Tips of the trade - CHASING FREELANCE PAYMENT

STILL WAITING FOR PAYMENT FOR A SUBBING SHIFT OR ARTICLE? PRESS GAZETTE FINDS OUT HOW EXPERIENCED FREELANCES CHASE OVERDUE FEES

David Nicholson, freelance contributor to UK broadsheets

I have had a great range of experiences. Some people are not at all good and some are very prompt. I try to encourage clients to pay as soon as possible but I accept that most clients expect to pay after 30 days or longer. My approach depends on whether they are a client I am familiar with or if I have concerns about the labyrinth of their accounts department. If I do, I am quite quick to make the calls to find out what is happening. I am normally inquiring rather than demanding. If it is still not forthcoming? I would go up the food chain and speak to the exact accountant or whoever was dealing with payments. I am still inquiring but I am wanting more definite answers. Would I work for the company again? I would judge whether the editor is reliable. If the editor is reassuring me that it was just a glitch then I will work for them.

In some cases I haven’t worked for a company again because they are unreliable payers. Would I charge interest? It’s a very tricky subject – my concern would be that you would get into more complex negotiations than you need to and I would rather not get into that. I just remind them professionally and that is as much as you can do. The only other step is to sue them.

John Toner, NUJ freelance organiser

Send an invoice in with the article. If you haven’t been paid after 30 days you should ring the company to find out what has happened. I would take a very polite friendly tone, often it is simply an error that has been made and you don’t want to damage your relationship with the company because of an error. If they say “yes, it is an error, we’ll get the money out to you”, give them another seven days and then make another telephone enquiry. If there is still no sign of the money? Write a letter saying it has now gone well beyond the 30 days and you will seek interest and administration costs and if that doesn’t work then contact us (freelanceoffice@nuj.org).

The NUJ London freelance branch’s guide to getting your money can be found at www.media.gn.apc.org// feesguide/

John Smith, former freelance sub-editor

There are certain cheque-chasing techniques that I used when all the usual avenues had been exhausted – as well as my patience. One that proved immediately successful was to announce on a weekly magazine’s press day that I was prepared to walk out unless a cheque was produced within the hour. On a small subbing team that really gets the feathers flying. You can only use that one once. On another occasion I happened to be in the office when the company chief executive was standing in for the publisher – who was away either having a baby or in The Priory drying out – and he made a point of telling everyone his door was always open. Well, I took him at his word, marched in and slapped a piece of paper on his desk listing all the outstanding payments.

Never be afraid to buttonhole the main man. He’ll probably think you’re a nutter and a pest but, hey, who cares? I once sat next to a mad Australian who spent half his shift screaming down the phone chasing a cheque. He was so loud the publisher came out to complain.

Basic error. He wasn’t asked back.

Interviews by Sarah Boden

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