How to deal with a production company that delays payment for your work

I had literally just had a case like this resolved, so therefore I feel I am pretty well educated to write about this subject!

Firstly, you need to know exactly when the payment is due, to therefore know when it will actually be late. For the majority of jobs, the payment is due within a months time of the production company or agency receiving the invoice, for some it can be more, others less. Check the contract for this information. If there isn’t one however, check it with the company via email so you have it in writing from them when you are expecting payment.

Once done wait it out, as they will take until that date to pay you, as money in their account accrues interest for them. But if it does now become late there is no need to worry. The rules are be polite and professional at all times, but they need to know that you have the payment in mind all the time, and that it will not be dropped until you get paid. I’ll try and use examples of what happened to me to give you a good idea.

It may just be a little late or they may have genuinely forgotten, so a few days after the payment window is up, send them a friendly email just asking when they will get around to resolving the payment. Attach the invoice again, and say you look forward to hearing from them. Hopefully this should be it, but if you don’t hear within 3-4 days, email again - again politely - chasing up that email to see if they have received it and if they have any response. Again, hopefully that should work.

Now tell your agent if you have one. They might take it over from you, as they might well have experience in this area, and the weight of an agency as opposed to an individual actor may prompt payment from them.

If you don’t have an agent or if they don’t get involved, it’s time to call the company. Again, always be professional and polite – it’s business after all, and it’s no different from a timber merchant chasing up a payment from a furniture maker – it’s just business. Ask to speak to a member of the finance department if you feel they’re a big enough company to have one, or the person who deals with the finances if you feel they aren’t. Now tell them you’re chasing the payment up that was due by whatever date you said, and was just wondering when it might be resolved. Again hopefully it should now get in motion. But if not, then there’s problems and you need to be ready with the right information.

So, if they say it’s going to get resolved straight away but you feel they might not be being honest with you, ask them if they can send you an email just letting you know when it’s done. Therefore you know if you didn’t get one, you didn’t get paid, and they probably tried to fob you off (although check your account anyway just in case). They might say that the person who deals with invoices is away and that they won’t be back until, next Monday, say. Then ask them to let that person know straight away when they come back, and again for them to send you an email once it’s done. If again nothing happens, you call first thing on the Tuesday morning and again see when it might be resolved. If at the point you are being fobbed off – as you have every reason to suspect you are being – calling and emailing at the times you said you would and dealing with it straight away – and professionally – is sending a message to them that you are not stopping until the payment resolved.

What happened to me was that eventually when pressed, the company owing me payment said that they had not received payment from the company they made the ad for, and until that company pays them, they couldn’t pay me. Well no deal I’m afraid. The production company hired you for a product/service. You delivered that product/service to the best of your ability, on time, sent them an invoice, and should be paid for that product/service, regardless of whether someone else has paid them or not. Besides, no such knock-on credit agreement was stipulated in the contract or anywhere else – you were not made aware of those terms at any point, therefore that doesn’t stand. So they can now argue this point all they like, but it’s time to start think about taking action. If you’re still dealing with them on the phone, let them know you’re going to send an them email of what is going to happen next.

So, the title of your email will read ‘Letter Before Action.’ And in it you need to say that if payment is not received within seven days, you will begin proceedings to make a court claim to claim the payment. Tell them that you sent the invoice repeatedly, you were professional at all times (weren’t you…), and that as they do not have a case for not paying you, you have been left with this course of action.

Right, now if you STILL don’t get paid, this is discretionary, but I sent another email first thing the day after the seven days is up, saying that if they didn’t pay me by close of business that day (I said 6PM), then I will begin the process the next morning.

So let’s assume it’s the next morning. I never had to do this before, but it’s really easy and not at all time consuming. Go to:

…read all the information, and then use the Money Claim Online section, which is linked. It is name, address, the people you are claiming against etc etc, and again it is all very simple. You will need to pay a court fee which was £25 for me, and that is for anything less than £300, and it goes up if you are claiming for more; however that is taken into account and will be owed to you by the person you are claiming against. You are also owed interest of 8% on the late payment which is fun, and there is a link to help you work it out, so you will actually end up getting more money than you were originally owed. Once it’s all done, the form is automatically sent to them and get a e-copy. You also get a letter a few days later stating that the claim was sent to them, and that it can be considered served to them by a certain date which they will state.

Now in my case, I, joy of joys, received the cheque in the post for the full amount, including the court fee and interest three days before I received that letter, which was lovely, so that’s where my story ends. If you still don’t get anything though, it’s in the court’s hands now so you’re not on your own but you have the weight of the law behind you, so carry on as all the correspondence says you should. If this might mean going to court, then so be it. If you drop it now, they will win, and they know they will be able to do it again with other people again and again, so it has to be followed through. Also, the company might fob you off with the original amount, without taking into account the interest and court fee. No way. There is information there about them not paying the full amount, so read it and do what it says. Follow every action up until you get what is rightfully yours – no less, but no more of course. If you have a good claim, you will get it.

When you finally do receive the money, check it with the bank. If it has been transferred or if it is a cheque, check with your bank to see when the cheque will clear. Once past, then and only then drop the case. If it didn’t clear it’s again fobbing you off, so carry on as you would. It takes a while, but you will get there. See you in court…