about contracts? Head over to the Resources page in your RPC account for sample contract clauses and more!
Please note: While the RPC team is pretty darn knowledgeable in all aspects of events, we are not legal advisors and this article should not be used as legal advice.