Beware the Purchase Order

OK, I started work without a formal contract. But I did have a letter outlining the job and offering a rate, and I knew that was good enough.

Then the contract arrived - when I was more than half way through the work, but see above - technically, I was contracted. (This was a book publisher, and they like complicated contracts - even when they are not offering anything complicated like royalties.)

But the last page of the contract included something I'd not come across before - but I'm told it's not completely unheard of. That was that no invoice would be accepted without a purchase order number.

"Purchase Order number? Please provide this thing, as I'll be through with the job soon, and I would very much like to invoice you..."

Erm...

Erm...

I ask again. The freelance who's managing the project asks again on my behalf (and that of another writer who's involved in the same project).

Eventually, the reply comes back that because of technical problems (genuine ones) there will be a delay.

Now, I'm not blaming anyone here, not anyone I'm dealing with, anyway. But remember that every day I wait for the PO number is a day before they'll accept my invoice, and makes the wait for money all the longer.

Eventually, it was sorted out, but there is a moral to this story, which I am sure you will all take to heart.

That is, if anyone mentions purchase orders, make sure you get one straight away, before you spend too much time on a job. Because it can be used to delay payment for god-knows-how-long, if the publisher chooses. And some, no doubt, will choose to do just that.

  • The Freelance contacted the Office of the Small Business Commissioner about this issue. Its Caseworker Manager Neil Cowley replied, "We would definitely want to hear from anyone who is having difficulty getting paid or getting a purchase order raised."

    Neil added that "he would recommend anyone who is experiencing issues to contact us and we will investigate and try and resolve the matter for them. The Commissioners involvement often expedites the resolution of delays so we would encourage your members to contact us (via www.smallbusinesscommissioner.gov.uk/contact/ and will be happy to help."