Hounding a client for payment- Why do I feel like the bad guy?
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Thread: Hounding a client for payment- Why do I feel like the bad guy?

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    Hounding a client for payment- Why do I feel like the bad guy?

    Ugh, I hate having to be a bill collector in addition to an artist! Yeah, it's part of the package in being a freelancer, but some clients are easier than others. Most of the people I work for pay, more or less, when they say they will. There's the occasional hitch, which the good ones are sure to keep me informed about, and I never really feel like I need to send reminders.

    Then there are other guys. Payment so late from the contracted payment schedule that I begin to think I'm just not going to get paid at all. Emails ignored. I'm certainly willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt and assume that something slipped through the cracks, or we had a lapse in communication, except... there IS no communication once art is delivered, UNTIL they need more artwork. Then I'm stuck trying to craft a diplomatic, yet firm, email explaining that I can't take on new work until I'm paid in full for the last work. I explain that the assignment in question does indeed sound cool, and I'd like to keep working for them, but... I kinda need to get paid.

    Anyone else have some horror stories (no need to name names), or have tips on dealing with this ugly end of the biz?

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    yeah, it's annoying. I think once a person comes asking for more work and they're overdue on the payment for the last job (and I've had that a few times too) it's perfectly acceptable to reply along the lines of:

    "That definitely sounds like a fun project, I'd love to work with you on it. I have to mention, however, that I'm still waiting on payment for (blah blah) and would like to have that resolved before moving on to anything new."

    I don't know, typically I invoice when I send in my hi-res files and label it "payment due in 30 days". If nothing turns up in 30-45 days, I send a follow-up politely mentioning that I am missing payment and asking if they need another invoice. If after 60 days still nothing, I send a past due invoice. If after 90 days still nothing, I send another past due invoice and start getting more harsh and direct about it. Of course, that varies on the client and how well I know/trust them.

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    when i had my Graphic design business i would do 1/3 or half (depending on job size) upfront for new clients, better know and established clients i would let them pay when the job was finished.

    And then collect the rest when i handed them the final files. And NEVER handed the final files without the last payment, even if its rushes. I would say its more of an incentive for them to pay you quicker

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    That sounds great in theory, but if they want it printed tomorrow morning, they won't even be able (technically) to pay in time. Also, it's kinda the wrong way to only deliver until you received the full amount, isn't it? I mean, you got paid one third upfront before they had ANYTHING from you, and now they're stuck with a low-res JPG via email and you want them to pay the last two thirds before you deliver high-res? Sorry to say, but I probably wouldn't hire you. There's got to be respect and trust on either side.

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    You're not the bad guy, and shouldn't feel like one (unpleasant as it is to deal with this stuff). It's just part of business sometimes.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jabo View Post
    That sounds great in theory, but if they want it printed tomorrow morning, they won't even be able (technically) to pay in time. Also, it's kinda the wrong way to only deliver until you received the full amount, isn't it? I mean, you got paid one third upfront before they had ANYTHING from you, and now they're stuck with a low-res JPG via email and you want them to pay the last two thirds before you deliver high-res? Sorry to say, but I probably wouldn't hire you. There's got to be respect and trust on either side.
    Yeah its only for new clients and big jobs that you might get screwed badly if you don't get payed, forgot to mention that. if its a poster work or something i don't mind handing in the work and then get payed, it all depends on the job at hand really. but i did get screwed over every now and then on small jobs too :/

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    Dave, you've described almost exactly how I handle things, except I'm not quite so structured on sending out reminders. I send them out more by a gut "Hmm, I should have gotten payment by now" (after checking my planner to make sure I know how overdue it is).

    I guess the reason I have that slight feeling of being the bad guy, although I know I'm not, is because generally this is the only hitch with an otherwise enjoyable job. I've been lucky so far in getting to work with lots of really cool people, with fun projects, and few if any problems. Of course it would be so much nicer if the payments were on time (I don't miss MY deadlines), and all we had were pleasant experiences all around.

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    Not a new story. King Charles I dragged his heels about paying Van Dyck. The archetype of the mad artist arose because you'd have to be mad to want to be one and put up with this nonsense! 'Yes, Your Majesty, you're broke, it's been a lean month... Of course...'

    An enjoyable job that they don't pay you for isn't a job, it's a hobby. It's totally unjust that artists get a raw deal just because their product is art. There was a good podcast on Ninja Mountain on this subject a while ago. Someone on there made the point that people employed in other trades and professions may derive satisfaction from it, - doctors and architects, for example - but they still expect to be paid. Why should artists be any different?

