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Tired of Clients payment policies

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Greg Ball
Tired of Clients payment policies
on Dec 31, 2019 at 7:34:27 pm

Hi All,

This is my last venting for 2019! I just lost a sizable video translation project. So frustrating! The NEW client agreed to our pricing for translating and subtitling their corporate video into 19 languages. All was good until they told me on this past Friday that they pay 30 -75 days after receiving the final videos.

My policy is for full payment up front for translation jobs. I don't have the ability to finance a Fortune 500 company for over $15,000 when I have a small profit margin. That's just crazy!

There's lots of posts here in this forum about folks who have not been paid after delivering the project. I've never been stiffed before, but periodically I lose out on a project, because I need some payment up front.

In Corporate America, clients come and go all the time. What recourse would I have after sending them the final product and they do not pay? For video projects I put a bug on the video, or Timecode somewhere in the frame. But for subtitles, I have no way of stopping them from using the translated subtitles.

I wonder what happens when their electric bill or rent is due? Do they wait 75 days to pay it? I'm just frustrated with these type of companies.

Thanks for listening. I always welcome your advice.

Happy New Year everyone!

Greg Ball, President
Ball Media Innovations, Inc.

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Bob Zelin
Re: Tired of Clients payment policies
on Jan 1, 2020 at 7:51:48 pm

I work for a lot of companies, and certainly, I have had a few "tiny" customers (struggling companies that could be as small as 1 or 2 people) that have stiffed me for the money.

But what I have found, in recent times, is that most companies, big and small, pay me. But the BIG ones (I mean the giants) torture me about getting paid. 60 days is VERY common. I did a job in 2019, where I showed them what to purchase at B&H Photo, and they said "can you just get it for us". Sure - it's a Fortune 500 company. 30 days pass, no money, 60 days pass no money. "The corporate policy is to pay on the second Tuesday of the month, after 60 days has past". In the mean time, I had to pay my credit card bill for their equipment. Stupid me ! I should have drilled them for this information before I asked.

I have LOTS of variations on this story. I install shared storage systems for video editing, and I got called by a Medical Insurance Company (MY Medical Insurance Company) if I could do a system for their video marketing department. They wanted a big enterprise QNAP system with about 200 TB of storage. SO, I tried to "twist this around". I told them that there was no need for me to submit a quote. This was an expensive system, and I would PURCHASE the system for them, and install it, and both the equipment and labor for installation would be FREE - no charge to them, if I could just get 1 year of free medical insurance (I have been a client of theirs since 1999 - meaning I give them money every year since 1999). They emailed me back the next day, and said no - they will purchase the equipment, and I should just bill for my labor. So I do the install, and bill for my labor. 30 days pass, 60 days pass - WHERE IS MY MONEY. If I don't send THEM my monthly premium they will drop my insurance, but when it comes time to PAYING ME, well - they take their time.

I have other stories as well, but it's all the same stuff. I am sure that every small business owner here has stories like this. It's funny, because new freelancers, or staff people always think that "we make so much money". They don't know what we have to go through to collect (least not solicit new business).


Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Tired of Clients payment policies
on Jan 2, 2020 at 3:48:14 pm

Those are terrible stories but also all too common.

I was gonna say, send the files encrypted, to say you made delivery, and release the decryption key when you get paid, but the end effect would be the same as if you sent nothing until the check arrived, so why do more work for still no money.

"2/10/net 30" has to be written in the contract, and even then, the cheapskates will bluff you, because who wants to go to court over it? That almost never ends up net positive after the time and money spent. And they know it. Apparently political campaigns are really really bad with this, from what friends tell me, and recovery after the election is incredibly hard, more so if they lost, so they demand payment in full up front or no work.

