Longer online version: LETTER

What to do when clients ‘ghost’ me?

I AM A MEMBER of the London Freelance Branch. I have had a few UK-based publications commission work and then proceed to go quiet or "ghost" me after a significant amount of work has been done. Similarly, I have had foreign publications publishing work and then not paying, or taking very long to pay (one is on 5 months with continued prevarication).

I wondered whether you might have a legally binding contract template document that I can provide to commissioning editors?

And/or what assistance the NUJ can provide in these circumstances?

Dear Joseph,

THANKS for getting in touch. The best place to look is the "late and problem payments" section of the Freelance Fees Guide - and this links to other resources on this question.

See also the Fees Guide advice on contracts.

There we advise: "Don't get it in writing, PUT it in writing." So when you've agreed terms over the phone, don't wait for the client to (not) send you the agreed terms in writing: email them immediately and say what you have agreed. It's then up to them to object in writing. Usually they don't, and then they've accepted the contract.

I don't know of any sample contracts, as the circumstances of the contract are so many and varied. Best contact the NUJ Freelance Office in the first instance, they have advice on contracts.

I always put at the bottom my invoices the following - it works for me:

Payment terms: Strictly 30 days from receipt of invoice.
I understand and will exercise my statutory right to interest and compensation for debt recovery costs under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 if I am not paid according to agreed credit terms. (See www.payontime.co.uk)

I also put prominently on my invoices, "member of the National Union of Journalists", which often is enough to get them to pay on time.

I also start emailing them as soon as the 30 days from the date at which they became aware of the invoice (so, far example, make it 31 days if you sent the invoice on a Sunday). I send invoice reminders, then I start ringing them. In a bigger organisation, don't bother with the editors, find the number for the accounts department and ring them. For invoice reminders, find the email for the editor's boss and copy them in as well.

If you need more advice, NUJ members can discuss it with the Freelance Office. Please have all the information ready (emails, invoices, contracts etc if any) when you call or email.

The NUJ has members in EU countries, so it will be able to direct you what to do about late payments abroad.

And another thing...

As the Fees Guide says, sometimes what is required to wake them up is you sending the accounts department (rather than the editor you've dealt with) an invoice for the late payment compensation and interest due under UK law. We have an interest calculator to make it easy to do this.