Holding late payers to account
How long should I wait to get paid? All my invoices inform clients that I expect my bills to be settled within 30 days, but saying so appears to make absolutely no difference to when the money actually turns up.
Some clients are brilliant – I have companies who pay within a week of receiving my invoice – but others are terrible. They’re not even ashamed of their behaviour – I got an email yesterday from a company informing me that it would henceforth be switching to 60 days as its standard payment period on the grounds that this made sense for its financial strength. Never mind my financial weakness.
Next March, new European legislation will define any payment made after more than 60 days as late (unless agreed otherwise by both parties), but I’m not convinced that will make much difference to the way many clients behave. Companies routinely flout existing late payment regulations in my experience and they’re particularly inclined to treat smaller suppliers – often freelancers – badly, presumably because they think they can get away with it.
The question is what we should do about that treatment. I know that I don’t make a fuss as often as I should – usually because I don’t want to jeopardise a relationship with organisations on which I depend for work (and sometimes because chasing up accounts is way down my list of work priorities). But if all freelancers agreed to stand up for themselves more often, maybe we’d be treated better. Any suggestions?