Dealing With Bad Debtors - Lynne Garner

Sadly I'm not the only freelance writer who's had to wait (sometimes months) for a client to pay what they owe for work completed. So last year when I became aware of a petition that called for the government to pass a law to force employers to pay on time for freelance and contractual work I signed it. Today (07/01/17) I received a reply which I felt may be of interest to freelancers and contractors. So here it is:

"A party acting in the course of a business can claim interest and reasonable recovery costs if another business is late paying for goods or a service.

A party acting in the course of a business can claim interest and reasonable recovery costs if another business is late paying for goods or a service, under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998.

In April 2017, the payment practices reporting requirement will come into force. This will require large companies and LLPs to report publicly on their payment practices and performance, twice per financial year. This transparency will help suppliers, including small businesses such as sole traders, make informed decisions about who they do business with. 

Also in 2017, we will be appointing the Small Business Commissioner, who will support small businesses in resolving payment disputes. The Commissioner will provide general advice and information, direct small businesses to existing dispute resolution services, and handle complaints about payment issues. Small businesses, with fewer than 50 staff, will be able to access the services of the Commissioner – these businesses include self-employed individuals.

There is also the voluntary, industry-led Prompt Payment Code, which is about encouraging, promoting and setting an example of best practice between organisations and their suppliers. More than 1800 firms are signed up to the Code, which you can see at:"

Although this is a step forward it would be even better if we could get this debated in parliament and more could be done to support freelancers like myself and many of my friends. As I write this post the petition stands at just over 11,000. To get it debated we need 100,000 signatures by 8th May 2017. So if you're a freelancer or contractor and feel you can add your name then please click HERE to sign the petition.     



Now for a blatant plug:

My latest short story collection Coyote Tales Retold is available on Amazon in ebook format. Also available Meet The Tricksters a collection of 18 short stories featuring Anansi the Trickster Spider, Brer Rabbit and Coyote is available as a paper back and an ebook.    

I run the following online courses for Women On Writing:


JO said…
I really hope they get somewhere with this - I had to use the small claims court a couple of times. Life is tough enough as a freelancer without having to fight for what we are owed
Umberto Tosi said…
Three cheers and best of luck with this. I will inquire about the Writers Guild or some other contractor organization pushing for something similar here in the United States. I remember chasing down payments all the time during my years as a freelancer, taking inordinate amounts of time, not to mention sapping my morale. Now America is about to swear in a president who has stiffed contractors all his life, especially smaller ones, and gotten away with largely by getting his lawyers to paper to death those who dare complain. As I used to say, often during my freelancing days, "the bigger they are the slower they pay."
Chris Longmuir said…
I've had success in getting late bills paid by including, in the second statement, the sentence "Statutory interest is charged on all invoices which are 60 days overdue, as a result interest of 8% plus the Bank of England base rate, will be added to your next outstanding statement. Accumulating interest will subsequently be added every 30 days on the outstanding amount until payment is received". It usually results in fast payment. For example, Statement 1 (30 days) = payment for services or goods, Statement 2 (60 days) = Information added that interest will be added to the next statement, Statement 3 (90 days) = Interest added, Statement 4 (120 days) = Interest added to new amount owed. I have never had to go to Statement 4.
Here is the link to the government site that tells you how to calculate the interest
Enid Richemont said…
Just signed this, Lynn. Hope it achieves something.
Susan Price said…
That's a very useful link, Chris - thanks.
I once asked a musician of my acquaintance what he would do if the venue he was playing at refused to pay at the end of the evening. He said, "Explain that I need to pay band members, meals, hotel bills, petrol, insurance on van and instruments etc, etc and need the money now." Fine, I said, but what if the manager still refuses to pay? "Then I threaten to punch him," he said. As he was a very big bloke with muscles developed from being his own roadie (ditto a couple of his band members) I daresay he then got his money.

I've been lucky, I suppose and I'm sorry to hear others have had so much trouble. Schools mostly pay up. My worst was a school where I was unavoidably late due to rail delays (suicide on the line) and the English teacher tried to 'fine' me by offering substantially less than my fee or nothing. I spoke to an SoA lawyer and was told, "Write to the Head and say you're placing it in the hands of the SoA. You won't have any more trouble." He was right. I had an apology by phone from the Head and the cheque arrived the next day. - I was sorry to do it to the teacher, who teacher-friends told me would have 'got a b*llcking' - but hell, I needed that money. The teacher had a regular salary. I didn't.
Lynne Garner said…
Jo - Sorry to read how far you had to go to get paid. Hopefully this can change with a little support from our government.

Umberto - How right you are. I won't name names but trying to get just £45 out of a well known large British company once took almost a year. I've been told by media friends this company is horrendous for paying one-off payments but once you're on their books it gets easier if not quicker.

Chris - What a good idea. I may just do something very similar.

Susan - I've quit doing school visits. Those I've dealt with try to haggle and as you pointed out they're on a regular salary and as a freelancer we're not. I had one school employee tell me once I'd told her my fee that she was in the wrong job. When I asked her who paid her NI, TAX, insurance etc. and explained I had to cover all those costs myself she quickly retracted her statement.
Very useful, Lynne and Chris. Nicola Morgan has some excellent terms and conditions on her website - she does a lot of talks and has a booking form to be signed in advance of each visit. The other issue she raises (and I've certainly experienced this) is organisations asking for 'proof of self employment' or those that ask you to fill in 20 page employment forms for a short one off visit. Universities are horribly guilty of this. She charges them to do it. (Most decide it isn't necessary!) Also points out that if they insist on putting you on their payroll, and deduct PAYE, they will be liable for accountancy fees to sort out the taxation mess! I've seen these debates so often online - salaried people expressing horror that freelances charge for visits. It's almost impossible to get them to understand that while their 'free time' is actually free, a day spent on a visit for a writer or artist or other freelance is a full day away from work and nobody is paying you for it.
I've had problems getting overdue statements out of a certain publisher... without these statement(s), I don't know if they owe me anything or not. I eventually reverted the rights on breach of contract, but they still haven't sent the overdue statements and it has been years now.
Lynne Garner said…
Catherine - Thanks for the heads up on Nicola's website I'll pop along to have a look.

Katherine - That's horrendous. If you're a member of the SOA get them on the case they are exceptionally good at what they do.

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