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My Client Doesn’t Pay @SavvyCleaner

The client doesn’t pay for house cleaning and claims he forgot to pay. If your client doesn’t pay for maid service, didn’t leave a check, or has no credit card do you work for free or leave?

Today we Ask a House Cleaner how to get paid for house cleaning when the client doesn’t pay. 

Angela Brown, The House Cleaning Guru insists on using worksheets as a built-in payment system. Your worksheet is your invoice with price and guarantee. 

Our show sponsor is HouseCleaning360 is a referral database for your next savvy cleaner. 

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Hey there, I’m Angela Brown, and this is Ask a House Cleaner. This is a show where you get to ask a house cleaning question, and I get to help you find an answer.

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Question: My Client Doesn’t Pay

 Today’s question comes from many house cleaners again and again and again. There’s no system in place for them collecting money and the client doesn’t pay. Do they stay at the customer’s house or do they leave?

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Answer: Know Your Payment Rules

Payment Rules - Client Doesn't PayBefore you ever meet the customer, you need to understand what your rules are for payment. You can’t explain them to a customer if you don’t understand them yourself. 

Let’s say that your rule is that you take checks. And you expect a check on the kitchen cupboard every single time you show up. Then that is the rule you will introduce to the customer when you do your initial walk-through.

The customers are hiring you. They are expecting to give you money in exchange for your services. They are not expecting you to come for free.

You Didn’t Ask For Money So Client Doesn’t Pay

Satisfaction Guarantee Client Doesn't PayI got the call again about the customer who “forgot to pay”.  Let me back up a step.

There is a really great girl in our network we’ll call Maggie, who for some reason refuses to use worksheets. She has no way of verifying the work she’s done with the client and in turn, the client frequently doesn’t pay her. When you use the worksheet, you’re checking off the various tasks you’ve completed, so the client knows what you have done that day during your house cleaning session.

The tasks you check off are what you are guaranteeing in your satisfaction guarantee for that day. Your worksheets are also your invoice, a list of your rules and regulations, (which clearly state that you need to be paid each visit, or paid that evening via PayPal – and the email address at which they can send you money.) Your worksheet is also your receipt where you make a note that you got paid, or you didn’t.

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Use the Worksheet for Your Guarantee

When you’re at the customer’s house, you check off what you’ve done on your worksheet. What you have done on your worksheet activates your satisfaction guarantee. That is what you are guaranteeing for today.

If you did not check something off, this means that you did not have time. 

So the customer can’t call you back and say, “Hey. You got to come back and clean this,” because you never cleaned it in the first place. Does that make sense?

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Don’t Leave the Customer in the Dark

So you arrive at their house for the initial walkthrough. If you never bring up how much you’re going to charge or your payment options, it leaves them in the dark. 

You might say, “Who would do that?”, but it actually happens a lot. There are house cleaners that never explain their payments. And when they don’t get paid, they’re surprised.

Did you send them an invoice? “Well, no.”

Did you have them leave a check on the cupboard for you? “No. I just assumed that they would.” No!

I Rant for This Reason

Maggie is an awesome house cleaner with a stupid hang-up. She won’t use worksheets which could solve all of these problems. Here’s what she does instead:money down the toilet for clients who don't pay (I provide private troubleshooting and consulting to house cleaners for an outrageous fee.) So she hires me again, and again, and calls me up crying because the customer doesn’t pay. (This happens at least twice a month.)

She doesn’t like confrontation, so when she shows up to clean and there is no money, she calls me instead of calling her client – and I give her the kick in the butt she needs to go collect her money.

Meanwhile, the money not being there ruins the cleaning experience for her. She spends the bulk of her time cleaning worrying and wondering if the client doesn’t like her service, or if they are intentionally trying to rip her off. Either way, she is not inspired to go the extra mile.

Create a System That Works For You and the Client Woman budgeting Cash, Client Doesn't Pay

Here’s how this works. It is traditional in the house cleaning business that you have a credit card on file for the customer.  You run it each time you clean. Because the price could be different each time you clean their house based on the different tasks that they give you.

Or they leave you a check on the kitchen cupboard, you pick it up and return it to your employer. Or if you are the employer, you return it to the bank in exchange for money in your account. That’s how that works.


