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Billing Question

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Mick Haensler
Billing Question
on Aug 29, 2008 at 4:53:08 pm

I'm having an issue getting paid from what I thought was a good client. They recently lost an invoice of mine that is now past 60 days. The invoice was itemized including travel and lodging charges. They now want to see my invoices for all expenses. I'm not a detail oriented person and usually guestimate my expenses erring on the side of the client since I like to eat well when I'm on the road. Bottom line is, the invoice is now 60 days past due, and any billing questions should have been addressed when they received my invoice. I've had issues getting paid from them in the past and this isn't the first time they have "lost" an invoice. I like these guys and would like to use them as a reference but am getting tired of the billing hassles. Any thoughts on how to handle this. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media



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Bruce Bennett
Re: Billing Question
on Aug 30, 2008 at 2:23:47 pm

Hi Mick,

I add up all my travel expenses for one line item and call/label it: “Expenses (airfare, lodging, taxis, food, parking, etc.)”. This was the line item description for the bid/estimate and thus it is the same line item that appears on the final invoice. Your/my client does not need to know how it breaks out and doesn’t need to tell you/me how to be a professional Producer. My clients don’t really care how I spend the budget as long as I deliver a project that they love and within budget. It’s all about the client/vendor trust issue.

Since your client is asking you for individual receipts, I’m guessing the issue is one of three things:
1). He/she is trying to get you to re-do the invoice with a lower amount due. Maybe because the entire project (video, print materials, electronic media, overpaid ad agency, etc.) is over budget and the client is now trying to cover his/her butt.
2) There is now a new corporate policy that requires vendors to submit individual receipts with final invoices. (This is actually a policy with some companies and breaks my third rule for running my business).
3). He/she has lost trust with you.

I would call again and remind them that you brought the project in under/at budget, but you’ll still submit photocopies of the requested receipts. Let the chips fall as they will. Tell them that since payment is way over due, you now need to front their money to pay your overhead. Try to figure out what the reason is for non-payment.

This is what I’d do… If it’s #1, try your best to help them out. If it’s #2 or #3, wait it out for payment and then drop them as a client.

Good luck,
Bruce

Bruce Bennett
Bennett Marketing & Media Production, LLC


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Mick Haensler
Re: Billing Question
on Sep 2, 2008 at 4:35:53 pm

Thanks for the response Bruce. Unfortunately this project didn't have a budget or proposal. It was a spur of the moment thing. I'm also dealing with a new project person who is completely overwhelmed with a new position. Next time I will put the breaks on and get an approved proposal before starting. Lesson learned. I have now found out that the project person didn't have approval for my services from the higher ups which may or may not contribute to this dilemna. At any rate, thanks for your input.

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media



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Bob Zelin
Re: Billing Question
on Sep 4, 2008 at 12:53:30 am

Mick -
#1 - become a detailed oriented person RIGHT NOW. Keep every damn invoice, bill, receipt, etc. and when you submit your invoice, ALWAYS itemize everything on the invoice. This way, when your house burns down, your CD backup of your computer will have the invoices on it, and the invoice will have the itemized list.

My clients always do this to me, and I ALWAYS specify every damn connector, cable tie, and label that is sold to them, down to every
$1.29 part. This way, there is no question.

#2 - don't have the receipts anymore - MAKE SOMETHING UP. Make up your parking charges. If you paid for a hotel, surely you have your credit card receipts. Don't have toll receipts - MAKE IT UP, and itemize "tolls" on your bill - even if you don't know the exact amount of your tolls, parking charges, tip at the airport to the bellman to move all of your equipment - MAKE IT UP. And bill them.
Be polite, but get your money.

#3 - become more detail oriented. The business part of your job (finding new work, billing, keeping track of receipts, collecting your money, etc.) is 50% of every independent person in EVERY business. Being a great cameraman, lighting director, or editor is only 50% of being in business. Don't like this fact - then get a job.

Bob Zelin




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Mick Haensler
Re: Billing Question
on Sep 9, 2008 at 12:59:01 am

Hey Bob, thank for the response and curmudgeonly words of wisdom.

Part of the problem was I DID make up some of the expenses and they wanted to see the receipts. When on the road I like to eat well but don't think it fare to charge my client for that surf and turf I had the night before so I usually come up with a number that seems fare like $15 for food and lump it into a food and lodging line item. In the end I got paid everything except a gas surcharge I have started putting in because of the high cost of fuel. No biggie, I can live with that. As it turns out, the person who booked me didn't have authorization to do so. When she got her hand slapped for it, she tried to weasel out of it by only authorizing my day rate and no expenses. I was able to track down the comptroller of the company and after a long dissertation by him telling me how to run my business and me playin' the "Aw shucks" country bumpkin who "don't know no bitter", I gots my money.

Lesson learned....documentdetaildocumentdetail....and no more surf and turf on the road....Life is uncertain though......

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media



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Bob Zelin
Re: Billing Question
on Sep 9, 2008 at 1:34:35 am

Hi Mick -
when I have to drive down to Miami from Orlando, the toll on the Florida Turnpike is $13.70 each way. The distance is a little over 250 miles, so the round trip is about 500 miles (you figure out the gas for yourself), plus $27.40 in tolls. In addition, I lease my car, so every mile over the maximum is .15 cents per mile.

If it's a big job, and I have to stay in a hotel (even a cheap hotel like Best Western or LaQuinta), it's still going to be $80 bucks.

If you think that I am going to EAT this cost, for the honor of driving 4 hours to Miami, and paying $27.40 in tolls, .15 cents per mile, $60 in gas, and possibly an $80 hotel room, well, you know what you can tell the client !

If you are "talked out" of your honest expenses (like gas and tolls - especially if they are this costly)- then you are a fool.

Bob Zelin




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Mick Haensler
Re: Billing Question
on Sep 9, 2008 at 10:41:00 pm

Thanks for the input Bob, much appreciated.

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media



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