This morning I signed a campaign, i’ve been um-ing and ah-ing as to whether I should write about my experiences and how I deal with the issue at hand. I’ve decided that I should because i’ve had a lot of experience with this issue and similar issues which could help other freelancers. So here’s a bit of advice for all the freelancer’s out there.
There’s a movement happening in the freelance work at the moment, pioneered by the #NoFreeWork campaign and TheShitList.org. These campaigns are highlighting how companies and people take advantage of freelancers which is something i’ve had a lot of experience with. I’m currently chasing up multiple unpaid invoices which have left me with no money due to their unpaid status. I’ve also done a lot of work for free, hoping to improve my CV with “Experience” though I now know that paid experience is the only experience that matters when you’re going for a job in the creative industry. I’ve learnt a lot from these experiences and through some legal advice i’ve been given so I thought it best to share this advice with the world.
Refuse unpaid or low paid work
Remember that any offer is only a starting point. Companies are made to make money so their first offer is always the lowest, if they ask you to work for free simply decline them, if they really want you to do work for them they’ll offer you money in the end. One of the most important things to do is decide on a rate and stick to it. Most freelancers choose an hourly rate or a day rate, if you’re working on a day rate make sure that it works out at above minimum wage. When a company or person offers you work don’t let them pressure you into working for less than your set rate.
Get paid even if they don’t use the work
Any work completed legally requires payment, i’ve often had people say to me “I’m not going to pay because i’ve decided I’m not going to use it” and my reply is always “Well you shouldn’t have asked for the work to be done if you weren’t going to use it”. If they refuse to pay you’ve got a few options and they can end up owing you much more than the original amount if they don’t pay.
Make sure you have legal standing
To ensure that you have legal rights both parties have to agree on the work to be completed and the amount of money it will cost. Once the other party has said yes to the amount that constitutes as a contract, the best way to give this more legal clout is by getting it in writing. This doesn’t mean you have to write up a contact and have them sign it, messaging and emails are now counted as a written contract by law (It also helps they have the time and date on). Another thing to consider is asking them when they’re going to pay the invoice, one of the unpaid invoices i’m currently chasing up had agreed to a payment date but still hasn’t paid months later which puts them at a huge legal disadvantage. If you do agree on a payment date then any interest you put on can only be dated from that date.
What to put on your invoices
Legally you don’t have to put anything other than the date of the invoice, amount, payment information and recipient name on the invoice. You can take some precautionary measures to protect yourself even further and notify the recipient that you understand your statutory rights. You’re probably thinking “What are statutory rights?” and I promise you they will change your life forever. By law you have the right to add interest onto unpaid invoices every 30 days, this includes a £40 late payment fee for amounts under £999 (Which you can add on each time & increases if the amount is over £999) and an interest rate which is set by the bank of England (Which is currently set at 0.08%). For instance if you’ve invoiced for £150 and they still haven’t paid 5 months later you can then charge them £350.60.
To add this further protection you can add this paragraph at the bottom of your invoices:
Payment is due within 30 days. I understand and will exercise my statutory right to interest and compensation for debt recovery costs under the late payment legislation if i am not paid according to agreed credit terms. This will include a late payment fee every 30 days as stated in the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Act 1998, as amended by Statutory Instrument 2002 No. 1674 and SI 2013 No. 395.
When to add interest
Obviously it’s a last resort to add interest, especially if you have a good relationship with the client though sometimes it is a necessity as unpaid invoices can leave you in a bad financial situation, leaving you unable to live or attend meetings to gain further work. It’s often best to send the client an invoice and notify them that if they do not pay it in 30 days you will backdate the interest and statutory fees (Which is something you can legally do). If they don’t pay the invoice within 30 days then add on all of the late payment fee’s and continue this until they pay.
What to do if they still don’t pay
If they still don’t pay you have a few options. You can serve the client with a statutory demand, which you can download here. That’s basically a formal request for all money owed that is recognised by the court, the fact you have given the client this will help if they don’t pay and you pursue it further. If they still haven’t paid after a statutory demand then i’m afraid legal action must be taken. You can take them to court over this amount, which can be the small claims court or the high court depending on the amount of money involved. This will take a lot of time from yourself and you do have to pay a fee, which you can claim from the client. Another option is a service like Credit XS who will pursue the debt for you and will take the client to court for you if they don’t pay.
If you’ve made sure you have the legal standing then you’ll breeze through the court case, the courts can freeze their accounts, sell their items or directly take the money from their income so if it does come to this you’ll definitely get the money your owed.
You can join the #NoFreeWork campaign here:
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer so don’t take this as official legal advice, always seek the assistance of a certified legal consultant.