09 May 2006

Best laid plans and bad payers

I managed to screw up my work plans today. I totally forgot that it was the funeral of a relative of a good friend of ours. Spotted the date and time scrawled on my notepad, realised it was today and immediately called my friend to let him know I’d be there, P of course, being off on a work trip. I had to rearrange everything I’d planned, dig out something suitable to wear and get over to the crematorium, which was only a short cab ride away, fortunately.

Before I fled the office, I chased up one of my late payers. The money is in the bank already. My statement isn’t due for a couple of weeks and the client had said she was sending me a cheque, so I’d been anxiously awaiting the postie every morning. She’d changed her mind and made a bank transfer instead. The money’s been there for 11 days and I never knew until I logged in to see the state of my account.

At least that one is done and dusted. Another client owes me several hundred pounds for two copywriting jobs I did earlier this year. Back in early February, I was hired to write some web copy and a press release. I sent the drafts and got a reply saying she needed to look at it with her business partner. That was fine – business people are busy people, after all. I was busy in the interim, working on editing a book. However, 7 weeks later, I chased her up as I hadn’t heard anything bar apologetic e-mails explaining that she was still waiting for her partner to approve my drafts. It turned out they’d already used the copy on the website! I rushed off to have a look and sure enough, where there had previously been only a holding page, now my words were there for the world to see. I invoiced her immediately as I was furious. Four weeks later and I’m about to send her a payment reminder – my terms are 30 days and she’s got one day left in which to cough up before I get tetchy.

This is not the first time I've had trouble getting paid. I hate late payers more than any other type of client. I’ve heard every excuse in the book, although I’ve not been inundated with bad payers. The worst client I ever had was a web design company that handled major accounts for multinational clients. They phoned me in a panic and asked me at less than a day’s notice to proofread a site that was about to go live. The problem was that it meant working at their office 20 miles away, in the middle of nowhere, and I don’t drive for medical reasons. I checked train timetables, sorted out cab numbers and off I went. The job was done in half a day and I billed them immediately for my time and travel expenses. Three months later, I still hadn’t seen a penny. Phone calls to the accounts department were never returned (the person I wanted to talk to was never available) and e-mails went unanswered. Finally, I got heavy – I sent an e-mail saying if I wasn’t paid immediately, I’d be taking legal action and charging them for interest and compensation under the UK Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998. I had mail back with 5 minutes saying the cheque was in the post…

Yeah, yeah, I thought. I’ll believe it when I see it. Amazingly, the cheque arrived the next morning. I’ve never worked for them again though. I hate travelling to work on premises, for one thing, but I don’t work again for bad payers. Once is enough.

Time to forage for food and watch EastEnders.

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