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To want my invoices paying.....

(25 Posts)
DreamingOfTheMaldives Thu 06-Dec-12 13:50:48

....and to wonder how on earth I achieve this without ruining the business relationship?

I work freelance for a firm and have done for 4 years. They have always been rubbish at paying me, despite our initial agreement that I would be paid within 2 weeks, but I have generally always been busy working for other firms who settle my invoices quickly, so it's not been too much of a problem. I know they will always pay me eventually so I've generally been patient.

I've been pretty quiet with work recently and I really need the money now (my husband and I aren't even buying each other Christmas presents this year because of finances - this first time in 12 years of being together we have had to do this sad

I have around £2k outstanding, some of this is from 6 weeks ago but some of it is from July! I have sent a couple of emails recently which have been ignored so I spoke to her today and explained that I'd been quiet recently and my cashflow was suffering. I was told that she was owed a lot of money herself from other companies (and therefore struggling herself) and would do her best to pay me this month (the tone and the way this was said made it clear to me that I have more chance of a visit from the Pope this month than I do of receiving any money!)

I don't think I'm being unreasonable to want my invoices paying, despite the fact that I have previously been patient in waiting for payment, because I've been in the financial position to be patient. I now really need the money but don't know how to go about it - I'm worried that if I start insisting on payment, therefore appearing to disregard her financial issues, that I will find myself losing the existing and future work with this company, something I can ill afford to do.

I know they are happy with my work as they told me recently, but I've had a disagreement recently with one of the other people they employ on a freelance basis and spoke to the boss about it. This has been resolved and isn't a problem for me but I'm worried that they will think I'm just trying to make waves because I didn't like the response I received when I raised my concerns re: the colleague. This certainly isn't the case - I'm just skint and really need some cash!

EwanHoHoHozami Thu 06-Dec-12 13:52:24

YANBU and this makes me froth, so have a bump.

Billwoody Thu 06-Dec-12 13:55:26

Do you have a business bank account with legal advice? The one I have with Barclays has some great formal letters dealing with just this kind of thing.
Writing is always best, make a clear statement about when you wish to paid eg within 7 days of this letter. Send all invoices attached.
What you may find is that many businesses do not make payments in late Dec due to year end. Try and get a letter in asap.

OnTheBottomWithAStringOfTinsel Thu 06-Dec-12 14:05:07

My sister was self employed and had a similar issue a couple of years ago where one of her clients got behind with paying her.

She got an agreement from the company that they would pay her X amount each month (which was the monthly amt due plus a portion of the outstanding fees). They left out the extra amt a couple of times but she basically hassled them (politely!) by phone and email and it was included in the following cheque. However she had a little power as she was doing their payroll, so if she witheld services none of their staff got paid (restaurant) so pissing her off would have caused them more trouble than it was worth in the short term (no chefs or waiting staff would have turned up had they not been paid!).

Perhaps look for a portion of arrears to be paid now, and then you might be able to negotiate better after Christmas (when finances are less tight for everyone) - agree with them that going forward all new work will be paid for within 7 working days, with an extra amt of £x towards arrears to be included in each cheque. Then the first time they renege, hold back any work you are doing for them and tell them they can't have it till they catch up again. There's still a risk they will dispense with your services entirely but hopefully not as much as if you just look for full payment immediately.

BovrilonToast Thu 06-Dec-12 14:14:39

Poor you, this is a rubbish situation to be in. Can I suggest you put together a payment plan that works for both of you?

Maybe ask for July's outstanding balance now and agree a time frame for the rest to be paid? (With whatever you need in time for Christmas)

Unfortunately a lot of companies will take advantage where they can, and if you let them they will.

Obviously you need to tread carefully to make sure you protect your future business, so remind them gently of the payment terms you agreed when you started work for them and ask them to remember that you are freelance and this is your income (play the Christmas bit here!)

Unless they are a HUGE company, they should be able to do you a faster payment (next day) for very little effort.

If their cash flow is so bad that they cannot pay you 2k though I would seriously consider keeping them on as a client. You may fiind that any future work might not get paid for if they are struggling.

FYI I am an accountant and have been reponsible for accounts payable in my time... I would always look after my smaller suppliers and freelancers first as cashflow for these people is absolutely key... it's just not fair not to pay on time.

Hope you get it sorted

LRDtheFeministDude Thu 06-Dec-12 15:11:44

YANBU, what the fuck? shock

I hope you get it sorted soon, that's awful.

