Late payment...it's a, it's a...sin...
Late payment, eh? Crucifies your cash-flow. Those big, successful wealthy companies thinking they can hang on for a few days...weeks...months even before paying their suppliers. Don't they realise that you've got financial commitments too? They just don't seem to care...always happy to squeeze the little guy...after all, what's he gonna do? He needs the business.
I can see all you agency folk sitting there enthusiastically nodding your heads (I can you know...it's a new widget). But wait up. It's YOU I'm talking about, not your clients.
Oh yes, it seems that the kings of the late payment are fast becoming agencies themselves. They don't like taking it, but they can dish it out. First to whine to the client about overdue invoices, they're happy to do the very same thing to their own suppliers...particularly the freelancers upon which they are becoming increasingly dependent (if the PRCA and PRWeak is to be believed).
Too often these days freelancers are wasting time dealing with agency bean counters over late payment. Don't believe me? Check out this little email exchange between a senior freelancer who'd been chasing payment for a while and a number-cruncher at a top London consultancy (we've cut the headers and reversed it to make it more readable):
Bean counter: Sorry you have not received a response to your emails.
I would point out that our payment terms are 60 days from the date of invoice, however I will arrange for this to be paid on next week's payment run which is on Wednesday.
Your payment terms may be 60 days, but that's never been made clear to me, my invoice clearly states 30 days and my previous work with you has been paid within, or very close to, 30 days.
I would have thought, therefore, that when you spot a difference between a supplier's payment terms and your own it would be good business practice (and common courtesy at the very least) to contact the supplier and discuss the difference. Would you agree?
Anyway, I look forward to receiving payment next week.
Bean counter: We have hundreds of invoices passing through the department every week, your suggestion is simply not practical.
Freelancer: Really? And your company being one of the world's largest communications companies. Remarkable.
Bean counter: Sarcasm rarely gets suppliers very far!
Freelancer: I wasn't being sarcastic; I am honestly amazed that an organisation which has the primary role of communicating clearly with millions of people can't put a process in place to communicate with a relatively small group of suppliers. But I guess it's different when you're being paid, rather than doing the paying?
There's little point in continuing this conversation.
Are you a freelancer who's been on the end of an agency's late-payment policy? If so, we want to know about it: email@example.com (anonymously, obviously). And if any one agency gets mentioned more than, say, three times, we'll happily name and shame them.