Every month, one of the greatest inconveniences of my adult life strikes. And it’s not even my period. but arguably, it’s just as annoying and uncontrollable – it’s late invoices. I have often asked myself if I really do need to get so worked up about chasing people up for updates and every time I come to the same conclusion. Would it be okay to post weeks later after an agreed date, without giving a heads up? I am quite sure that the answer is unanimously, no. So why is it okay that freelancers such as bloggers are facing this rampant issue from brands, influencer platforms and PR agencies?
It was really when I started googling UK laws around late fees and interest rates that it struck me, The Haute Heel and my social media account is kind of a business. I certainly don’t view myself as an entrepreneur but I do take my work very seriously and view campaigns and collaborations as client work. A few blogger friends have approached me, seeking advice on what to do. Now while I’m no expert and I frequently check forums or other blogs for best practices, here are a few tips for influencers with overdue payments:
1. Set the expectation at the beginning
If I’m working with a brand outside of an influencer platform with a set payment date, I always ask what the invoice process period is because on occasion, some PR agencies state 60 days. While the UK law says that this amount of time should warrant a good reason, it’s more or less deemed acceptable but uncommon. 30 days is really the legal standard. It helps to get this in black and white, either in an email thread or written within the contract. If not, a disclaimer on the final invoice and a mention of this to the client is the courteous thing to do – although not a dealbreaker.
2. The payment is overdue, now what?
This is far too common but it doesn’t mean that it’s okay. If you take a look at anything I’ve #ad on my Instagram feed, about 40% of that paid work has been paid late. I usually leave it for two or three days, just to give them some time. After that, I’ll politely remind them of the situation and wait for the response. Usually people are reasonable and apologetic and they’ll update you when they’ve figured out what’s going on in their finance department. You only really have a problem if there’s no response.
After a full seven working days, I bring up the issue of a late fee, unless the brand has actually specified the time period that I should expect payment e.g. 3-5 working days. From experience if they say ‘in the next week’ or ‘it’s been approved so should go through soon’, don’t hold your breath.
3. What’s the deal with the late fee, anyway?
So this is a slightly trickier question because to calculate the daily interest rate for every day that the payment is late, you would take the 8% flat rate and add it to the current Bank of England interest rate (at the time of writing this is 0.5%). This official formula to get the daily breakdown explains it a lot better than I can, so I’ll just skip along to the difficult part. The truth is that if the job was worth £200 for example, that official late fee rate is not going to attract much attention or make up for the inconvenience that it’s caused. After 30 days, we are within our rights to charge that 8.25% of the original amount however, I find that we are justified in adding slightly more. I believe that 15-20% of the original fee is acceptable but feel free to experiment – as long as the increase is justifiable. Good reasons to charge more on top of the base rate are:
- No competition or exclusivity clauses that has prohibited you from working with similar brands
- If it was clearly stated in writing and agreed upon previously, which holds a particular person accountable and is much more effective than slamming the entire company
(Can I just stress that with these two factors, they are based on what is fair and what has hindered further business opportunities. I do not have any legal knowledge of this).
4. Won’t this hurt my relationship with the brand?
If this thought ever crosses your mind, consider this: would it be okay for your employer to pay your salary weeks or even months late? The story of clients taking advantage of freelancers is an established problem within the gig economy but in this instance we have a slight upper hand. Because of the nature of our work and how public it is, we shouldn’t be afraid to call out those who dismiss our services by paying us late. I know that not everyone is going to be tagging to name and shame on social media and I am certainly not encouraging that because it can easily translate as unprofessional.
What I am saying here is that we should be sharing experiences with other bloggers and not being afraid to reach out to others on the same campaign to ask if they’re experiencing a similar problem. (Please feel free to DM or email me about any brands you see me working with. Even if I have a contract with them, if I have any obligation at all, it’s to my audience and I am always happy to share my honest thoughts if relevant).
Late payments are disrespectful and shouldn’t be tolerated. If anything, the client has already hurt the relationship. Only once have I ever been offered an apology gift for such an incident, which I thought was very genuine and sweet.
5. A brand that’s paid me late before wants to work with me again, now what?
If you’re still interested in that brand and the campaign, go for it. One thing I’ve suggested to friends before and I am not above doing myself, is to ask for a % of your total fee after the content has been approved and before posting. Of course, this works best if your quoted rate is high enough to warrant a ‘deposit’ and if they’re organised enough to follow the process. However, graphic designers do this, web developers certainly do – why shouldn’t we?
I recently had a situation where a PR firm had a particular associate that immediately ignored all five of my emails when I chased up on a late payment. He had told me 20 days but it was well past 30. I actually had to dig around to find the email of the agency’s accountant (yes, seriously) in order to settle the situation myself. After he had left the company, the PR’s new team approached me for another campaign. I told them what had happened before and how I was sceptical to work with them given my experience. How valuable is the promise of money when you’ll never see it anyway, unless you go through weeks of stressful back and forth emails? I had apologies and assurance from the team that it wouldn’t happen again, so I decided to give them another chance. I’ll keep you informed on that one!
shot by Anastasija, @anastasija__je
ASOS jumpsuit and cardigan | Nasty Gal glasses | Aspinal of London bag