Use a Worksheet System

Worksheets when Client Doesn't PayWhen you show up at a customer’s house, we use what’s called a worksheet. I’m a big fan of worksheets for this reason. There’s a list of tasks that you do every time you’re at a customer’s house.

Based on the amount of time you have to do the job will determine how many of those tasks you do.  If you’re working by the hour, there are going to be times you’re not going to make it through the whole house. Let’s say you’re only there for three hours, well then, all you have is three hours. If the house is super messy one day, you’re not going to make it all the way through your worksheet, and the customer needs to understand why.

Use Your Worksheet as an Invoice

You will leave your worksheet behind for the client. This worksheet will also be your invoice for that visit. 

We’re not going to go home and print up a separate invoice and mail it to them or email them or any of those things.

That wastes time and money and now you have extra work to do when you get off work today. 

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The Worksheet Can Also Be a Receipt!

If they left you a check, you’re just going to write the check number on that invoice and write “paid”. They have paid you the money. Here’s their receipt.

Look at that, the invoice also became the receipt.

The worksheet also activates your satisfaction guarantee. This is why I love worksheets.

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The Customer Can Use the Worksheet for Referrals

It also has your contact information on it so you can turn around and hand it to a neighbor and that is your referral.

The neighbor can hire you off of what they know you do and then also the tasks that you’re capable of doing.

If Client Doesn’t Pay – Set New Rules and Regulations

Excuses call for New Rules 3d people talkingThe back page of my worksheet has rules and regulations.

One of the rules and regulations has the cancellation policy and it also has a list on there of how we get paid.

I include a section on if they forget to pay you. “If you forget to pay me,  I accept PayPal and you can send me the money that night.”

This is if you don’t have a credit card on file. Having said this, there are ways up front to abolish the fact that the customer did not pay.

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” I Forgot to Pay”

Boogle eyed man Client Doesn't PayWhen Maggie does call the customer, he plays dumb and says things like “I’m so sorry, how did I forget? I will put a check in the mail tomorrow.” The check never arrives. There are frequent variations  from the same customer “Come over to my office and pick up a check right now.” So she drives all the way across town (wasting her own time and gas money) and when she gets to the office, the client has just stepped out, leaving no check with the secretary.

There may be valid reasons for the client who doesn’t pay, but without an honest heart-to-heart chat with the client, you’re left just guessing.

Sadly, she is training her clients that she can be bullied. No offense to her personally, we all operate our cleaning services differently, and as the boss of your own house cleaning company, maid service or janitorial service, you are free to operate yours any way you like. However, there are specific processes created over time that works. We’ve proven it with other house cleaners in our network who use worksheets and never have this problem.

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What To Do When The Client Doesn’t Pay

This system works when you have clearly established your terms and conditions (boundaries) in your initial walk through with the client. 

Follow these steps for best results

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Text Your Customers 24 Hours in Advance

The first thing that you want to do is to be proactive. no lost time, confirm appointments

Always confirm your appointment 24 hours in advance via text. You text the customer and you say, “Hey, Gina. I’m coming over tomorrow at 10:00. Just want to make sure we’re still on for house cleaning.”

If it’s a new client, I always throw the price in there. Like, “We’ve agreed on $230 for tomorrow’s cleaning.”

That lets her know, “Oh yeah. It’s $230. I need to write a check for that and leave that on my kitchen cupboard.”

If you already have her credit card on file, you can just run her credit card tomorrow. But again, I would remind her of the price.

Confirm your scheduled cleaning via text or email with the client 24 hours prior.

Now you have a confirmed appointment. She texts back, “Yes. I’m looking forward to seeing you”, whatever.

It’s a confirmed appointment. You show up at Gina’s house tomorrow, and when you get there, she’s going to pay by check.

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Show Up to Clean on Schedule

Hire me, Happy house cleaner cleaning houseLo and behold, there’s no check on the cupboard. We had a confirmed appointment.

What do you do? A lot of house cleaners will still clean the house, and then they keep wondering, “Am I doing this for free? Is she screwing around with me? Is she not going to pay me?”

They build up in their head all this weird hate and animosity. Because they’re not sure if they’re going to get paid for the job.

The reality is, if you had a confirmed appointment, you can’t sell it at the last minute to someone else. You’re there.  The time is right now. You can’t sell the time. You’re already there. Stay and clean the house.

