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What to do when companies don't pay – my dealings with Balance PR.

December 17th, 2008 | 12 Comments | Categories: Geek · Random Catchup |

Scrooge - perhaps he's doing the accounts for Balance PRHere’s the story – about 2 months ago, I did some freelance PR work for Balance PR, working on a music promotion thing. The job was at incredibly late notice, but they needed something doing that I was in a very good position to help them with, we agreed a fee and I got on with it.

For various reasons, the job with Balance PR was curtailed half way through, but the work that I’d done had gone well, and I invoiced according to the hourly/daily rate we’d agreed, on the 16th October. that makes the due date 15th November.

Fast forward over 2 months and I still haven’t been paid, despite email and phone assurances from them that I’d be paid, and even that I’d BEEN paid. ‘The cheque will go out monday’, ‘we’ll make a bank transfer tomorrow’, ‘the cheque has been sent by registered post’. Continuous failure to complete the payment has meant that I’ve come away to the USA without the money for the job, and I’ll have to file an LBA from here.

I had a couple of lame reasons for non-payment, a couple of what sounded like heart-felt apologies, and a whole load of ‘I’m sorry, Ryan isn’t in the office at the moment’ followed by a never-answered mobile call. No meaningful explanations, no offers of compensation, just lots of fielded calls and missed payment deadlines.

So, my advice is, if you ever get asked to work for Balance PR is to ask for the money up front or write very stiff non-payment clauses into your contract with them, and have it signed and witnessed. Whether or not this is systemic in the company, I’ve no idea. But I do know a couple of other people that have had to wait for a long time to be paid – way past the due dates of the invoices.

Companies that treat freelancers like this need to be exposed. It’s a stupid, petty and illegal thing to do, and makes life harder for everyone. What have Balance PR got out of not paying for me? About 75p in interest in the bank on what they owe me? Bollocks, it’s just piss poor practice.

There are contact details on Balance’s website should you wish to email or call them and suggest they sort out their business practice.

So, Freelancers, please use the comments to list things you’ve done to get payment, and also to list companies that haven’t paid and how it was resolved – please do only list your own verifiable experiences (I’ve got the email trail for all of this, with lists of missed dates and broken promises),

And if anyone from Balance PR wants to publicly apologise, explain, be contrite, etc. Feel free. The floor is yours. I’d rather you just paid me though, plus an extra £100 or so for the time I’ve spent having to chance the invoice due to your incompetence.

The reason I’m writing this publicly is because Balance are a PR company. That’s public relations. We are the public. and if you piss off the public, lie to them and break legal contracts, they tend to ‘go public’. It’s just the way it is.

The life of a freelancer can be amazing. We’re in a position to do what we do best for a whole range of people. Balance are in a position to use some of the amazing pool of freelance knowledge in London. Let’s face it, if you’re in PR, you need specialists to call on. So why make their lives more precarious because you can’t be bothered to make a bank transfer to pay an invoice? The money’s tiny in PR terms. For me, it’s a lot, and it could end up the difference between going overdrawn or not at the bank. I have to budget well to live on what I earn, and my budgeting shouldn’t have to compensate for the lack of business ethics of the people I’m working with.

It’s a shame really, because the job itself was a fun one, and with a few more weeks notice, could’ve been great. Will I be working for Balance PR again? not without cash up front…

[EDIT] this was finally all settled, without the need for legal action… just. Case closed :)

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12 Comments so far ↓

  • Chris Hawes

    Try these guys:
    http://www.thomashiggins.com/
    £2.00 to send an LBA from a solicitor.

    Takes minutes and is often successful, I’ve had a 100% success rate with the two I’ve sent.

  • Sam Wilson

    This is terrible. As a freelancer I really empathize with what you are feeling. Dishonest companies like this need to be held accountable.

  • Francine

    How frustrating! I had the same sort of situation earlier in the year with a company I did some work for–and had never had a problem with on previous payments. It took me more than 3 months and 40 phone calls, plus who knows how many emails, to get it. And, by the time I got it (from a London company) the pound-dollar exchange rate had gone way down. I also had to worry about it while I was on my around-the-world trip, and spent tons in cell phone calls to the company over those two months. Didn’t get settled until well after I had returned home.

    Hope you get your money, and hope Balance thinks about how they’re treating their freelancers.

  • Kevin

    Steve,

    Too tight to mention!