I don't have a magic answer to this. Every time you reach out to interact with a human being, you are taking a calculated risk. Best you can do is defend yourself with consistent policies, and mine would be that payment on delivery is mandatory without exception, and if you can't swing that, good day, sir. I'd rather take the loss and not deliver, than get a reputation as someone who can be screwed-over. In the end, you're out money, either way. This is where i admire Bob's hard negotiating, but it seems even he has a soft touch... or did at one point. Probably less so, now.

Just about the only leverage you have is the clock and calendar; if *they* have a hard deadline themselves. If they can afford to wait you out, they are likely to. So you have to be an incredibly uncompromising (redacted) to such people. Really, it's similar to child-rearing with an intemperate toddler. You're either consistent or you're not. And they have to believe it.

"Where is that file? We have to go to air in three hours!"

"Your file is ready and it is perfect. And its yours, when I have a check. That's the deal we made. Not next week. Not in 60 days. On delivery. Or no delivery. Like a pizza. I can have a courier at your door in twenty minutes. Or not. Your call."

"We can't cut a check that fast, there's a process..."

"You knew the terms when we started, you signed a contract."

"Even if I wanted to, I don't have the authority..."

"Not. My. Problem. Go talk to the authority."


"Very probably. But I'll still have my job in three hours when you go to air with a test pattern... The contract is super-explicit about this and a judge will agree. It's just business, and I work for money. No money, no file. Shame too - we did really good work on this. Let me know if you change your mind. We also take wire transfers or PayPal."

(well, it plays better in my head with the dramatic music and Aron Sorkin walk-and-talk actor behaviors, but there you go.)

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Greg Ball
Re: Tired of Clients payment policies
on Jan 2, 2020 at 4:27:19 pm

Thanks Mark. I wonder if these same companies pay their electric/utilities bill in 30-60 days. Do they pay their employees that late?

Last week I brought my car in for service. I had to pay the cashier before they brought out my SUV. Do you think I could have told them I'd send them a check in 30 days?

Greg Ball, President
Ball Media Innovations, Inc.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Tired of Clients payment policies
on Jan 2, 2020 at 4:48:53 pm

Ask yourself: is it any worse to turn down a gig where you don't get paid on time, or ever, than to not do the work at all? I think it has to be better to starve while continuing to develop new contacts that WILL pay, versus tying up equipment and people doing something for nothing.

When you run a business, especially one where people work for you and depend on getting paid, you absolutely have to be a complete (redacted) of a person when it comes to the income. Crooks will try to play on your sympathy, on your humanity, on your ethics and values. Con men count on you falling into a trap of "sunk costs fallacy", the same as gamblers: "I am already in this far, I can't afford to back out now, the only way out is thru, even at a loss, next time this guy has to pay up front but we just have to roll with it this time..."

It's a trick. And if you ever give that client another opportunity to do you over, you deserve everything you get, and the money you won't get. Because you've rewarded them and told them by your actions that they were right and they can roll you and you can't resist.

If you lose a gig because they wouldn't agree to pay up front, CELEBRATE IT.

Because you dodged a bullet, and these shmucks are now going to go and roll one of your competitors, ruining THEIR income stream, tying-up THEIR gear and THEIR people. They did you a favor, they showed themselves for who the are, and they will now damage one of your competitors, while you remain free to find a new client that actually pays.

About once a year, I re-watch this guy's presentation. He says it better than I can. Beware: he uses language that may not be suitable for your office. This is just the short intro, the rest of the detailed training can be found on YouTube as well if you use the title of the short clip in your search bar.

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Nick Griffin
Re: Tired of Clients payment policies
on Jan 8, 2020 at 8:24:40 pm

Late to the thread, but...
Sinking feeling it my gut from reading how many of us have had similar experiences. My latest was "Well our customers take 90 or more days to pay us, so..."

Me: "Yes, but you USED to pay in 30 days and I'm not a bank."

(However I do have a contract with this client written years ago in which they agree to pay 1.5% per month (which calculates to 18% on an annual basis) on past due invoices. And get this: for the last six months THEY HAVE. This leads me to believe that the people processing our invoices either don't read them, don't care or both.)

