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Payment deadlines given to your clients

I have been sending out invoices that give my clients 90 days to pay up, just because this was the standard practice at my agency and I never questioned it. But something caused me to think about my generous deadline (several very quick payments to me, all done as a matter of course by mags and a newspaper), and I wonder if when I send out my invoices I should ask them to pay in thirty days or 45 days instead of 90. The current question relates to a business magazine, but we could be talking about any client really.

So what you do all normally write on your invoices, 30 days? 60? 90? And why?

by Jon Anderson at 2006-05-30 17:55:32 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Back Home , Dominican Republic | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Payable on receipt. Because I’m not in the business of giving credit.

by John Perkins | 30 May 2006 18:05 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Jon, I will tell you that as a general matter a vendor allowing a customer 90 days to pay a bill is almost unheard of in this day and age.


Indeed, when a business with a sophisticated accounting department sees a receivable that is over 90 days old, then it will “classify” it, meaning that it will look at it as more likely to require write-off.


The only thing I can say about your pattern of received payments is that maybe this generosity on your part creates some dynamic of gratitude in your photo editors so that they just go ahead and put it through on normal payment schedules (for those who bill on 30 day basis). People also tend to pay more quickly if they see real value in what they just purchased. So maybe (probably) you are doing such a bang-up job for them that they are just rewarding you.

by [former member] | 30 May 2006 18:05 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
Personally I’d say 30 days or one calendar month. It’s logically long enough for them to complete the paperwork at their end and any longer is just giving them an interest free loan.

I used to get paid in 90 days at my agency as well, but that was only because it took that long for paperwork to get processed by sub-agents, currency conversion etc. If it’s just one client I’d say 30 days is adequate.

Giving ‘em the benefit of the doubt though (as most are pretty reliable) I usually only start calling the accounts dept (politely) at about 40 days. Usually their response tells you if you’re going to have a problem…

In Britain, the Payment of Commercial Debts Act enables us to follow up non/slack payers and impose financial penalties from them if we need to get legal.

I’d say the principle however, is to always work on the assumption that you are the vendor, and therefore are entitled to issue your terms and conditions for the job – which should include when you expect to get paid. We all know that’s not how it works though, but I’d say 30 days in quite reasonable.

The invoice is simply confirmation of the job’s completion and a breakdown of fees and costs. But if terms have not been issued beforehand, the invoice can be a source of dispute rather than closure.

So I’ll diverge from the topic a little, as I think it has a bearing on payment enforcement…most of my payment disputes which have turned sour were invariably differences in understanding between what the terms of the job were and what the client thought they were, because we had nothing written to refer to.

I hadn’t issued clear terms, so was arguing off the back foot. This seems to be a common problem which rears it’s ugly head, and is simply solved by just sending out a commission confirmation form with a set of Terms & Conditions (T&C’s).

Some clients commission only over the phone on time sensitive stuff, but as long as a written set of terms is sent once, you can at least argue you were working to those terms in any job which came later…or you can even embed the terms in the IPTC info when you transmit the image. Using the image means they’ve accepted the terms – the invoice is then working from there.

Some photographers issue long detailed T&C’s, which have usually been either endorsed or issued as templates by major photo-organisations, or worked out by a lawyer.

However I came across a piece written by photographer Dan Heller a while ago, which made the argument that those long T&C’s are a barrier to licensing pictures effectively, especially to new customers unfamiliar with dealing with photographers, because the legal jargon puts them off, and in the event of any dispute, simply gives lawyers more stuff to get their teeth into and grind you down.

His argument was we should issue a much simpler, more unambiguous set of terms which can be written thus:

License Agreement – Your Name, Photographer.

Terms:

For the purposes of this agreement, ‘the Licensor’ is Your Name, Photographer.

You cannot use the image for anything other than how stated you’d use the image when you requested it.

Photo credit must be given as “Photo © Your Name”

The Licensee indemnifies the Licensor against third parties.

This License Agreement is not transferable.

It leaves very little room for ambiguity and manages to cover the bases. I think Dan Hellers argument is a pretty convincing one.

