This is more or less how a recent email conversation with a PR agency went for me:
Can I have payment for the post I published three days ago please?
Sure, send us an invoice with this reference on it, our payment terms are 60 days.
Ah, my payment terms are on publication. I’m pulling the post until we can resolve this.
I’d like to say at this point I was in the wrong. I should have agreed terms when I agreed a fee. Schoolboy error and it’s something I usually do but for various reasons didn’t in this instance. Equally I don’t think it was unreasonable (and not doing so is possibly illegal- see below) for the agency to let me know their terms at the outset.
Disappointingly the comments from the blogging fraternity haven’t been very supportive. Cutting your nose off to spite your face, doubt they’ll alter their policy to suit you, they can’t magically pay you any sooner, are pretty much the tone of replies to my post in a parenting FB group. The TDL;R of my original post being don’t forget to sort the payment terms when you agree a fee, not once you’ve done the work.
I usually do this and in the 7 odd years of blogging I’ve got under my belt, I’ve only come unstuck once or twice; one firm insisted on paying me a month after the end of the current month we were in, and that’s the example that sticks in my mind above all others. The suspicious part of me ponders on whether they hope the more disorganised bloggers may forget to chase payment a month or two down the line.
Perhaps it’s because I work in finance as my day job but I find this approach from bloggers odd and perhaps a bit depressing. I struggle to think across the majority of the businesses I deal with, a situation where the customer sets the credit terms rather than the supplier. It’s almost as if the blogger subconsciously think that they should be negotiate from a position of weakness.
I was even told that “When you do this sort of thing regularly and for a long time you’ll get to know that some companies do have a 60 day payment cycle as standard.” by someone who has been blogging for about half the time I have. I’m sure they didn’t mean it but their tone came across rather patronising. They also weren’t to know that I’m a hobby blogger and work in audit, so know a fair amount about how businesses work.
Generally I think the only time I come across payment terms significantly longer than 30 days is when the customer is overseas (particularly the Far East or South America, both of which have a culture of longer credit terms). I think it was the assumption that “some companies do have a 60 day payment cycle as standard” that got me though, as though it were an immutable truth that experienced bloggers should know and fatalistically accept.
Plenty of customers pay late and end up having to be chased endlessly, and chasing agencies for payment for blogging campaigns is often no different, but by and large the credit terms are set by the organisation or individual providing the goods or service. Yes, there are exceptions and those are usually the big businesses that can do so from a position of power: M&S can dictate when they pay their suppliers, Sainsbury can, Tesco can, and John Lewis can.
Heck, those organisations can usually dictate the price they want to pay and get their supplier to pay to store the stock until they want it too. That’s unusual though, and there is not such an imbalance between an agency and a blogger, although too many bloggers seem keen to assume there is.
Interesting, while looking at Gov legislation on the right to charge an admin fee and late payment interest on overdue invoices, I came across this:
I do not work in the commercial sector, so don’t have practical hands on experience of credit control and invoicing in a large organisation, but to my eye that suggests that if no term is agreed, the law takes it to be 30 days. It’s a rebuttable presumption; that is payment terms are taken as 30 days unless explicitly agreed otherwise.
Now in this instance where I was told that payment terms were 60 days when I came to invoice, after I had provided the service, it’s a little murky where this stands legally but from a best practice point of view, it wasn’t a great approach by any stretch of the imagination.
I’m pleased that my strong arm approach saw the credit terms reduced to 30- it’s longer than I normally accept (payment on publication is what I try to aim for but often it’s up to a week afterwards) but I’m willing to accept it in this instance because I didn’t do the ground work up front. I must also admit that I didn’t really pull the post in an attempt to get paid sooner; I lost my temper and made a self righteous stand- assuming that I’d lose the fee for taking what I felt was a stand on a matter of principle. So I’m glad the agency was more pragmatic than I was in that sense.
Lesson learnt for me, and bloggers, for goodness sake consider at least starting off with the assumption that you’re negotiating from a position of strength!