A reader asks about the best way to deal with a magazine who’s 60 days late paying the invoice.

I think a couple calls to the photo editor to see what’s up is a good idea just in case they’ve been slow getting it to accounting or possibly it’s held up for some kind of error or clarification but then the best course of action is to find out who’s in accounts payable and start hammering them with phone calls.

I always appreciate it when the photographer asks who they should bother  about payment because, to be honest, I’m in the same boat as you. I’d like nothing better than for everyone to be paid immediately so attacking me about slow payment is unproductive.

You all know you’re being used as an interest free bank. Don’t you?

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  1. Here’s a story any small business should enjoy.
    I was having lunch the other day with a long time client and he was complaining about the company one of his boys started. The business is doing well and selling a lot of product. Dad was upset because he’s the acting CFO and the company has about $1,000,000 in recievables which are getting pretty old, some over 180 days. Dad’s been after the son to start pressing the customers for the money but the son says he’s affraid he’ll loose the accounts. Dad’s to the point of telling the young man that he won’t get a check on payday.
    I guess he hasn’t yet realized that it’s better to collect the money and loose the account than go out business because your company is out of cash.
    The Photo Editor is not the place to call to get paid, try the “Payables” clerk or the accounting department.

  2. Calll Accounts Payable and tell them you just received a check from them…. but it is double your rate and this snafu is something that should be cleared up. That’s how you get them to notice you and pay right away.

  3. Wow, what a great blog. As a photographer who deals with many photo editors it is so interesting to hear your point of view. Much of a working relationship is common sense but learning more about the inside of your business definitely won’t hurt. Keep Posting! Kate.

  4. Fantastic blog – great insight into what is going on behind the scenes.
    Keep on blogging!

  5. “You all know you’re being used as an interest free bank.”

    Precisely the reason why a %20 to %30 mark-up on costs is standard practice.

  6. Let’s also call it what it is…..Can’t tell you how many times I’ve called Accounts Payable and the photo editor hasn’t got around to going thru the bills yet and sent them to accounts payable. It’s easy when you’re anonymous to be the perfect photo editor but most hate the billing part and set it in a pile for a few weeks to a month.

  7. Hammer Accounts Payable.

    Also, per John Harrington’s book on Best Business practices for photography, it won’t hurt to have in the contract that Copyright licensing is nullified if payment is not made prior to publication. . .gives you a bargaining chip, and a chip I just used to get a 60-day-late bill paid up pronto.

    Fact is, most of the time your invoice is rotting under a pile of papers on someone’s desk. Start asking about it within two weeks…and hammer.

  8. Is the difficulty collecting directly proportional to the number of cross-outs on the contract you signed, which you signed because had you not signed it, the PE would have been on the phone to find another photographer within five minutes of hanging up? I’ve been reading this blog for several weeks and haven’t seen many posts on contracts. Hmmmm… I’ve heard many PE’s echo the familiar “I’m just an employee at this awful corporation” refrain when I try to engage them on how their contracts are KILLING us. I guess if you’re Chris Buck or Terry Richardson those awful editorial contracts don’t matter much since your ed shoot will usually lead to several lucrative ad jobs anyway. The old “free advertising” game (which I don’t discount, btw, i’m fully aware of how effective a strategy that is). Just go down the list of current publishers, Conde Nast(y), Meredith, Gruner & Jahr, they’re all tossing out some pretty obnoxious paper lately. At this rate in a decade (or sooner) there will only be two kinds of editorial photographers: top shelf Annies and just-outta-art-school Newbies. The former aren’t affected by contracts and the latter would sign away their firstborn to get published. Good luck, veteran shooters. You’ll need it.

  9. Conde Nast is the worst. I did some work for them about 7 years ago (non-photo related, actually) and never received payment from them, period. I kept at them for it and it finally got to the point that it was too much of a hassle to be worth it. I’ve heard similar stories from others, as well.

  10. Carrie: wait till they get a new photo editor and try again. when i start a new job there’s usually a back log of disputed invoices that I quickly get paid.

  11. It’s been exactly 4 months now since they received my invoice.
    And yes, I’m the guy who dropped ‘A photo editor’ a line asking
    for any advice how to deal with that situation.

    I’m freelance for a year now and I make just enough to pay the
    bills, have some nights out and buy some equipment every now an then.
    But there is a lack of experience of ‘how to deal with a magazine if they don’t pay you’.

    It feels good to see your work published. It gets me more work…
    And I want to do more stuff for that particular mag.
    But I need to get paid as well.

    Any ideas how to proceed without destroying a so far good(?) relationship?


    ‘A (naive?) freelancer’

  12. Keep up the good insight and blogging, as they say in the movie “Gotcha,” WE LOVE IT, WE LOVE IT… seriously, any photographer who is not making ends meet and who isn’t reading your blog just doesn’t want to know…

    The saddest thing I ever heard was from an A/P employee at a major magazine who told me I was the only one who had ever sent her anything over the holidays as a thank you for her assistance during the year. One little calendar 4 years ago, and I’ve had no trouble getting invoices paid (as soon as the PE moves them off his or her desk, that is) ASAP, despite any company-wide 90 day policy hold on payment. Come on folks – you think the A/P folks are machines? Nope, they are usually people your age or older, with kids, pets, dreams and fantasies about going to the places you go and meeting the people you meet. They see your invoices, they know who you are, and what you do – do you know who they are and what they do? Interest free banking indeed!!

  13. Chris is exactly right. That’s how to do it! Fine, the magazine doesn’t want to pay on time? Just take away their embargo or licensing. Remember that agreement that was signed prior to any shooting? Yeah… You’ll then have the right to pull the plug on them. Interest free bank my ass. I’ll make up your difference in syndication or stock.

    More photographers should start practicing this clause, which is why I’ve posted it here (as an addendum to Chris’ post above). It is our industry, and just like a house, if it’s not cleaned it will stay dirty.

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