I have been fighting for payment on a design job since February. It has been e-mails back and forth and him saying he will pay in a few weeks, blah blah. I 99% of the time get a deposit on design work, but let him slide since I have done work for him in the past. I have his "assurance" again this week that he will mail payment. Not sure if it is worth going to court over. I didn't have him sign a contract this time, either.
I just got burned on a set of vehicle magnets and car window decals, too. She was in a hurry to get them, so I got them together really quick and now she says she can't afford to pay for them. So, I am stuck with them I guess. Friend of a friend situation here, so I again let it slide on up front payment.
Back to design work, though. I have a contract regarding ownership of artwork and payment requirements BEFORE I let anyone take anything. It is more work to chase them down and make them sign a contract, but at least you will have it on paper for legal issues if it comes to it?
These are the issues that keep me working at a 9-5 job. Everyone is looking to screw someone over. Even more so with the economy being slow. I guess there is a balance between being a nice business person, but a stern one. Keep all bases covered and get some $ up front.