The Independent Economy Council surveyed freelancers in the U.S. who earn the majority of their income from 1099 work and also directly invoice their clients. Nearly three-quarters of those interviewed reported not being paid on time. This includes people who include a ‘Remit by’ date in their invoices.
The research showed that 59% of freelancers were owed $50K or more for completed work, with 72% of respondents saying they still have outstanding invoices yet to be paid by their clients.
AGENT TO THE RESCUE?
The other day a colleague of mine said he was working with a new agent, and 60 days after having completed a job he still wasn’t paid. Should he follow up or not, was the question, or would that be inappropriate?
First off: asking to be paid on time for services rendered is never inappropriate.
Paying someone late IS.
Right now we have two contractors in the house who are painting and renovating room after room, and we pay them at the end of every week. They bought the materials and did the jobs we asked them to do, so we’re not going to make them wait and beg to get their money. It’s also something we agreed on, prior to them starting the work.
In fact, all the service providers we use require prompt payment. You know, people like dentists, plumbers, and the guy who plows our driveway after a snowstorm. To me, that’s normal and appropriate. Some even want payment up front or right after the service was provided, such as my hairdresser.
Then why do clients think it’s okay to leave freelancers such as voice overs hanging for months? Why are they irritated when we remind them of our invoice?
This is what I told my colleague:
“An agent is representing you. That means he or she advocates and negotiates on your behalf. This includes reasonable terms of payment. I think it’s totally fine to nudge the agent to nudge the client. That way, you don’t have to play the bad guy and you can just focus on what you were paid for. So, make the agent earn the commission that comes out of your paycheck.”
If the job I landed didn’t come from an agent, I let my office manager do the nudging. Again, this will keep my relationship with my client clean and positive. I’m just the guy doing the voice over, and not the annoying person sending payment reminders.
Now, here’s some good news:
One follow-up typically results in payment!
According to the Independent Economic Council, for 37.3%, one follow-up to the client results in getting an outstanding invoice paid. For 23.9%, it takes two follow-ups, and for 19.4%, it takes three follow-ups. 19.4% say they haven’t had to follow up on any outstanding invoices.
Here’s another thing I learned during the thirty plus years I have been in business:
I always ask clients I’ve never worked with before, to pay up front. Trust must be earned.
If they refuse, I take it as a big red flag, and I won’t work with them (unless they come highly recommended).
Remember this: the only leverage you have with your clients is your work. You can send your completed job watermarked, and remove that watermark once the money is in the bank. Or you can decide to only hand over your recordings once payment has been received.
It’s always better to negotiate payment terms ahead of time, rather than after the fact. Don’t be too eager and agree to bad terms because you’re desperate for a job. Desperation is never good during negotiation. It encourages people to take advantage of you.
And remember, the cheapest clients are usually the worst to work with. I see paying reasonable rates as a sign of respect, and by charging respectable fees I automatically weed out the bad apples!