Our Just Ask today is a pretty great one that is really relevant to everyone out there working freelance. I hope my thoughts are helpful!

I was going to email you this personally but I’m sure it will benefit other beginners. I have recently finished a commission for a fairly big company and now it’s time to get paid. I have been burnt by not being paid properly before and I have lost pretty much all my confidence when it comes to handling money.

Have you had experiences with clients not paying properly and can you share any insight on your process when handling deposits with bigger companies?

Thank you always, A x
— Alex

I haven't had any experiences with people not paying me, other than a gallery that never returned my work, but I have had numerous experiences with clients being very slow to pay me. There are a couple of things that I do now to try and avoid this and keep my cash flow regular. The first thing to ask yourself is "who is my client?", this will help you anticipate what kind of payment cycle you are signing up for. Unfortunately many large agencies and editorial clients have a set payment cycle and they very rarely sway from it. This may mean that you might not get paid until around one to three months after completing the commission depending on when your invoice hits their system. When working with any new client you have nothing to lose by asking for a deposit upfront, particularly if you know the project is going to span a long time, or if there is high pressure as far as timeline or output vs money. They can only say no, but you will find that around 50% of the time they say yes.

If you are worried about getting paid at all you need to ask yourself if the client is too risky, or put some paperwork and/or systems in place to cover yourself. Here are some suggestions...

1. When you supply your quote, also supply your terms and conditions with a note saying that by accepting the quote the client also accepts the terms and conditions. Point this out in the initial email so they are directed to reading your terms. Get them to sign your terms agreeing to them or return and email saying that they accept them. In my terms and conditions I also have the following note so I am covered for work I have done should the project be terminated before completion:

If the Contract is terminated prior to acceptance of the Artwork the following percentages of the Fee will be payable:

    (a) The following percentages of the Fee;
 (i) 25% before delivery of roughs;
 (ii) 33% after delivery of roughs;
(iii) 50% after delivery of colour visual;
 (iv) 75% after delivery of any subsequent revised illustration rough;
(v) 100% on delivery of the finished artwork

By supplying this the client understands that they are responsible for compensating my work even if they pull the job. Note that in order for this to stick I am responsible for delivering my work based on this structure, and I am only covered by this if I hold up my end of the deal, working to the standard they expect based on my folio and to agreed timelines.

You could also have a clause with some clients ( I'm thinking smaller ones) that they will only receive the artwork once the artwork is paid for, this is perfectly fair, but would need to be agreed on prior to the project commencing.

As far as your question about handling deposits with larger companies, if this is agreed on then I just send an invoice as per usual with a line item saying "50% deposit xx project" and be sure to have a due date. Sometimes deposits clears a week after a project starts, but I am completely ok with this, it just depends on the individual client and your agreement. 


I hope that helps!





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