Corporate Client Not Paying, Any Recourse?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by eric_guel, Dec 16, 2020.

  1. Hello, all.

    A couple of months ago I did work for an international corporate client. It was my first job with this client. Their brand is highly recognizable and they have a presence in virtually every major city in America (and many cities overseas).

    I don't have a contract with the client. I know, I should have had one drawn up. The shoot was put together at the last minute, and I bypassed that option in order to get the written approvals more quickly.

    I delivered the images to the client per their request, and they responded they were happy with the images. I sent in my invoice, with the agreed upon amount.

    After 30 days, I sent a follow up email. Crickets.

    After 40 days I sent another email, and my contact there told me, per their policy, they pay vendors "Net 45," so I'd have to wait 45 days before they cut a check.

    It's been 57 days now. I've sent a couple of follow up emails, but I'm getting nowhere. I get the "I'll check into this" type responses, but then don't ever hear back.

    What suggestions would you guys and gals have for where I can go from here? I'm at a loss, and the amount they owe me is relatively substantial.

  2. While a contract is advisable, don’t kick yourself too hard. What difference would it make here? A contract is only as good as the enforcement behind it, which usually means a large percentage of it going to a lawyer who you’d have to hire. A contract would help a lot in small claims court were you to go that route. Depends how much we’re talking about.

    Going forward, a partial upfront fee to be paid on the day of the shoot is one way to minimize potential non-payment afterwards.

    Also, if it’s a well-known established company, be patient. I found them notoriously slow to pay, bureaucratic to deal with, but reliable in the end. Take a deep breath and don’t overplay your hand by becoming a nuisance or burn bridges for the future. This really could be bookkeeping and bureaucracy and nothing more. For the first three months, I’d send them an invoice every 30 days and a phone call after 60. After 90 days, I’d start pushing a little more, but there’s not a whole lot you can do.
    dcstep, AJG and mikemorrell like this.
  3. SCL


    In addition to the good above info, remember during the Covid crisis many corporate functions are being executed from home, not the central office, hence, often delayed. Patience may well be a virtue here.
  4. Thanks, you all. Sounds like wise advice.
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I have waited 120 days to be paid by a Government Agency, that's mentioned as a by-the-way comment.

    I agree to be patient at the moment.

    However I would also change your tack.

    I would give the emails a break. You must have made some personal contact and a name, probably a phone number, if not get a phone number - SPEAK to someone, you obviously sold someone (i.e a PERSON) on he idea of you making photos for the Company, so now SELL that PERSON on the idea that it is necessary to be paid . . . tomorrow.

    Emails are impersonal, easily dismissed and ignored, sometimes intentionally sometimes because of inefficiency, sometimes because something more important comes into the inbox.

    Face to Face is the most effective means of communication and selling, telephone, once some rapport has been created, is the next best.

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  6. I can only add that corporate AP staff can be thrown by non-standard, non-contract invoices outside of established accounts, the result being delayed payments. Agree with upthread advice about using your initial contact to pry loose a cheque from the AP munchkins.
  7. Speaking from the inside out-first of all the larger an org is, typically the more is has to go through to get paid.

    In a previous position at a large university(maybe even worse as far as red tape to get something like this done) I often used small "one man shop" or only slightly larger vendors/service providers. I wanted to keep those folks happy, and would arm twist however much I needed to in order to get them paid. Sometimes it didn't speed things up, but it would work(BTW, for us, if the bill was under $5K and you could take a credit card, I could take care of it myself, but there again policies differ all over the place.

    Right now, I'm dealing with one of my own-not photography-that's outstanding for about $1200. They managed to lose my invoice, I resent it, never got an answer on when it would be processed, and my inquiry yesterday lead to a slew of "We are closed until January 13th" messages. I've done business with them many times, and have one specific contact person. That guy, and his boss, want to keep me happy(we've worked together for a while, and they know I'll do anything in my power to take care of them) and I can feel the frustration from him when an invoice from me gets caught up in red tape.
  8. Did you ever get a Purchase Order (PO) reference #? Without a PO, the Accounts Payable department can't do anything with your invoice. This is a big organization, not a little shop. They may want to pay once they receive a properly executed PO from the person or department who gave you the work. So the paperwork could be winding its way through the process. If there's a 45 day wait time after the PO was issued and the invoice received, that could account for the delays. I'd telephone the guy who gave you the order. Ask him if there was PO issued? Go from there.
  9. Our company has a 60 days policy and it's hard to get vendors to accept that. Often the person who made the order isn't the one why do the paying. Every time I order something from one of our vendors they always said we we still owe them money.
  10. All good insights, everyone. Thank you.

    The company admitted they had made an error, and that this is not the typical way they treat vendors. That was commendable. I received the check on Christmas Eve, and it has cleared my bank.

    All is well. Definitely learned a lesson ... and got some good info here.
    dcstep and samstevens like this.
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Good outcome. Thank you for informing us.
  12. this is why we should always work for a deposit...the prepayment is a motivation for both the client and the executor
  13. Glad it worked out.
  14. Important, extended projects might want purchase orders, but individual assignments might not.

    That was my experience over ten years exclusively working with corporate clients. I did many small assignments (typically $15K) with no purchase order, solely on the authority of client officer, or officers staff, verbal authorization.

    Requiring purchase orders is likely to throw a monkey wrench into the works, slowing things down bigtime. Smarter, in my experience, simply to work with corporate officer with appropriate title or recognized responsibility (such as Art Director). You have to step up to the plate and make judgement calls.

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