Back to the topic – for large corporate clients etc, they can take longer to pay because they’re locked in to the companies system of issuing cheques, so I can see where for some it could be up to 90 days.

by [former member] | 30 May 2006 18:05 (ed. May 30 2006) | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I have a handful of clients that have a: day-x of every month for cutting checks, and they’ve proven very reliable. But I learned the hard way a few years ago that “payable upon receipt” works best for me. Though I still get that surprise occassional check months after a job. Sometimes an exercise in frustration…sometimes like finding some forgotten cash in an old jacket pocket.

by William B. Plowman | 30 May 2006 18:05 | Boston, United States | | Report spam→
After reading these responses and a particularly thorough drubbing via PM, which I deeply appreciate, from a savvy LS member, I decided to go with Payable upon Receipt. I went through my old receipts from before the days I joined Black Star, and sure enough they all state Payable Upon Receipt — and I realized that I had learned that not from the photo biz but from my old days as a freelance editor. So I must have known more in the past than I do now! Since I stopped being active with BS, I find that I have had to relearn the business in a sense. Being with an agency can be a problem if you are content to let them handle all the contractual paperwork and billing, because you never learn the necessary details of the business end of things, so now I am forced to go back to school on this. Well, I had adopted the 90 day clause because, as Sion pointed out, this is usually how it works out when you are with an agency, and lots of big corporations seemed to work on this 90 day cycle. I remember writing up invoices when I was a researcher at BS and 90 days, if memory serves, was the usual term. Obviously unwise, and I remember it being a real pain when I wanted to collect on jobs I had done and had to wait an inordinate amount of time to get paid.


Funny enough everyone I have dealt with this year has paid with celerity, so I never stopped to think that maybe I had adopted an unnecessary and potentially damaging practice in my billing procedures. Well that will never happen again.


Btw, on this particular job, the contract was clean, the client amenable, the subject compliant and patient, and the job a pleasure, so I have no complaints. I’d happily work for them again.


I guess this will become the subject of the next tutorial: sound business practices for independent photographers.


PS: Neal I would love to think that it was my bang up job that prompted people to pay me quickly, but I know that editorial and accounting dont communicate much so the latter hardly ever knows whether the photog is worth the money or not, and I must confess that not all my jobs were bangup, though most are!

by Jon Anderson | 30 May 2006 19:05 | Back Home, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Jon, it is usually the content (I know some people don’t like that term) purchaser, usually on the editorial side of a business, who triggers the paperwork for paying a content (there I go again) creator. So one can indeed read something into the speed with which a cient pays. The accounting department is, as William notes, often on a check-cutting cycle that no one can shake, for love or money. But there is no question that if the check requisition or other payment demand goes in quickly you will get paid more quickly.


So don’t diminish the correlation between how well you meet the needs of the client and how quickly you are likely to get paid.

by [former member] | 30 May 2006 20:05 (ed. May 30 2006) | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
So I’ve been dealing with tardy payments for sometime now. Clients that used to turnaround in 2 weeks are now tending to sit on my hard earned cash and expenses for 3 to 4 months. Funny thing is, it’s the smaller gigs that tend to pay promptly, but when dealing with large media conglomerate types the wait is forever. With pending quarterly taxes, health insurance, and expenses on credit cards the cycle of feast or famine is getting pretty played out. Not to mention the compounded interest they are making off of me over that period of time while my bills and finance charges are mounting.


So lacking any business savvy here, is it just a matter of printing in big clunky letters " Payable upon Receipt" on the invoice? And if nothing in the mail makes me smile after say 14 days just simply call up accounting and threaten to hire a thug or something.

by Jethro Soudant | 30 May 2006 21:05 | Buffalo, NY, United States | | Report spam→
Jon, the goal is to get your clients off Island Time! ;>)

by [former member] | 30 May 2006 21:05 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
Break their legs Jethro. (Actually there are a couple threads with advice on that problem here). But that was always my experience in the past, the big corporate assignments took longer to pay. All my (few) magazine clients are prompt payers. The little business people here and there too. I am curious to see what will happen if and when I start getting some work from, say, Coca Cola down here or the Ceveceria Domincana or Brugal (you can imagine how I am literally thirsting to work for the latter two, hmmm boy). Will they be prompt or tardy, I wonder.


