The AD at Knucklehead Publishing approved the artwork you did nine months ago, and yet you still haven’t received payment. The contract said you’d be paid within ninety days of approval, you’ve contacted the Art Director several times, and have even managed to get the email address of someone in accounts payable. They told you two months ago not to worry, and that the check was on its way. And there you sit, bills piling up, waiting and wondering what to do.
You’re afraid to keep bothering them for fear of being labeled a troublemaker.
But in this case, who’s really being the troublemaker? You, who finished your work on time and to the best of your ability, or the company who is in breach of contract? (That last question was a set up. You already know the answer)
In a system where corporations are given the status of people, you, my dear artist, need to act like a corporation. And a corporation has many options for getting payment from clients.
These may sound a little scary, but they really aren’t. They’re pretty standard practice in any other enterprise, and need to start to being embraced by creative types.
One option is to contact a lawyer. Don’t freak out. Contacting a lawyer doesn’t mean you’re going to be filing a lawsuit or going to court. It also doesn’t mean you’re going to have to pay someone five hundred dollars an hour to collect the twelve hundred dollars Knucklehead owes you. Do a little research online and find a lawyer who has a decent reputation and is affordable. They really are out there. You can email them, or even call them on the phone and talk to a real live human being.
What they will probably recommend is a simple letter on their firm’s letterhead on your behalf explaining, very politely, to the knuckleheads at Knucklehead that they are in breach of contract, and that they need to pay you as soon as possible in order to avoid future legal action. Guess what, (and I have a bit of inside info that this is most definitely the case) I bet you get that check really soon. The drawback, of course, is that you are going to have to pay something to get this done, and that will eat into that check you’ve been waiting nine months for.
On the plus side, you will get paid before Knucklehead eventually files for bankruptcy and you wind up getting stiffed for the entire twelve hundred. Also, you now have a relationship with this lawyer, who you can contact in the future if this same thing happens again. He will have that letter in his files, and can just change the date and name of the company on it and send it out to whoever you need.
The second option, and one that I have used to great success in the past, is hiring a collection agency. You know those annoying phone calls you get when you aren’t able to pay your doctor’s bill? How about putting those annoying people to work for you? Go online and find a collection agency that fits your needs. You can often do the entire process online. The agency I used had a system in which you could start up to four collections in a year for a flat rate of one hundred dollars. I filled out the forms to start two collections in about thirty minutes. Low and behold, within a month both checks came in the mail. Other artists I knew who were having the same problem with a particular company did nothing. Later that year the company filed for bankruptcy, and many of my friends were left with no recourse, to the tune of four and five thousand dollars. If you think you’re at the bottom of the list of those who get paid now, wait until a company files for bankruptcy and see where you stand in the pecking order once the companies assets get divvied up.
So, start treating your business like a business. Is there a risk that a company may not want to use your services after you’ve started a collection against them or received a letter from your lawyer? Sure. But do you really want to continue to do business with a company that makes a common practice of paying you a half a year after they were supposed to?
Jim is the driving force behind PACT. As a freelance veteran of fifteen years, Jim heard countless tales of woe from his colleagues. Because of this he decided to create a website that would be a one stop informational resource for freelance illustrators, and provide them with a place that they could rate the companies that they have worked for. Along with his co-founders, the idea of the website was presented at the Illuxcon convention in 2012. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so they worked together to lay the groundwork for the website, and run the Indiegogo campaign that raised the seed money for the website. This website is the result of all of their hard work. With the support of the freelance community, it will help to lead freelance illustration out of the current rut it is stuck in.