Realistic options..?

It had to happen sometime, and as a jobbing freelance I’m lucky it hasn’t happened before – but it looks as though I’m going to be involved in pursuing someone for …

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27th September 2007 at 10:35 am

It had to happen sometime, and as a jobbing freelance I’m lucky it hasn’t happened before – but it looks as though I’m going to be involved in pursuing someone for an unpaid invoice.

This isn’t going to be pretty. It’s not a huge amount – 400 gold pieces plus VAT – but it’s worth having (and don’t forget as a sole trader there’s no company involved so that’s genuinely my money).

The small claims court is the obvious route but there’s also the issue of interest. The law is quite straightforward. If someone is late for a payment you charge £40 and then a daily amount of interest. They are obliged to pay it.

Unfortunately I’ve never known anyone else in my field to get that interest even when they charge it.  Proprietors fall over themselves to say ‘I never agreed this’ (hint: you never had to, it’s in the law) and they pay the original amount if you’re lucky, with a promise never to use the freelance again. It’s not a satisfactory way of doing business.

There’s one exception of which I am aware. The Guardian messed up payments for a colleague a while back; he ended up having to go to the small claims court. His case was a simple one and the Guardian caved in immediately. On the way out – and this is the important bit – the newspaper assured the freelance that this was a simple procedural matter, they were glad to have it behind them and he should feel free to continue pitching ideas to them. Which he has, rather successfully.

That’s real professionalism in my view. I suspect the smaller company that owes me money will be a little less amenable. I’ll let you know.

Guy Clapperton

Guy Clapperton is a freelance journalist who specialises in small business issues and has written for the likes of The Guardian, the FT and the Daily Mirror. Guy has written about finance and franchising for SmallBizPod. http://www.guyclapperton.co.uk

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