Island Time, you know it. I always surprise people here by showing up on time!

by Jon Anderson | 30 May 2006 22:05 | Back Home, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Jethro, including a line on your contract—and every other part of the paper trail— that says something like “Payment: No rights are granted until payment is received in full. Failure to make timely payment shall be deemed an act of copyright infringement under the United States Copyright Act” might coax some to pay on time. (Thanks to Editorial Photographers )

by Allen Sullivan | 30 May 2006 22:05 | Atlanta, United States | | Report spam→
Jon. I’m a big fella, and though I probably have the potential to break some legs, the hippie spawn in me (that’s how I got the odd name) says that things should be worked out diplomatically and peacefully. But sometimes…


Allen. Thanks for the new cutline for my invoices.

by Jethro Soudant | 30 May 2006 23:05 | Buffalo, NY, United States | | Report spam→
Within 30 days and before images are actually used, otherwise it is a breach of the standard T&C’s I use.

by Thomas Pickard | 31 May 2006 06:05 | Male', Maldives | | Report spam→
I’ve been doing okay with “prompt payment would be most appreciated”. However, I much prefer “payable upon receipt”. That packs a punch.

by Paul Treacy | 31 May 2006 08:05 | The Hamptons, United States | | Report spam→
I was very happy to see this issue finally raised on LS as I’ve been meaning to bring it up for a while. My experience has been that it doesn’t really matter what I put down as the due date (I usually write payable within 30 days). I was actually told by my agency that it depends on the magazine and what their payment policy is . . . ie. Mens Journal’s policy is 90 days. I was also told by my agency that I should expect to wait 6 MONTHS to be paid by European magazines!!!!!! – WHAT?! My biggest concern is why photographers have not taken this matter more seriously and changed this. Why are the magazines and newspapers deciding when we should be paid rather than us? Expecting to be paid within 15 – 30 days is normal for most companies and I don’t see why it should be any different for photographers working for magazines. I have done freelance photo editing for some of the same magazines I have photographed for and am always paid within 15 – 30 days when I am editing but usually paid within 30 – 90 days when I am the photographer. I don’t get it. What can be done? Any thoughts? when I questioned my agency’s accounting dept. I was told maybe I should work for European magazines anymore – nice!

by Katherine Kiviat | 31 May 2006 08:05 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
That’s very revealing Katherine. And troubling.

by Paul Treacy | 31 May 2006 08:05 | The Hamptons, United States | | Report spam→
I’ve always said 30 days as I understood that to be standard, but (wow!) this post opens up a whole new concept.


“Payment: No rights are granted until payment is received in full. Failure to make timely payment shall be deemed
an act of copyright infringement under the United States Copyright Act”


Oh, way cool, Allen…

by Gayle Hegland | 31 May 2006 08:05 | Montana, United States | | Report spam→
Katherine, glad to oblige. And thanks for bearing out what I was telling people—if you are working in an agency you are going to find that 90 days is often the rule, though it is unfair. And yes teh European market is more the problem though I dont know why. The French in particular, though fun to work with, are not fun when it comes to getting paid.

by Jon Anderson | 31 May 2006 08:05 | Back Home, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
My experiences are 90 days and 6 months before you can do anything legally about it here in Oz. With my royalties it is a lovely 18 months behind

by Imants | 31 May 2006 08:05 | 7 Hills, Australia | | Report spam→
I know it is the norm to be paid in 90 days but I guess I’m more curious as to why that seems to be OK with everyone? Is there something that can be done about it? I am actually willing to accept the 90 days but 6 months I think is just wrong!

by Katherine Kiviat | 31 May 2006 08:05 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
In the UK there is law which means you can enforce payment terms, but dealing with clients abroad is a whole different matter….

I’m just wondering if (bearing in mind the Orphan Works Bill has now gone through) we should include some Orphan Works clause in our terms or on our invoices. Some clients try and force photographers to sign a copyright waiver as a condition of payment. This is unlawful of course, especially after the assignment has been completed, but if you sign the paper, the terms are then binding regardless of the law.

In the UK there used to be a common agency practice that failure to publish a picture with a credit meant an additional 50% payment. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. However now, perhaps we should be re-asserting our right to a credit, for the simple reason that failure to credit our work leaves it open to be exploited by the OW Bill terms.

We should be saying the work issued is certainly not an Orphan Work when it leaves us, and should not be considered an OW work by anyone else. If a newspaper publishes your picture on the web uncredited, which then gets ripped off in the US, or on a site hosted in the US, you could argue the newspaper is partially responsible for the infringement because they encouraged copyright abuse with limited penalty under the OW Bill.