    Last edited by dashinvaine; September 18th, 2009 at 03:48 PM.
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    As a recent client of a commission, I would have preferred the half up front/ half on completion way as a show of my commitment to paying for said commission because that's how I work. If there's an investment on both sides, then I figure there's less possiblity of wrong-doing. They prefered to wait until I see a prelim before payment, which was cool.

    Transaction went well. Loved the product. It's not the first time I worked with artists on commissions or spec. Some I want half up front, others prefer the above. Those I give half up front I get a contract, signed by both of us. Even if it's in another country, I get a contract with signature.

    I handle things in a business manner, always. It sucks that more people aren't the same. Time is wasted on both sides and I find that wrong.

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    Having an attorney fee clause in your contract might come in handy if anything ever goes to court.

    Professionals (meaning doctors dentists, attorneys, etc.) get shafted too. I just had to wait 45 days for a $500 monthly payment against an overall bill of $5000.00. At least the guy sent $1000.00 for the two months when he finally sent it. In our case, if we try to make a stink about it there is a 40% chance the client defends by filing a malpractice suit.

    At least there aren't a lot of art malpractice lawsuits.

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    I had a teacher who breaks up payment in the contract, a third for roughs a third for final design, and a third for finished piece. Which changes depending on the situation. But that means if you only get to the finished design and they cancel on you it means they have to pay for what you did. Then throw in an attorney fee clause as extra safety. As for up front payments, I say that if the clients is cool with that then they should do it, and if they aren't, and if that's what you require, the deal was just not meant to be.

    However, sometimes you need to grab them by the balls. Go to their place of business and show them you mean business.

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    Reminds me of an old saying "When a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation." You shouldn't feel bad about collecting what is due.

    It is nice to give people the benefit of the doubt. But after a while if it feels like you are babysitting, chances are it is.

    Maybe you can contact their teammates or boss, maybe it can set things straight. Let them know the person is sleeping at the wheel is jeopardising the project with their lack of communication and stiffing payment for resources.

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    If the Bible has one worthy line, it's 'The Labourer is worthy of his wage' (1 Timothy 5:18 )

    I hear a lot of freelancers bemoaning this problem. Clients who drag their heels about paying you do so, I suspect, primarily to keep the money generating interest in their bank account for as long as possible, rather than in yours. It's a discreditable practice. You can bet they pay themselves on time. If someone genuinely hadn't the means to purchase goods or services then they shouldn't and wouldn't agree to do so.

    I also think illustrators do themselves no favours when they describe commissioned projects using such terms as 'fun' and 'cool'. It's a job of work at the end of the day, and the client may need reminding of that fact. There is also the factor that sometimes the art commissioning editor/director may not be aware what the accounts department are up to, or that you haven't been paid, but really that's no excuse.

    Last edited by dashinvaine; September 19th, 2009 at 07:35 AM.
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    Good point actually. When speaking to peers, "cool" and "fun" may be appropriate words (they aren't, actually), but never speak out these words when you're talking to a client. A professor at my uni said once "Never tell a client you're having fun with what you do for him. Because then, the next thing he'll do is wanting the work done at a lower price".

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    If the client doesn't wanna pay you after a couple of repeated chasings, then do what the Pied Piper did to the mayor and people of Hamelin who refuse to pay him.

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    I know what you mean; that is exactly one of the best reasons for having an agent; with the years I became a pain in the ass in that aspect, I have no problem on making legal action on anyone that refuses to pay me, even if it`s 2 hundred bucks.

    You have to become known as the sonofabitch artist that is gonna call the cops as soon as you get a little late with the money, don`t be afraid to "burn bridges", a contact that doesn`t want to pay you is not worthy of you, so you don`t want them anyway, get your money out of them and never work with them losers again.

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    I've been lucky enough to only have a few problems thus far regarding late payments. But I certainly don't feel bad for having to use direct and forceful (yet still professional) language to get them to pay up. It's just part of doing business and everyone experiences these hang-ups from time to time.

    I actually don't mind if a client is late on a payment as long as they keep in touch and let me know what's going on. It's so simple to communicate through e-mail - there is no reason a client can't send a quick update to explain the situation. Stuff happens and times are tough, but communication is easy. If the client can't extend that basic courtesy, it may be a sign to turn down future work with that company.

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    As an update, I got confirmation about payment received through my Pal Pal this morning. I don't normally bother with Pay Pal (I'm content to wait for checks) but in situations like this where I need to receive payment before I can begin new work it does help speed up the process.

    As the saying goes "All's well that ends well." Will I continue to work for this client? Actually despite the payment delays, I will. As I said above, the working relationship otherwise has been good, and he's always paid me... eventually I'm willing to "risk" it in part because the working relationship is otherwise good, the guy seems to be really working hard to grow his product, and the amount of artwork in this case is only a couple small pieces here and there.

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