How to get paid
I did a job for an out of state client. 4 days of event coverage for a large corporate event. We had 2 crews for several days. We shot B-Roll and well over 125 interviews. As usual I asked for a considerable deposit up front and the balance to be paid at the end of the event before I would release the 30 BetaCam tapes my crews shot to them. On the last day they paid me the entire balance except for overtime that we were still incurring on the last day. I told them I'd send them an invoice for the overtime amount once I had the chance to add it up. We're talking $385.00
So the following week I sent my invoice for $385.00. It's been 60 days now. I've emailed them and have gotten no response. I called the client and spoke to her. She said it was submitted but also was quick to point out that the last tape we shot (that caused theovertime at the client's request) had a problem..perhaps a head clog, and the interview we shot was not useable. I asked her to send me the tape so I can evaluate it. Since our camera was fine before and after that interview, I have a feeling we had a bad Sony tape. She never sent me the tape.
My question... Should I just write this $385 off? I don't think an opportunity will arise again to work for them becasue of where they are located. But they may come to town again next year. Or should I contact them again and ask for payment.
I certainly could use $385.00!
Secondly, is a bad tape reason enough not to pay for the shoot? Especially if it's one interview out of 125 good ones?
Thanks for your help.
why don't you post their name here so that nobody else gets burned and call it a day.
$385? after paying the whole tab... are they saving anything or just being dorks?
It's too little to sue for, even in small claims, they're counting on that. HAve a lawyer write thema notaraized letter demanding the "bad" tape be returned.
If you are an olt testament sort of person, you can report them to credit bureaus, the triple-b in their region, and the attorney general in their state. Won;t help you directly, but will make life a little harder for them and maybe they will even agree to a deal just to clear the blot, on their public records.
Or you can have your accountant deduct it and call it tuition in the school of life. Sounds like you got off light this time.
Post the client's name and email address here and we'll all send notes explaining to them that its very bad form for clients to skip out on their obligations. In fact, I think we should organize a code of ethics and an email campaign that can be used to pressure this type client into paying. Anybody else think its a good idea?
I second David's suggestion. I know it's a "can of worms" but I think these sorts of "clients" need to be contacted by others to let them know that others are aware of their business practices. I know some will bring up libel/slander issues but I also don't think we should be scared into silence when we have proof a client has paid. There does need to be very careful practices in handling this though. The COW may NOT be the place to do this though.
It might be best if someone set up a board some place else as a sort of BBB specific to small media businesses. I have much more to say on these situations but I'm not sure this is a burden Ron & Kathy should have to take the risk on (and there is risk).
I do think we need to collectively have a discussion on how we as a group should handle these situations through a network we create. Such a network needs to be fare to those named (sometimes there are disputes) but certainly when it becomes clear to such "deadbeat" individuals/businesses that they are damaging their own reputation they may clearify the dispute or settle the debt or, over time, find that word has spread.
I don't think we'd need to say anything about the Cow. Simply, if someone here thinks they need help, they just ask for assistance, and volunteers who want to help out simply write helpful notes to the deadbeat party. These notes would explain how very difficult our business is, that as freelancers have pay our own benefits, and that as friends we're just to help our professional friends get treated inn the manner they deserve. I think something like that could really be helpful in certain situations. I've been in situations where it might certainly have been useful.
Somehow I don't think a "friendly reminder" from 3 or 4 people about how tough the business is, will have much impact even psychologically (let alone financially). Does pondscum have a conscience? If someone believes they may actually lose business and reputation amounting to more than the the debt, the might respond.
Here's what I'd imagine:
A Voluntary Association called something like Media Business Ethics and Practices. Set up a web site in which people can list the name and circumstance of the debt and possible proof (jpg of invoice - bounced check, etc.) along with phone number(s), email addresses, address of business and/or individual (people doing this often change the name of their businesses and use PO boxes).
People could then send an email (letter etc) with a simple statement.