Neal,perhaps you could chip in with some thoughts on what we could do?

by [former member] | 31 May 2006 09:05 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Payable upon Receipt, maximum 30 days if you want to be a nice fellow. We are not in a credit business.

by Raffi Kirdi | 31 May 2006 09:05 | Montreal, Canada | | Report spam→
Payable upon Receipt, maximum 30 days if you want to be a nice fellow. We are not in a credit business.

by Raffi Kirdi | 31 May 2006 09:05 | Montreal, Canada | | Report spam→
You should all come do some work for skin magazine in the middle east……we process invoices in 4-7 business days.

by [former member] | 31 May 2006 09:05 | Amman, Jordan | | Report spam→
jon

for photojournalists i believe that it mostly doesn’t matter whether you say ‘payment upon receipt’ or ‘payment in 930/60/90 days’. the magazines, comfortable as they are with their power over a photographer, will pay when they are ready. perhaps i am being cynical here but regardless of how i structure my invoices the magazines seems only to work to their own schedule. so i err towards a ‘payment upon receipt’ because then at least its the magazine that is always late :) at the moment i am waiting for payment for an assignment i completed back in february 2006. the accounting department of the magazine informed me yesterday that payments will arrive on june 10th, 2006. they have had my invoice since march 1st. c’est la vie i suppose :) but unless our bargaining positions are strong, or the magazine just simply run professionally e.g. Time, then its a pot luck payment process.

by [former member] | 31 May 2006 10:05 | washington d.c., United States | | Report spam→
Thanks Asim, that echoes my experience as well, but the mag in question is part of the Time group and is a well respected business organ, so I dont expect problems, they will pay quick I bet. Plus they appear to be happy with the results. Btw, how are you?


Bryan, what is it that skin does? do I need to come to the mideast? ha! I need a new scenario.

by Jon Anderson | 31 May 2006 10:05 | Back Home, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Gayle, thanks but don’t thank me. It’s from a ‘simpler’ set of terms thought up by the Editorial Photographers photography business group, which I highly suggest joining, if not for the business discussion alone.

I’ve changed the wording of mine to “Payment: No rights are granted until payment is received in full. Publication or other use without timely payment shall be deemed an act of copyright infringement under the United States Copyright Act.”

By the way, none of this carries much weight if you don’t register your images with the Copyright Office. In the U.S., you have 90 days to do so after the date of publication. (Which in turn might not mean much anyway if this horrible Orphan Works crap is allowed to go through.)

by Allen Sullivan | 31 May 2006 11:05 (ed. May 31 2006) | Atlanta, United States | | Report spam→
I think it all depends on the client. I usually ask for payment within 30 days of receipt of invoice which is why it is always good to get confirmation of delivery of invoice so you know where your at time wise. Some clients pay in advance of the material being published & others drag their feet. When dealing with an overseas agent you tend to find their is always some problem. “We don’t/cannot pay until the publication pays us”….what are they keeping petty cash in a biscuit tin. The longest I have had to wait & still waiting to be paid is 4 months ref the above “Don’t Pay/Can’t Pay” spiel.

30 days is pretty standard but worth adding in your terms & conditions that you reserve the right to change this time frame for payment at any time.
i.e if you think there is going to be a fight stick 14 days on the invoice to push it along & always send a full copy of your T&C with the invoice if it’s a new client so theres no mis-understandings from the outset.

by [former member] | 02 Jun 2006 19:06 (ed. Jun 2 2006) | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I’ve my own arguments to get paid on time. But 30 days should be the standard. I know 60 and sometimes 90 day was very common in the past, the only solution is to find out what their policy is and make sure the issue date on your invoice is correct, also that publication of photographs means that terms of payment have been agreed, and should be stuck to. Magzines are the worst culprits. Many companies charge interest on late payments, should we be any different? If a company is late with expenses that is really taking the piss. These should be paid quickly. Patience is a virtue often taken advantage of, but late payments lead to sleepless nights and plenty of stress.

by Sean Dwyer | 04 Jun 2006 13:06 | Dublin, Ireland | | Report spam→
My background is in commercial photography. Sadly in advertising the photographer is one of the first hired but one of the last paid. We routinely gave “30 days” credit, but some clients didn’t pay until the ad ran 90 days or more later. We tried cajoling and threatening late fees. The best solution came when we offered 2% discount on invoices paid in ten days. It is amazing how some people would stumble all over themselves to save $10 on a $500 job.

