Collecting money from recalcitrant clients is
one of the most boring bits of being a freelance. The law does
entitle you to interest and compensation from late payers.
We also provide a much simpler tool for calculating
these so you can send an additional penalty invoice yourself.
But if that fails, the National Union of Journalists can help its
freelance members collect what's due to them. Often, one stiff
letter avoids a trip to Small Claims Court - and, if it comes
to that, the Union can often help its members there too.
This form is designed to help you - and NUJ staff - collect
all the necessary information as painlessly and accurately as
possible. That's why it's detailed.
Information in tinted fields is
required. Other fields may be required, depending on
your answers. The whole point is to check that the
union has the whole story to start with. You may want to
start by taking a look at section 5.
It attempts to check your entries to ensure that the Freelance Office
gets all the information needed. It's supposed to be picky.
And it will do most of the arithmetic for you. It should flag in
this colour the fields
it's filled in for you. You can still change them. Click here
to stop automatic recalculation.
Data Protection: By sending this information, you
are clearly indicating that you wish it to be held on file and
to be disseminated as necessary to collect your money, but only for
If you want to send supporting documents (e.g. scans of
contracts, invoices, etc) please attach them to an email
to email@example.com - or fax them to 020 7278 1812.
Please include a cover note giving your name and the same
description of the work that you entered above.
If you give your membership number, we'll be able to respond more quickly.
The NUJ cannot help non-members collect payment, unless you belong to another
International Federation of Journalists
member union and have a problem collecting from a company in the UK or
Ireland. If so, enter the name of the union you belong to in the "Branch" field.
It is always better to have a written record of what you agreed. Oral
contracts are as valid as any other kind - it's just that they are,
obviously, harder to prove. If you are proposing a contract to your client,
see note 7.
Remember, you should add Value Added Tax if and only if:
- you are registered for VAT; and
- your client is in the same territory - i.e. the work is not exported.
Under EU regulations updated with effect from 16 March 2013,
by default payment is due 30 days after:
whichever is the later (see examples).
- your client became aware of how much they owed you,
- you delivered or did the work, or
- any "procedure of acceptance or verification" of the work that is specified in the contract is complete (see note 6),
If payment is delayed beyond this date, interest is payable at a penalty rate, plus compensation for debt recovery costs.
After filling in the relevant dates and amounts, click "show calculation"
to get a detailed account of the interest and compensation, and see any error messages.
- The 30-day rule is overriden if you agreed a different due date when you took the work on.
- If your client is a public body, it should not let the clock tick for more than 30 days.
- If your client is not a public body, and if you made a contract with it on or after 16 March 2013, it can ask you to agree to be paid later - after up to 60 days of clock-ticking. In fact it can ask you to agree to even later payment - but this must not be "grossly unfair".
- If you agreed your contract on or after 16 March 2013, and if your actual costs in recovering the money are greater than the statutory minimim compensation, you can claim your total actual costs.
For clarity, we repeat: unless you explicitly agree otherwise, payment is still due 30 days after the clock starts ticking.
The regulations authorise your union to act on your behalf against clients that try to impose
contracts that are "grossly unfair" or circumvent the penalties. If you are an NUJ member
and think you have been "offered" such a contract, contact the
From 16 March 2013 minimum compensation of €40 applies in all EU member states, on top of the penalty interest. The minima are higher in the UK, and in Ireland when the amount due is greater than €1000.
Really detailed contracts specify a "jurisdiction" - the country
where you agree to go to court. This also decides whether you can claim
interest and debt recovery cost compensation, and how much. As a rule of
thumb, unless otherwise specified in a contract the jurisdiction is the
country your client operates in.
Note: We have yet to confirm the interest rate applied by
Germany and that it has in fact implemented the €40
compensation that the 2011 EU Directive mandates.
If you agreed your contract on or after 16 March 2013, your client can ask in it for a "procedure of acceptance or verification". This should not take more than 30 days. You may be asked to agree a longer period, but this must not be "grossly unfair".
The exact meaning of "procedure of acceptance or verification" probably will not become clear until a court case has gone as far as the Court of Appeal. Please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org if you sight one of these in a contract.
We believe that publishing or broadcasting your work should constitute acceptance, whatever the contract says.
Once again: payment is still due 30 days after invoice or delivery unless such a "procedure" is specified in your contract with your client, and unless a longer period is specified therein.
If you just agreed on the phone "650 words by 4pm" then you have an oral contract, but it ain't specifying anything else.
The NUJ recommends
that when work has been commissioned and carried out
satisfactorily according to the brief, it should be paid for in full. If
publishers over-commission or change their minds, that should be their
problem. Many publishers, however, offer "kill fees" of 50% to 67%
in the hope you'll accept that, shut up and go away. Your having read
this far may suggest otherwise.
The UK government has in the past advised including the following text on your invoices:
I understand and will exercise my statutory right to claim interest and compensation
for debt recovery costs under the late payment legislation if I am not paid according
to agreed credit terms.
Repeating some of Note 4 in more normal English...
usually there is one of two stories to tell. Either:
- On 24/03/2013 you agree to do a piece of work - and you agree
then and there how much you will be paid. You deliver the work,
as agreed, on time, on 28/03/2013. So the clock starts ticking on
this, the second date. The payment is overdue 30 days later, which
is 27/04/2013. Or:
- On 24/03/2013 you agree to do a piece of work - and, say, you
agree that you'll let your client know later on what the expenses
are. You deliver the work, as agreed, on time, on 28/03/2013.
But this time the clock doesn't start ticking until the client knows
formally how much they owe. On Saturday 13/04/2013 you get around to
invoicing for the work and expenses. Allowing the usual two working
days for the post, your client is aware how much they owe you on the
Wednesday, 17/04/2005. The payment is overdue 30 days after that,
which is 18/05/2013.
Note that though this program knows about weekends,
it doesn't know about state holidays. If the due date is counted
from the date on which you sent an invoice, please adjust it if
So why do you need to tell this program when you agreed to
do the work, when both stories seem to ignore this date? Because
it determines which late payment regulations, if any, apply.
For example in the UK the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998
allowed you to claim interest, but no compensation, on contracts made after 01/11/1998
- though Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) were exempt up to 01/11/2000.
And remember that both these stories assume that your client
didn't persuade you to agree some other payment terms, or
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