"Your business/ you have been listed on the Media Business Ethics and Practices website as owing payment to one of our members. As a member of MBEP I will not do business with you. Others have been informed of your unpayed debt. Such information has been made publicly available (via website). People/businesses searching for you services on the web may find and have access to this information when doing searches for your business. Word of mouth in the industry may inform others. By paying the debt, your information will be removed from the MBEP site. If you feel you have been incorectly listed you may respond but must have documentation substantiating reason for non payment"
Yes it could be a "can of worms" given libel/slander laws but I suspect these clients won't often pursue that avenue given that's another initial cost to them. Even if they issue a cease and desisit regarding their name, they've been "troubled" enough by their reputation to be forced to respond.
My hunch is often PondScum may respond with the excuse, "I didn't like the job done" but unless they can proved payment was based on final approval via a contract, that may be insufficient response back for posting.
In other words I envision an accessible BBB site for the media business.
I'm just not sure that a few individuals telling how tough the industry is, would mean anything to pondscum unless such pondscum were listed (and could be found by search engines).
Those wishing to post an incident of "bad debt" might pay a small fee per post or an annual membership to cover costs. Anyone would be able to search the site.
BTW if you've ever searched for products by "pricegrabber" (I think BizRate too) or other equivalent sites they allow for "user experience" posts and the ability to rate such business in different catagories so there may be various ways to set up such a site to allow us to post bad debts with addition of allowing those to send messages to such businesses.
Some of the bigger businesses and ratings sites have a team of attorneys whose job it is to protect their respective companies from the repercussions of comments made on their sites.
Small independent sites are probably best served by locating their server in Vietnam or somewhere else where the laws would make it very tough for anyone to have recourse against you.
I say go after the money -- but don't ever expect to actually see it. It is too little to sue over, but you can irritate the daylights out of a deadbeat client by sending them invoices every month with more and more "late fee" applied. After a while it will get to be sort of a game and who knows? Someday you might win.
Chances are you will never see that client again anyway -- and why would you want to?
One of the best parts of being in business for yourself is the ability to FIRE the client if you so desire. I've done it a time or two over my ten years of being in business for myself -- it does the heart good.
Foley Video Productions, Inc.
My hat's off to you for insisting on the big deposit/final payment before releasing tapes. I don't do that, and have gotten burned, though only twice. When clients have either failed to pay, or paid late, it has not been the loss of money that has been damaging, but rather the distraction and hassle of going after the money. I sympathize, but I wonder if in part the client was getting back at you for insisting on COD. It doesn't sound as if they were angry at you; I would suspect internal corporate politics has more to do with it. ("Why'd we spend so much money shooting all that video??" "I'll show 'em! I won't pay the last invoice!")
But I'd like to confess something that seems extremely wimpy, compared to your method: Usually I just bill the client when the job is done. No advances, except for out-of-town travel and lodging.
For bigger projects, I usually obtain a 30-30-30-10% schedule of payments (to start treatment/script, start shooting, start editing, and when the job is done). But for bread-and-butter jobs, I work on the faith that I'll get paid. In 30-some years, it's worked out pretty well. Almost all of my clients are either long-term customers, or come to me by way of word-of-mouth. There's no way I could convert them. But for brand-new clients, I'll try your way.
This was a first time client from out of state. I had to hire two beta sp crews for 4 days including overtime. No way I do work with any first time client without full payment upon delivery of their tapes. I'm also considering revising how I work with one client I do a few jobs a year for. I create Broll packages for them...usually rush jobs. They seem to pay in about 90 days. I find that unacceptable. Now I'm going to insist on payment before they receive their tapes. Why should I finance their company? I bet they pay their rent and utilities on time...why not pay me?
Other clients that I know or work with I'll just bill with no deposit up front.
One thing to be aware of is the client who does pay by check on the delivery of the job but the check bounces and the client doesn't make good.
[Craig Seeman] "One thing to be aware of is the client who pays by check ... but the check bounces and the client doesn't make good."
In California, this is a crime and the County District Attorney's office will gladly handle the case for you. Doesn't do much good if the company or client lives outside California, but if they do, it shakes 'em up nicely to have a letter sent them by the District Attorney asking them to show up for their court date.
For Californians, it's like Small Claims Court on steroids.
And, not only is it a crime, but a felony, if they bounce a check for more than $1000.