When should you send in the heavies?

Invoicing and admin is one of my least favourite parts of being self-employed.

I keep a spreadsheet of all my work with details of who the article was for, what it was about and the date it’s due. I then note the date I sent the invoice for it and when it was paid. I’m sure everyone has their own system but I find this works well for me. Plus, I’m finally putting those Excel formulae I learned in secondary school to use – hurrah!

Some companies send a remittance advice by email or post to let you know when they have paid you, which is handy – these are pretty much my favourite emails to receive after invitations to events!

Other times I have to look through my bank statement and try to match up the amounts which have appeared to the numbers in my spreadsheet. It’s pretty boring stuff.

So far, I’ve been pretty lucky and have, by and large, been paid promptly and without any issues. Occasionally I’ve spotted an invoice hasn’t been paid and when I’ve chased it up it’s been remedied quickly.

I don’t know if it’s the time of year or staff changes, but recently there seem to be more problems though. A couple of invoices still unpaid since the summer, people not acknowledging they’ve even received the invoice in the first place, or ignoring a follow up email asking when I can expect to be paid.

And that’s when it starts to get a bit awkward for me. I don’t want to have to chase people up for money; I’m not a loan shark and I don’t entirely feel comfortable hassling people about payment. Particularly because I’m assuming, in most cases, it’s probably an entirely innocent oversight and probably doesn’t have much to do with the editor I work with, who likely just forwards over the invoice to the accounts department and forgets about it (or this could be me being incredibly naïve).

I’m probably not as hot on chasing up as I should be; I don’t send invoices immediately after I file copy and I don’t check my bank statement every day to keep a sharp eye on what’s coming in, so it’s easy to miss stuff. But I’m unsure how long you wait before you start sending less friendly emails or putting in a daily call pretending to be someone scary from your own accounts department to demand payment.  

I don’t see this as being just a problem for the journalist who wants to be able to afford to eat that month, either. If publications get a reputation for being bad payers then journalists won’t want to work for them – there are social media groups dedicated to exposing these places.

I just think if I’m upholding my end of the bargain by filing you the copy you asked for at the time you asked for it, I shouldn’t have to chase to be paid for it. Simple.

Has anyone had any particularly bad experiences, or have you invented a foolproof system which guarantees payment? 


One comment

  1. My biggest bug bear is not knowing which articles have been paid for as I never get remittance advice. For regular customers I’ve found it easiest to invoice once a month for all work since the preceding invoice rather than invoice separately per article as it reduces the number of invoices I have to match to bank transactions. Before I did occasionally discover that the odd article had slipped through unpaid simply by asking the customer to tell me which invoices it had paid and sending a statement of account for those that it hadn’t. Fortunately I’ve never had to send round the heavies.


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