    Perhaps Balance are in their own creditor situation. It sounds like the project probably didn’t pay for them either and they may well be having problems paying staff and rents etc. It’s hard to imagine that a company would deliberately withold payment especially under such pressure. Trouble is, I guess they wouldn’t be inclined to hold their hands up and say they haven’t got anything in the bank until they get paid as it’s not the image you would want to promote (especially in pr). It’s the kind of situation that one can only imagine may become more common as budgets are squeezed and projects shelved due to services demanding money up front.

    Tough one all round, I hope it works out.

    Kevin

  • Ade

    I’m a freelancer too and this is all too familiar. Good on you for publicly shaming them!

  • steve

    thanks for all the comments, good to hear from you all.

    Kevin – that’s a valid point, but I have no reason to believe that’s the case (they’re a big PR company and are pretty busy.) and the amount they owe me, in PR campaign terms is tiny. Which is, I guess, the point. For a big company, it’s all too easy to lose sight of how seemingly insignificant amounts of money can mean a whole lot to a self-employed sole trader. It’s the difference between paying rent and not paying rent.

    If I was struggling financially, the last thing I’d be doing is contracting outside specialists. They hired me, on a contract, and really ought to have mechanisms in place to pay me. If that was going to be a problem, that should’ve been sorted out up front. If they’d wanted a 60 or90 day grace period, they could have said so, and I could then have upped my rate considerably to cover the inconvenience. But on a few hundred quid, I’m not buying it :)

    My intention is not to ‘shame’ them, per se, although I’m sure there is some shame in this for them, it’s more about just being open. While this stuff is hidden, big companies have the upper hand, and freelancers are held over a barrel. I’d rather not have to pursue legal methods of collection, I’d rather they just didn’t behave like this. So I’m talking about it, to see who else is in the same boat. Kinda like a Union :)

  • saga

    i’ve been in this position also.
    an agreed artists fee to be paid by a large building developer.
    …the phone calls, the emails, the recorded delivery letters: after four months i received payment

    along the way i was told that the invoice was for such a small sum that it wasnt a priority; that if he responded to every email and letter he received he would never get any work done.

    joyous.
    so affirming.

  • Sarah Parmenter

    I feel for you, I really do. Kudos to you for putting this out in public though, have they responded to you yet?
    Sarah

  • steve

    UPDATE

    as of 22nd of December, I’ve still seen no money, despite promises of it being transferred middle of last week.

    Seriously, I’d advise anyone to NEVER do any work for Balance PR, and defiintely not to hire them. What interesting is that they’ve made no reference at any point to the now rather large negative digital footprint they are accumulating, which suggests they either aren’t monitoring it, or have no mechanism for responding. Either way, neither of those are characteristics I’d want from a PR company I was hiring. Major PR FAIL.

  • Rachel Andrew

    The Better Payment Practice group have lots of useful stuff on their website, including wording for letters to send: http://www.payontime.co.uk/

    Under the Late Payment Legislation you should be able to claim interest from Balance PR: http://www.payontime.co.uk/legislation/legislation_main.html

    If they have not disputed the payment, then I would send a letter stating your intention to claim the money via the Small Claims Court and then claim via the courts online. You can claim your costs and additional interest. Often (unless a company really is in dire straits) receiving the court documents causes payment to be made by return to prevent the process going any further.

    In 7 years in business I have used the court process 3 times, in two cases judgement was made in our favour without needing to go to court. In one the business was declared bankrupt shortly after and we didn’t get paid, the other is still paying us at £100 p/m under the court order. The third sent payment as soon as they got the documents so it didn’t get to judgement.

  • Lisa Forster

    I know this is an old thread but sometimes I think it’s a case of who shouts the loudest when chasing debtors.

    And especially the way things are at the moment, with companies going into administration everywhere.

    If you’re owed money something as quick, easy and cost effective as having a letter before action (lba) sent to your debtors on your behalf can work wonders.

    Try Stobbs Brown (http://www.stobbsbrown.co.uk).

    Lisa

  • steve

    PLEASE NOTE

    I’ve had a few people of late trying to post critiques of other companies here, anonymously. I obviously can’t let that go, given that you’re anonymous and I’d be legally responsible for it. That’s bullying. If you want to blog publicly about it and just post a link to the blog post here, that’s fine, but you have to be identifiable from the post.

    Sorry to squash it – I’m sure you have good reason to criticise those who don’t pay, but the hit and run comments here aren’t going to be posted.