You can do nothing if a client does not pay you at the end of the project. But this is not the only problem, there are some other factors involved that are way too problematic.
I will discuss them one by one and explain why you should charge your clients upfront.
#1 Careless, seriousness, cold
If you start working on a project before getting paid, the client may become cold or dormant.
From my personal experience and observation, I saw that clients become careless about their projects. And they don’t even have any seriousness about it.
This happens when you don’t charge the client before you start working on their order.
So, it’s really super important to charge the clients upfront.
If you can’t charge the full amount then at least charge a certain amount. Otherwise, you may have to face lots of pain during the development/work process or at the end of it.
Related: How to create a freelance contract?
#2 Unnecessary changes & time-consuming
Many times I discovered that I had to work sine-die and the client changes their requirements when it comes to getting the payment or end of the project.
These are mostly unnecessary changes or revisions. If a client is confused about his/her requirements then he/she will use his/her highest energy to get unnecessary customization or rework.
Because you have not taken any payment and you started working on their project without any escrow. So the client will assume that your time is not precious and you don’t have any demand in the freelance market.
As a result, they will use you and your time without any extra cost. So make sure you are not wasting your time and effort with them.
But if you charge upfront, they will understand that you will charge an additional fee if they exhausted the limit.
Related: How to write an invoice for your freelance work?
#3 miscommunication & delay the project completion
As I discussed at point #1, the clients don’t have any seriousness about their project if you don’t accept the payment before starting work.
As a result, they sometimes forget that you are working on their project. In such cases, generally, they will not communicate properly.
If you send them an email, it will take too much time to hear back. So the overall project will take way too much longer to complete than the usual timeframe.
But you will not get paid for that extra time.
Related: What are the pros & cons of freelancing?
#4 free work
I was charging the clients after I completed their orders (the early moment when I first started working through my website).
In many cases, I saw that some clients were trying to get extra work done within the same contract.
In my case, those were website-related.
For example, a client hired me to design a single website and after I completed the site then he/she was asking me to retouch another website that was out of scope. Nor even did I hear the name of the site during the development process or existing work.
So don’t prove yourself silly to your clients, be bold.
Related: The reasons why most freelancers fail and give up.
#5 clients underestimate you and your worth
If you provide outstanding service to your clients, they may not be excited or happy. This is just because of their assumption about you.
Human minds are habituated to see that quality things cost more money. And many of them are prepaid.
But if you started working without advance payment, they will assume that you don’t have any existing orders in your hand.
As a result, they will generally think that you will be happy with whatever they pay you.
Related: What to do when you have no freelance work?
No one wants to work for peanuts. But some freelancers are willing to work while taking the full risk of the payment. No matter what, they want to make their clients happy in any sense and in every circumstance.
This is not a bad thing but taking the pay risk and doing slavery is not the proper way to succeed.
Also, you can do nothing if the client doesn’t pay you and runs out. I saw and heard lots of history of victims who worked but never get paid.