2% discount on invoices paid by (date) Larger and more bureaucratic clients won’t take advantage, but smaller shops will jump at it. It’s worth a try.

by Warren Leimbach | 24 Jun 2006 00:06 | Tampa, FL USA, United States | | Report spam→
WCL, thanks and thumbs up. Welcome to LS.

by Jon Anderson | 24 Jun 2006 00:06 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
As Katherine said, some mags paid 180 days after !!! The law in Europe doesn’t allow that, of course, but if you don’t want to see your name blacklisted, you’d better shut up sometimes… That’s a big problem, some organisations in France are trying to break this circle… This 2% discount said by WCL is interesting, i should try ! But that’s a pity to have to do so. Cheers everybody, fcs.

by Francois Carlet-Soulages | 25 Jun 2006 10:06 | Hanoi, Vietnam | | Report spam→
I have done an assigment for Bloomberg News latelay and I have been told by the Photo editor that they usualy pay in 8 weeks and often less. I’ll see…

by Marc Andre Pauze | 26 Jun 2006 15:06 | Antananarivo, Madagascar | | Report spam→
For non-magazine clients, I charge a percentage (usually 25%) late fee for invoices not paid on time. I have only had one client pay it, ever.

Of course, I am a big softy and if someone calls me and says they have to pay late because of their accounting department, etc. I will not charge a late fee. It’s really there to keep people from not paying without an explanation – which, before I implemented the late fee, was a HUGE problem.

by [former member] | 26 Jun 2006 16:06 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
Jon, when a client etc agrees to commision / have you do their photographic work etc,there should be an agreement signed stating your terms ie charges,travel cost,how the work will be provided how they need it provided,what they are being charged for,what they will pay if they need extras ie want e-mails sent of images etc.
Go through this with them ie are they aware that you back up all work on C.D. DVD so that if they loose work they can access a copy of the work,inclued what they will be charged for this too on the original contract / facts sheet.

Payment terms, charges that they will pay for late payment ie 30 days is more than enough, allow 7 days after that,then 10% to 15% chargen of the total job cost added to the original charge for the job.
This should be sent to the client as a new invoice with a copy of the original invoice,that has been signed by the client.
A phone call a couple of weeks after the job to remind them that the invoice will be due shortly,or when invoicing them by e-mail ( PDF invoice ) ask that the accounts department gives you a e-mail reply to say they have recieved your invoice,keep a copy of there reply ( ie a print out )

Having a client sign a agreement with terms before shooting commences that has what their getting,what your providing,and explaining that this is what yiou get all clients to do,will help make things clear.

We all need to start doing things like this so we can earn a dreal wage/living,other photographers giving in to 90 days + payment terms makes it hard on all of us, and YES it isn,t all ways a straight forward process.

Good luck.
They will get use to it,and it gives you BOTH a clear understanding where you both stand.

by Tony Reddrop | 01 Jul 2006 00:07 | Melbourne Australia, Australia | | Report spam→

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Participants

Jon Anderson, Photographer & Writer Jon Anderson
Photographer & Writer
Ocala Florida , United States
John Perkins, Photographer John Perkins
Photographer
Cairo , Egypt ( CAI )
William B. Plowman, Photojournalist William B. Plowman
Photojournalist
Washington, D.C. , United States ( DCA )
Jethro Soudant, Photographer Jethro Soudant
Photographer
Buffalo, Ny , United States
Allen Sullivan, Photo- and video-journali Allen Sullivan
Photo- and video-journali
Atlanta, Georgia , United States ( ATL )
Thomas Pickard, Photographer Thomas Pickard
Photographer
Rarotonga , Cook Islands
Paul  Treacy, Photographer Paul Treacy
Photographer
(Photohumourist)
London , United Kingdom ( LGW )
Katherine Kiviat, Photographer Katherine Kiviat
Photographer
New York City , United States ( JFK )
Gayle Hegland, Editorial Artist Gayle Hegland
Editorial Artist
(IPA)
Montana , United States
Imants, gecko hunter Imants
gecko hunter
" The Boneyard" , Australia
Raffi  Kirdi, Photojournalist Raffi Kirdi
Photojournalist
Fontainebleau , France
En route to NYC (ETA: Aug 31 2014 ).
Sean Dwyer, Press Photographer Sean Dwyer
Press Photographer
Dublin , Ireland
Warren Leimbach, Photographer, Photo Assis Warren Leimbach
Photographer, Photo Assis
Tampa, Fl Usa , United States
Francois Carlet-Soulages, Photographer / Agent Francois Carlet-Soulages
Photographer / Agent
(NOI Pictures)
Hanoi , Vietnam ( HAN )
Marc Andre Pauze, Documentary Photographer Marc Andre Pauze
Documentary Photographer
(Storyteller of Humanity)
Kangiqsujuaq , Canada
Tony Reddrop, Photographer Tony Reddrop
Photographer
New Zealand , New Zealand


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