Bill early, bill often

THE EUROPEAN Union law that empowers freelances to charge compensation and interest to clients who delay payments has been in force for over two years. The Freelance hasn't heard enough about what happens when freelances put it into practice. Here's a success story - with a twist.

One London Freelance Branch member experienced severe delays getting paid when working for the music site www.Dotmusic.com. The site was set up by United Business Media, then sold to BT. It had been treating its freelances fairly, entering into extended negotiations that saw an all-rights claim replaced by contributors signing over rights only in reviews - which have a limited sell-on value, except as a database - in return for an increase in rates of around a third.

But then BT sold the company to Yahoo!, which downsized the site's London office staff and moved its accounts payable department from London to Dublin - where invoices disappeared into a kind of limbo.

After losing patience with conventional methods of persuasion - which included withholding commissioned work until payment was made, to no avail other than to find Dotmusic dispensing with his services - the member was paid in full by Yahoo! within a week of informing them by e-mail he would be asking the NUJ to launch proceedings. While the loss of future work was disappointing, it was a moot point whether working for a company who were habitually paying months late was a good idea anyway.

However, our member had the last laugh: since payment delays began he had taken to invoicing for each piece of work individually, rather than collecting several pieces of work onto one invoice. The legislation provides for compensation of £40 per invoice, so for most of his outstanding invoices he received more in compensation and interest than he had originally been owed for the work.

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