What To Do if You Haven't Been Paid

What To Do if You Haven't Been Paid

 One of the top cries for help we get from influencers seeking counsel is this: “HELP my client won’t pay me! What can I do?” 
Man, we feel you on that one. We’ve written many times about how important it is for you to get paid. Otherwise this is a just a cute hobby, right?  We thought it was about time to write up some tips for those of you who are on the hunt for your rightful money. 

Head off the problem

Here are the top tips we have for avoiding the payment problem to begin with.

  • Contract: Start every project on the right foot by having a reliable contract in place. Check out our contracts resource and checklist to make sure that your client contracts are up to snuff. 
  • Invoice: Make sure you send an invoice for every project. This will give you two concrete documents to point to should things go wrong. Here are some tips for invoicing.
  • Make it Easy for Clients to Pay You: I’ll be frank with you here: it is a pain in the ass to cut a check for an influencer. It is also a pain in the ass to mail said check. Making it hard to pay you will make your payments take much longer. My advice is to get yourself into the mid-2000’s and start accepting PayPal, Stripe, Square invoices or whatever other e-payment you can. 
  • Request Money Up Front: Often, influencers will ask for payment (partial or in-full) at the beginning of a project. Brands will almost always be reticent to agree to these terms, but you can ask. 

Pick up the phone

It’s really easy to ignore emails. We’ve all done it before. You know what’s not easy to ignore? Someone on the other end of the phone confronting you directly, with their voice. We cannot overstate the value of getting on the phone to hunt down your payment. And frankly we’re always shocked when influencers contact us for help without having tried this.  

Bring in some reinforcement

It’s much harder to get away with a crime when there’s tons of witnesses. Similarly, it is harder for multiple contacts at an organization to ignore your pleas for compensation. So get on linkedin or the company’s website and figure out 1 or 2 other relevant employees within the organization to loop into this communication mess. It might just be that your contact is overwhelmed and someone else can get it done for them much faster. 

Honey, not vinegar

This is a simple and time tested truth of working with any kind of customer service personnel: “you’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar.” Basically: don’t be an asshole. People are much more likely to want to help you if you are kind and patient. Don’t issue ultimatums, point blame, or speak rudely. They will stop answering you. Try to find someone within the organization that you can recruit on to your team with kindness. They’ll be much more willing to help you out. 

Ok, I’ve tried all the tricks in the book and nothing worked. What are my options?

Freelance Debt Collector

One service, called Just Tell Julie, developed as a sort of one-off, freelancer debt collection service. If you’re trying REALLY hard to collect a sizeable sum of money, or if you simply don’t have time to collect on the debts yourself,  this might be worth it for you. Julie started out politely following up on debts owed to her freelancing husband, eventually she was so successful that she started offering the services to other clients. We haven’t used Julie’s services, but they’re an option if you don’t want to get the law man involved. 
One trick Julie uses is “Her “six-by-seven” approach, a method she invented, means she’ll contact the freelancer’s client six times in seven days for two weeks. Every other day, she will make a phone call, followed up by an e-mail.” (Which you could try yourself.) 

Legal Action

When it comes down to legal action as a last recourse, your only real option is to take your client to small claims court. Small claims courts generally hear private cases between citizens involving smaller sums of money, you know like Judge Judy. The problem is that this can get expensive, fast. Between lawyer fees, court fees, and time away from working, this can add up quickly. Additionally, there are caps on the amounts of money that can be awarded from a small claims case. The point being, it is rarely worth it. 
Do you know multiple influencers who have been stiffed by the same company? Then you could be in a different boat. Seek legal counsel to determine if you can band together to take action against a single company. 

The Freelancer’s Union is an amazing resource for making your life as an independent creative better. Here are their tips for getting your money

Photo Cred: Unsplash

Creative Community Director at Snapfluence. 

There is often a pen stuck in my hair.