There are valid reasons why a customer doesn’t pay you. But you’re already at the customer’s house with the confirmed appointment. They have agreed to pay you money.

So stay and clean the house.

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…And The Client Doesn’t Pay

Past Due - PayPal Client Doesn't Pay

Then fill out your worksheet. Instead of writing “paid” on it, write “Oops. I didn’t find a check, so here’s my PayPal account”, because it’s already on your worksheet. You just circle it and say, “You can send this to me PayPal as soon as you get back. I hope everything is okay.”

The customer will get back and to see that their house is clean and shiny. They will also see that you have left a worksheet and you’ve done all these amazing things in their house. 

They’re going to feel horrible. They’re going to call you up and go, “Oh my goodness. I’m so sorry. Here’s my reason why.” Often times, it’s a good reason. 

Give the client until the following scheduled cleaning to come up with the money. Lots of businesses pay their employees on a bi-monthly or monthly basis. And if your house cleaning client is the business owner, they may only get paid quarterly. Let the client make the next move. Don’t harass them. Let’s suppose the client still doesn’t pay.

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Confirm Again With Reminder

Next scheduled appt. confirm your scheduled cleaning via text or email to the client 24 hours prior, this time with a note saying you need to be paid for last time and this time with a check for __________ amount of dollars (the two cleanings total) left on the counter to ensure continued service.

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If the Client Doesn’t Pay – Now You Have to Call

girl discussing pay for non pay house cleaning clientYou show up for your scheduled cleaning and there is still no money. (This is the second cleaning where you have confirmed, then showed up for your scheduled cleaning and there is no money.)

From the client’s house, before you clean, call the client and have that heart-to-heart conversation. Find out what is going on, has there been a family emergency? A loss of job, the dissatisfaction of service? If it is possible, get a credit card number from the client and process it right then, via your Square account.

If you can’t get the client on the phone, or if they refuse to give you their credit card, leave a message and ask them to call you. Then turn your worksheet over and write them a personal note on the blank page. 

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Your Personal Note Could Be Something Like This

Hey (Name),

I showed up to clean today, per our confirmed cleaning appointment and noticed for a second time there is no money left for my service. I tried calling you and couldn’t get through, and am worried that something terrible has happened.

Please let me know that you’re okay.

If the something terrible is my service, please let me know that as well, and I will do everything in my power to correct it.

I don’t want to keep running up a tab on your account, so I didn’t clean today. So no charge for today, just the ($100 or whatever the amount is) for last week’s service is all that is owed, and you can send it to me via PayPal at (, I’ve also suspended your cleaning service until payment is received.

I do have a waiting list of clients who want your spot. So if you still want to keep your scheduled cleaning, please let me know a.s.a.p.

Thanks again for your business,

(Your Name)


(email/PayPal Address)

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Give Them Space

And then leave. Don’t call the client, don’t harass them, let them make the next move. (They most likely will try to clear up what is going on.)

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Woman with calculator and credit card, Client Doesn't PayIf you don’t hear from them for a week, give their scheduled cleaning slot to another customer and don’t look back. Consider the loss of money someone cashing in their money back guarantee and write it off as a business loss.

Out of the hundreds of client’s I’ve had over the years, I’ve had this “forgot to pay” scenario happen four or five times a year from various clients. Usually, they got called out of town on business days prior and weren’t thinking about paying the house cleaner when they left. Or they had an illness or death in the family which trumped leaving money – they simply just forgot or whatever. It’s usually never a personal thing. When people come home and their house is clean and sparkly, and it smells fresh and you’ve left a checklist of your work, 99.9% of the time the customer will make it right and pay you immediately or make arrangements to do so.

You’re Not A Collection Agency

House Cleaner with Calculator Client Doesn't PayLet them know right up front you’re not in the collection business. If they are hiring you for a service, you are going to give them your best, and you expect that they will pay you on time.

And they will. They give tips and bonuses. They give gifts. It’s lovely, but there are times they’re going to forget. Usually, they feel stupid and they’re like, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

Give the client a two week grace period. 

But, if you go a second time after the grace period and they still haven’t paid you, something needs to happen. 

Client Doesn’t Pay Because of a Control Trip


Megaphone shouting Time is Money, Client Doesn't PayThere are customers that don’t pay because it’s a control trip. They’re in charge. They’re going to push you around a little bit. 