TeeElfOnTeeShelf Thu 06-Dec-12 15:16:19

Her cashflow problems are not your problem and vice versa. You don't have to give her a reason to pay you. She needs to pay you.

I would write a letter, sending it signed for, with the total amount due by X date or a) there will be a late fee incurred of X amount and b) you will be taking her to court.

6 weeks is bad enough. July is taking the piss.

SaskiaRembrandtVampireHunter Thu 06-Dec-12 15:55:37

"Her cashflow problems are not your problem and vice versa. You don't have to give her a reason to pay you. She needs to pay you."

This ^

"If their cash flow is so bad that they cannot pay you 2k though I would seriously consider keeping them on as a client. You may fiind that any future work might not get paid for if they are struggling."

And this ^

I do sympathise, I have the same problem with a client. He has cashflow problems too, but really shouldn't have commissioned more work before he knew he could pay for it.

oohlaalaa Thu 06-Dec-12 16:33:35

I'm self-employed too. Some clients pay me quickly, some take an age. The ones that take an age, are struggling. If I know they are struggling, I usually make a decision on whether I can wait for payment, before taking the client on.

One of my clients has recently paid me an invoice for £1,700 from work done in June, it was the first time they'd had the money to pay me. It was a big relief, to have this money, as things were looking desperate.

The thing is, when they are late paying me. I'm late paying my bills, so it's a viscious circle. When I've been late paying, its because I have not had the money to pay, rather than I've wanted to piss everyone off.

Do you charge your clients interest for late payment?

MaxPepsi Thu 06-Dec-12 17:02:17

My job is to chase o/s bills for my employer.

You made a call today. Follow it up with an email, mention that you understand her cash flow is bad and to help her you will accept half this week (the 7th) and the balance on the 21st.

If you get no response to this, call again on either Monday or Tuesday.

Do not make daily phone calls, although she owes you money you can be accused of harrassment. She has said she has no money and being in debt is not yet a crime. Make calls every other day if you get no reponse. Make calls though, not emails.

Do not even mention legal action unless you are in fact prepared to go down this route, otherwise you will make yourself look foolish. If you are prepared to take legal action it will cost you and you are still not guaranteed your money and certainly not before xmas.

You can charge interest and late payment fees but you have no guarantee she will pay and again you may look foolish.

You have allowed her to take the piss by not chasing earlier, she will therefore repeatedly put you back to the bottom of the pile unless you apply gentle pressure.

Oblomov Thu 06-Dec-12 17:13:36

I agree with everyhting said. I do credit control as part of my job. You need to remain polite, but be very firm. And YOU suggest deadlines and times and dates. £x within 7 days and the balance in 2 instalements by x dec and x jan13, for e.g. Ask her to agree.
Put it in wriitng. In an e-mail. and ask her to respond. Put eveyrhting in an e-mail from now on.
Interest can be charged. and smalll claims court can be threatened, it is so easy to do. My employer has done it a couple of times and it is very easy, so don't be afraid.

Mimstar Thu 06-Dec-12 17:14:29

I know exactly how you feel, I nearly started the same thread today! I have been waiting just for my invoice to be approved for 2 weeks because my contact at the company is bloody useless, and thinks it's acceptable to ignore my work related emails and invoices for an entire week because she is 'struggling with her workload'.

If it's not resolved on Monday I will be speaking to her boss, I can't afford not to be paid before christmas.

Oblomov Thu 06-Dec-12 17:17:07

Interest on late payments would normally have been pre-approved. I mean, we agree it with clients at the very start. And people put it on the bottom of their invoices. Its not just something you can just apply willy-nilly.

5dcsandallthelittlesantahats Thu 06-Dec-12 17:23:39

I know how you feel. DH and I completed some work . It had been a long process getting them to stop trying to add extras into the brief. "could you put this in - its only a small change" etc etc. They owe us £5500 which would be the balance minus what they paid for deposit. They have basically said that they are struggling to pay because they have been buying things for christmas as though we magically do not.

whois Thu 06-Dec-12 17:27:17

Act like any other business with a credit controller would. Ring them. After 14 days overdue send a letter. Then another one. Then a legal letter. Etc etc. keep phoning, every day if you have to.

Mimstar Thu 06-Dec-12 17:44:51

I do find it so disrespectful. If you can't afford to pay somebody, don't hire them. So rude, and I get so angry when it's a case of me being able to pay bills on time or not.

TeeElfOnTeeShelf Thu 06-Dec-12 18:07:09

Also stop doing any work for them until they pay you.