Word of caution to newbies and perhaps those of us not so new: The "2% 10 days, Net 30" often doesn't work at all. Some organizations take the 2% discount when they finally do pay knowing that if you want the work you will not enforce the 2% rule.

Long and short of it is to develop deep client relationships where they need what you do and fear that they can't easily find it elsewhere.

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Todd Terry
Re: Tired of Clients payment policies
on Jan 8, 2020 at 8:58:31 pm
Last Edited By Todd Terry on Jan 8, 2020 at 8:59:35 pm

I think it just depends on the client, you have to tailor your approach to who they are, how THEY work... and whether you want to work with them again or on a continuing basis.

For example, we do a fair number of political clients (candidates for office). With them, I get the money when their product is delivered, and they know going in that they have to pay me before their project is released to them. There are a few exceptions, most of those being long-standing ad agencies and political strategists that we have worked with for years.... but others, no. I have a meeting tomorrow with a candidate who is running for congress. I've never heard of him before, and unlikely never will after the next election, and don't know his management team. He'll be paying before he gets his commercial (which is one reason we love doing political... they don't care how much anything costs, and have to pay quickly since election laws require it).

On the other hand, we do lots of corporate work as well... with a bunch of companies but ONE big company in particular. They take 45 days to process an invoice. That's a given, going in, and there's nothing that's going to change that. This is a international company worth many billions of dollars with offices and employees all over the globe, and they are not about to deviate from their protocols for some penny ante little production company. If I want their business (and I do, very much), then I have to play by their rules. Which I do. I could say "No, I do it this way, and you'll get your video when I get paid," but they'd just go somewhere else and I'd lose quite a few tens of thousands of dollars every year doing what is very painfully easy work. But I know that going in... and can budget accordingly (and charge them enough to make the delay worth it). Honestly, they could change their rules to 60 days and I'd still bend over backward to keep them as a client, because they always do pay, and on schedule... it's just their schedule, not mine.

So, you just have to be flexible enough and weigh the way that a client does things vs. how much you want the businesses.

Sometimes you do have to say "Enough is enough." We've done work for many years for an advertising agency that is famously a bit on the slow-to-pay side. We had done one commercial production that had an invoice that was aging several months. Because their accounting is actually at a different branch in another city there was always "something" holding up the payment. Then they called and had an urgent need for dubs (remember those?) for a different older project. We told them we'd be happy to make those right away, just as soon as they cleared this other invoice. Their managing partner was furious, screeched into the parking lot and stomped into our lobby accusing us of "holding their work hostage," did hand us a personal check for the outstanding bill, and vowed to never work with us again. We've since done numerous additional projects with them... all paid (more or less) on time.

As for finance charges or late fees... that's ok but there are some caveats. The laws might vary (depending where in the world you are, or in what state), but in most places you can't legally charge more per month than 1/12th of whatever the maximum yearly legal interest rate is. So, you can't have a 15% charge for a month's late payment, as that would be 180% interest per year... which of course are loan shark rates. Also, you can't impose a late fee after the fact... your contract must spell out in advance what late fees, if any, that you have. You can't say "Well this client's bill is getting late, I'm gonna start tacking on a late fee" if their initial contract doesn't spell out specifically that it's a possibility.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Tired of Clients payment policies
on Jan 8, 2020 at 9:08:58 pm


But I know that going in... and can budget accordingly (and charge them enough to make the delay worth it).

I call this the &$^SS tax, and that particular markup would definitely be in my budget for the big customer that says they pay wheever they get around to it, like it or lump it.

The advantage of the &$^SS tax is it is not itemized, comes before the total, and is not subject to usury laws, only what you think the customer will bear.

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John Baumchen
Re: Tired of Clients payment policies
on Jan 21, 2020 at 7:52:48 pm

I guess if you're a member of D&B, you could report the company for late payment. Not that it would hurt them much if they're a large entity.

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