They’ll say, “Oh, I forgot to pay you. I’ll put a check in the mail tomorrow.”

Then the next day, “Oh, I forgot to put the check in the mail, but I’ll put it in the mail tomorrow.”

It’s the weekend, so you’ll have to wait until the first of the week when it will arrive.

“It got lost in the mail. If you come on over to my office, I’ll give you a check right now.” Don’t waste your gas money and time. 

There are ways of pushing you around to show that they are in charge.

The Client Doesn’t Pay Because They Lost Their Job

Man gets fired Client Doesn't PayAnother reason why people may not pay is they may have lost their job. They might not be able to pay you because they lost their income.

They might have to fire you. Not because they don’t like you, but because they cannot afford your services anymore. 

The Client Doesn’t Pay Because the Don’t Have the Money Right Now

Woman hand with calculator client doesn't payThey may not have as much money in their bank account as they thought they did.

Some married couples have joint accounts. And one of the parties overspends and the other one who’s writing you the check is like, “Oh my goodness. I don’t have money for the house cleaning lady.”

There are things like that that are completely natural and things that do happen.

You don’t want to embarrass your customer by saying, “Why didn’t you pay me? You owe me the money right now.”

They know they owe you the money. They hired you and they know that you’re not there for free. There is an expectation they’re going to pay you.

Don’t Keep Going Back if the Client Doesn’t Pay

Follow Instructions confused guy

There are valid reasons that will help you make an informed decision about what to do. But don’t just keep going back time after time after time.

There’s a person I know that’s gone back for two years. Two years, every other week with no payment. Do you think that that person is just going to write you a big check at the end?

Are you doing this now for free? Is this a charity? What is the reason behind you still cleaning for free?

They said, “Because they’re a good friend.” No, they’re not a good friend. Good friends don’t take advantage of each other that way.

Give a Service, Collect Payment

If you run a business, there needs to be money in exchange. You give a service, you get money back. That’s how that works. That’s how business operates.

Money is the metric that determines how successful you are in business. Cleaning someone’s house for two years without pay does not read success. 

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The Client Doesn’t Pay Because the Work Is Poor

If they dodge you, and refuse to pay, look in the mirror. It could be your work, your attitude or something else you have, or haven’t done. It takes guts to keep an open mind to hear that your work sucks – but if you don’t hear it and fix it, you’ll make the same mistakes again and you will always struggle in this business.

When a client doesn’t pay, something’s up. The red flag might be your work is horrible.

A customer might feel uncomfortable about telling you that they are not happy with your work. Instead of confronting you, they may withhold payment.

If you have that happen, you need to address that with the customer. “Oh my goodness. I hope this isn’t the quality of my work that  caused you to stop paying me.”

Customers will go, “Well, I am a little bit disappointed.”

Then you can say, “Please share with me what it is. What can I do to fix it?” It might cost you your money this time.

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The Price of the Lesson

Here’s the catch. The money you would have made is the price of the lesson.

If you learn this lesson when the client doesn’t pay that is money well spent. Because now you’ve learned the lesson.

Now you can go through the rest of your career fixing those things that caused you not to get paid today. That is the price of the lesson.

Walk away, wash your hands of it, and just say, “Hey listen. No charge for today. I understand you are not satisfied,  and I appreciate you sharing with me the reasons why. Now I can fix that for future customers.”

When a client doesn’t pay, those are my suggestions for getting your money and getting back on track.

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About the Show

Learn how the show came to be, interesting facts about the show host, and other frequently asked questions about the show.

Resources For This Episode

Free Worksheet You Can Edit Client Doesn't Pay

Worksheet you can edit –

Start Your Own Business, Sixth Edition: The Only Startup Book You’ll Ever Need –

The Small Business Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed in Your Small Business –

Small Business for Dummies –

Accounting: For Small Businesses Quick Start Guide – Understanding Accounting for Your Sole Proprietorship, Startup, & LLC –

Collect Your Money: A Guide to Promoting Success and Professionalism in The Credit Department –

Money Is Everything: Personal Finance for The Brave New Economy –

The Payoff Principle: Discover the 3 Secrets to Getting What You Want Out of Life and Work –

Mind over Money: The Psychology of Money and How to Use It Better –

The Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions to Guide You To An Extraordinary Life –

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