Wheresmypopcorn Thu 06-Dec-12 18:21:24

It is annoying. I freelance and my terms are 30 days. I NEVER get paid within that. It's usually closer to 90 days.
Can you contact their accounts department/person directly? I usually find this better than speaking to the person who hired me as they are usually run off their feet. I usually follow a polite email reminder, wait a week, telephone to accounts. Wait for them to get back to me, then ring again to ask if they know when it will be in my account? Looks like I am just checking dates for my accountant but it a pointed way to imply 'hurry up already' without actually having to say it.

Mimstar Thu 06-Dec-12 18:55:52

I have decided that in the new year I am simply not putting up with it any more. 90 days when your terms are 30 days is ridiculous. You can bet the big shots at these compa

Mimstar Thu 06-Dec-12 18:57:25

Sorry on phone. You can bet the boy shots at these companies wont put up with it, hence why they are big shots. I'm not tolerating slow payers anymore.

Abra1d Thu 06-Dec-12 19:10:46

I am sighing in recognition of the situation. I am usually chasing invoices. OFten it's sheer incompetence that cause the problem. The company I worked for moved its accounts department to Asia-Pacific and it seems that every query involves at least three people needing to be involved. Very inefficient. I don't think the people who hire us, usually on monthly salaries, always understand how devastating poor cashflow owing to unpaid invoices is for freelancers. Especially this time of year. They don't pay us NI, holiday, maternity leave, sick pay, so they could at least pay our invoices on time.

DreamingOfTheMaldives Thu 06-Dec-12 21:20:01

Unfortunately I'm not really able to contact the accounts department directly as it's only a very small company and everything goes through the boss. I know that the accounts woman deals with invoices and gets cheques ready but the boss leaves them in a pile for ages and doesn't sign them. I don't think the boss even forwards my invoices to accounts straight away.

Shw is always late paying so can't use the excuse that she has has cash flow problems herself at the moment. She just doesn't like being parted from her cash. The type of work it is means she has no choice but to take it on; similarly I can't refuse to do anymore of the ongoing work until it's paid because of the obligations to our mutual clients. Perhaps she knows that which is why she just thinks she can delay my payments.

I sent an email along the lines of what you suggested Bovrilontoast, only shortly after and haven't received a bloody response. So ignorant!

Abra1D it's so true that she and the other employees will all get their monthly salary paid on time; it's just so easy to fob the freelancer off without giving a second thought to our finances, because I've got no choice but to put up with it if I want repeat work - the problem is that work isn't busy for me at the moment so I can't afford to lose a client, even one who pays so slowly; slow money is better than no money.

I think I will leave it until beginning of next week and then make a call if I haven't heard anything. I may have to gently point out that other employees are paid each month irrespective of cash flow problems and I need to be treated in the same way as it is also my income.

It's really causing concern at the moment in our personal finances but I shouldn't have to point this out - it almost feels like I'm going begging and I shouldn't bloody have to it's money I've earned.

Not really enjoying my work at the moment so this is just the icing on the cake. Thankfully my other clients pay me quickly. One of them paid me the same day the other week when I mentioned I'd appreciate a direct banking payment if possible rather than the usual cheque. That was much appreciated.

Mimstar Fri 07-Dec-12 09:37:50

I know what you mean Dreaming when you feel like you have to beg for money you've earnt. I obviously don't want to say 'If you don't pay me, I can't pay my bills' as it might look unprofessional, but really it is taking the piss.

And yes, it's true that employees will have their salary paid on time.

Sallyingforth Fri 07-Dec-12 10:05:43

OP send your invoice by recorded delivery.
Email is too easily ignored and you can't even be sure it has arrived.

CocktailQueen Fri 07-Dec-12 11:45:52

OP, I feel for you. It's so crap. I had this situ recently when I hadn't been paid and my invoice was 30 days overdue. I chased every week for 3 weeks then I sent the following:

NOTICE OF INTENDED COURT PROCEEDINGS

Dear <crap client>

TAKE NOTICE that according to my records the sum of £xxxxxxx is overdue for payment for my invoice xxx.

Unless payment is made to the above address within seven days, legal action to recover the debt will be taken against you without further notice.

A copy of the outstanding invoice is attached.

Yours sincerely
...

She paid the next day.

Did you include on your invoice a statement quoting the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Act? Under the terms of this act you are entitled to claim interest on the amount owing from the date it became due, i.e. 30 days. See www.payontime.co.uk - this will give you details of the interest rate you can charge. If you don;t include this on your invoices it may be worth doing so in future. Good luck.

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