01 February 2007

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.

Freelancer: Thanks.

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: theworldsleading@yahoo.co.uk (anonymously, obviously). And if any one agency gets mentioned more than, say, three times, we'll happily name and shame them.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

That freelancer sounds like a right pain in the arse. If I was the bean-counter, I would bump the smug git up to 90 days, just to piss him/her off.

sherrilynne said...

Your gripe about collecting on late invoices made my top 5 today! Good luck gettig the dosh.

....the world's leading.... said...

Very good anon...what a tough businessman you are.

I'm no psychic, but I'm thinking cocky agency account manager...thinks he's the bee's bollocks...reckons the clients love him above all others...doesn't see those more senior than him doing anything that he can't already do...if he was running this place, blah, blah, blah...

Heard it all before sonny. You haven't got a clue.

....the world's leading.... said...

Ahhh, sherrilynne you're sweet...number one as well! We're overwhelmed.

Wasn't sure who you were at first 'cause I can't see your blogger profile, so for those that need a link: http://strivepr.com/wordpress/2007/02/02/fridays-five-february-2nd/

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff TWL. However, shouldn't the freelancer have perhaps agreed payment dates, rather than just jumping in and assuming? Whoever he was working for at the agency should have made it clear too of course. they should have a proper supplier relationship.

Its a pretty generic problem of PR people not understanding the commercial issues - this is a good example of it, both from the agency and the freelance side.

Love Figgis (currently having lost all his passwords like a fool)

Anonymous said...

More interestingly:

http://www.getafirstlife.com/

....the world's leading.... said...

I guess so Figgis. Yhere was an assumption or two on the freelancer's part. These being that (a) by clearly stating your payment terms on an invoice you might either expect them to be adhered to or the client to contact you to discuss and (b) having previously had invoices paid within the 30 days without a problem, that these terms were agreeable to the client. Which might be deemed fair assumptions to make. It also looks like the client had already ignored a few prrvious emails from the freelancer.

This example aside, though, from what we hear, a lot of agencies think it's fair to go beyond payment terms, whether agreed or otherwise.

....the world's leading.... said...

I've published that anonymous comment about Get a First Life because it's a blatant piece of spam and I'll let our readers discuss what they think about it.

Personally, I think Get a First Life is a load of old tosh lacking in creativity and any merit whatsoever.

But that's probably just me.

Anonymous said...

>>"Very good anon...what a tough businessman you are.

I'm no psychic, but I'm thinking cocky agency account manager...thinks he's the bee's bollocks...reckons the clients love him above all others...doesn't see those more senior than him doing anything that he can't already do...if he was running this place, blah, blah, blah...

Heard it all before sonny. You haven't got a clue.">>

more of a clue than you by the sound of it, 'sonny'.

Actually, I am a freelancer. What is more, I would never speak to a client in such a smug, arrogant fashion - whether they had paid my bills or not.

You are, however, correct about one thing - you are no psychic.

....the world's leading.... said...

Of course you haven't got more than a clue about it than us...that would be simply impossible! What a ridiculous suggestion.

You'd never speak to a client in such a "smug, arrogant fashion"? But you'd happily refer to a (so you claim) fellow freelancer that you've never met as "a right pain the arse" and a "smug git"..?

Sounds like you're a bit of a brown-nosing sap to me...one face for clients, one for peers, eh? I'm surprised you get paid at all.

figgis said...

> (a) by clearly stating your payment terms on an invoice you might either expect them to be adhered to or the client to contact you to discuss <

TWL, my point is that the company's policy is 60 days and they may well have made that clear on something that has been sent to the freelance. So it is likely there is fault on both sides.

>(b) having previously had invoices paid within the 30 days without a problem, that these terms were agreeable to the client.<

Is this not more likely that perhaps the case that his contact was making it happen with the finance department?

> It also looks like the client had already ignored a few prrvious emails from the freelancer.<

True true, however, I'm not convinced the tone taken by the freelancer is the best way forward even if he is frustrated.

> This example aside, though, from what we hear, a lot of agencies think it's fair to go beyond payment terms, whether agreed or otherwise.<

Quite agree its not acceptable to go beyond payment terms. However, the most important thing from this is that there is clarity of payment terms on both sides and its an issue people need to understand.

My overall point being too many people just get freelancers in and because they have barely anything to do with the commercial side of the business don't give freelancers their terms/assume it's all fine/don't care etc etc. The freelance community should make sure they get these terms, as in far too many cases they will have no type of contract, and they are left without a leg to stand on.

....the world's leading.... said...

Fair points big fella.

Anonymous said...

>>"You'd never speak to a client in such a "smug, arrogant fashion"? But you'd happily refer to a (so you claim) fellow freelancer that you've never met as "a right pain the arse" and a "smug git"..?

Sounds like you're a bit of a brown-nosing sap to me...one face for clients, one for peers, eh? I'm surprised you get paid at all."<<

blimey, you are touchy, aren't you? And here's me thinking this blog was supposed to be the antidote to all things 'serious' in tech PR....

Know this freelancer well, do you..??

figgis said...

TWL

I apologise for the lack of stupid gags and vicious taunting in both those previous posts by the way. I shall attempt to return to form and stop being so bloody serious.

Love

Figgis

....the world's leading.... said...

"Know this freelancer well, do you..??"

As it goes, I do, yeah.

But the main thing is, I don't like the sound of you very much.

Anyway, you started it.

Anonymous said...

>>"Anyway, you started it."<<

Actually, you did. You posted the experiences of someone who is evidently close to you and then you invited comments. So I commented.

Maybe you should amend the descriptor on your blog. Something along the lines of:

"Comments warmly welcomed - except any comments that might upset us or our close friends"

That'll be a fiver please....my terms are 30 days by the way...

....the world's leading.... said...

I meant you started the name calling, not the conversation. Numpty.

And of course, as always here at TWL, all comments are welcome. If they weren't, do you think I'd have ever given yours airtime?

A fiver? Can I see your timesheets?

Now clear off down the pub.

Anonymous said...

>>"I meant you started the name calling, not the conversation. Numpty."<<

Ah, my apologies - that wasn't clear, you see....even to a numpty.

Anyway, sorry to upset your wife/husband/fiance/girlfriend/boyfriend/mistress (delete as appropriate) - in future may he or she always be paid on time...and not feel the need to resort to smug emails.....amen.

figgis said...

TWL, you appear to be being strangely drawn in here. Having a bad day? Normally it's water of a ducks back...

....the world's leading.... said...

No, no...just fancied getting involved in the "conversation"...feeling a bit punchy...it's the beer talking.

Anonymous said...

>>"it's the beer talking."<<

you were pissed at 11.02 on a Friday morning..?? Your late payment problems are obviously worse than I thought...

Anonymous said...

Can we have another story posted please or some more comments? You don't normally leave it this long TWL....

(Possible clue to TWL's identity methinks - anyone been away lately?)

Agency Boss said...

Why didn't this freelancer friend of yours contact the director who originally contracted him / her to do the job?

The way these things usually work - and this is true of agencies and clients as well - is the bean counters will usually push something to the front of the queue if asked to by someone from on high.

Otherwise - tough luck, it won't happen and your mate is wasting his / her time.

....the world's leading.... said...

Are you really an agency boss?

Seems that the bean counter had indeed been prompted by the freelancer's senior contact prior to this little exchange, but had still ignored a string of emails. And the freelancer was paid, as promised, the following week.