Late Payments

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So i don’t normally do this sort of thing, discuss business stuff.  I mean i can talk about my photography work until i turn blue in the face but talking about the business behind the photos is a different matter.  I think photographers are fairly secretive beasts in that we guard very closely who we work with and usually never talk about how business is actually going.  This, whilst fairly typical of most industries its a destructive way of living.  I am a typical example of this.  When people ask hows business going i usually reply, “grand” and when queried about clients i usually make something up to divert the conversation.

So one of the big things about being a freelancer is learning to handle late payments.  The top item of business is learning how to handle cash flow.  If you don’t have regular payments coming in to your bank account you cant support yourself.  Plain and simple.  Now this obviously depends on the type of work you do.  You might be a photographer who works on large commissions than don’t happen very often or like me, lots of smaller jobs that happen more often with a lower invoice value.  If you work on larger but fewer commissions then you have to budget your money between jobs.

So late payments.  I hate them.  They suck.

In Northern Ireland like most places around the UK the standard payment period for completed work is 30 days.  So from the date of the invoice being sent to the client the payment should be processed 30 days later.  How ever in real life this is not how it works.  Now before we go on i have plenty of clients who pay me as soon as the invoice is issued or before the 30 days.  This is about the businesses that punish people like me by paying late.

I recently got scrapped from a job with less than 24 hours notice because of my payment terms.  Let me explain the back story briefly.  I worked on behalf of Client 1 for an on site shoot.  Client 1 was not paying me, that was down to Client 2 who was a different company to Client 1.  I completed the work for Client 1 and sent the invoice to Client 2.  This is when the problems started.  I sent the invoice to Client 2 and heard nothing for several weeks.  The due date for the invoice came and went.  Then the invoice was a week overdue, two weeks overdue, three weeks overdue.  So after talking with Client 2 and asking again payment was processed.  In total it was almost 60 days before payment was processed.

So going back to Client 1.  We enjoyed working together.  So much so we were due to work together again.  But Client 2 was the payment source.  When Client 1 told Client 2 that we were working together Client 2 told Client 1 that my payment terms were not practical and that Client 1 would have to pick another photographer.

I’m sorry but as a very small business (just me!) its impractical for me to wait almost two months to be paid.  I could of citied laws and regulations which would of introduced fines and fees against Client 2 but i didn’t.  I thought if i explain the reminder emails and calls in a human way we’d be ok.  But it wasn’t.

For sticking up for myself and my business i was punished by being pulled from a job with less than a days noticed.  It didn’t matter that i had turned away work to make sure i was available either.

I probably wont do any more work with Client 2 as a result of my impractical payment terms (which are standard in the UK!).  Maybe i have missed out on a “golden client” but when it comes down to it i believe as a small supplier i should not be pushed around by larger companies and slow administration.

I wonder what would happen if i refused to hand over pictures until i was paid?


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