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Not been paid - what to do

Discussion in 'General Business Forum:' started by gcol90, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. gcol90

    gcol90 Junior Member

    In a bit of a predicament. A local church contacted me to do some design work. They said they didn't have much of a budget so I said we could discuss payment afterwards - provided they were happy with my work. Said I wouldn't set a 'price', just told them to pay me what they could - since, you know their budget situation. I did the work, sent it to them, they said they were pleased with it, and I then received an email saying they were getting the stuff I'd done printed. I asked about payment, to which they said they were sorting it, but were a bit ambiguous when saying it.
    I haven't heard anything in over a week now. I contacted them again querying it again, but they're ignoring me.
    What the heck do I do, or have I just ended up doing 'voluntary' work?
     
  2. Unfortunately there are people in this world who are happy to take up other peoples professional time and try to get away without paying. It quite simply boils down to the fact that if you're working as a freelancer you absolutely have to at the bare minimum take a deposit of at least 25% and really, you need to be using some of project agreement or contract, stating exactly what work you're doing and how much they're paying you for it. It's when you don't do these things that people think they can get away with not paying you, because you've given them the deliverables and there is no proof of any agreement between you and them, you've effectively given up any position of power in that situation and they know this.
    Maybe they have genuinely forgot, or are rushed off their feet with something and you'll get the payment in a week from now. But imagine if this was a large project that you were relying on to pay your bills... I would honestly start getting into the habit of taking a deposit and working with a basic project agreement for every project you work on.
    As for what you can do now, well it seems to me like you have three options. Keep contacting them and hope for the best, let it go and put it down as a learning experience or chase them up for it in the small claims court. I would imagine that you don't have the inclination, time or the finances to pursue them legally, and really it's not going to be worth it. You could just let it go, and put it in your portfolio as charity work, which always goes down well but if it was me, I would be wanting payment if that's what they promised.
    Unfortunately there is every chance that you won't get anything, if they are really determined not to pay you but even if it's just for the principle it's worth spending a bit of time on it, just in case. You can always try visiting them locally, because they can't ignore you then and a lot of people can't deal with confrontation when they know they're in the wrong, but this approach does rely on you knowing what to say and how to say it.
    If you create any art or design work, you are automatically granted the status of copyright owner, you do not need to sign up to or register anything. This means that they are infringing on your copyright by using it without your permission. Another course of action would be to send a cease and desist letter. A lot of the time people think they don't need to pay you, because they believe you're small, lacking in knowledge and don't know how to react in these situations, so they think they can get away with it. A professionally worded c&d letter, if this is the case, will certainly make them think twice about not paying you. Although you need to be careful because a badly worded c&d letter could do you more harm than good.
    Personally I would not expect a charitable organisation to simply decide not to pay you, and so if they continue to ignore your emails and calls then go and pay them a visit, personally, with the intention of finding out why they haven't paid you. Some times people just disappear rather than owning up to something, such as they don't have the money to pay you just yet, or something else could be going on. I assume all your contact has been via email so far?
     
  3. Levi

    Levi Moderator Staff Member

    simply put - you're screwed
    No contract
    No set price at start
    Given them the work so they can use it
    Plus it's a church, don't expect them to be the moral high ground and pay you. Some of the worst 'offenders' when it comes to 'morals' seem to be people who go to church (not saying all of them are like this obviously) etc in my opinion.
    If they're local you could always turn up at the door and speak in person but I fully expect you to come away with it being 'voluntary' work.
    As to Sean saying he wouldn't expect a charitable organisation to simply decide not to pay you... I'm the other way round I'd expect them to try and get EVERYTHING for nothing even if it means shafting or emotional blackmail - have you not seen the way Melinda Messenger (and others) goes after free stuff on tv on cowboy builders (which I completely disagree with by the way) in the name of a 'good cause'.
     
  4. Wardy

    Wardy Active Member

    It's barter time!
    I would go back to them, in person, or at least speak to the person in charge over the phone, and explain that you never intended to do it free of charge. Tell them how much it cost, they'll say they don't have that much budget.
    Ask them what budget they do have, meet them half way, but make sure you get some free publicity or advertising out of it somehow. Put it down to experience, but get whatever pluses you can from it.
     
  5. davewill

    davewill Senior Member

    alright mate, I wouldnt worry too much yet, I do alot of work for my own church and from my experience, the people paying the bills are doing it all in their spare time, which can take a lot longer than waiting for payment off a full time client. Also, the guy I deal with a lot only pays bills at the end of each month. It may be worth popping them an email asking when they plan on sending payment so you know when to expect it. I wouldnt go there all guns blazing just yet!
    As the others have said though, next time, agree on a fee or terms of payment from the outset, even giving a rough quote would be better than doing the work first then agreeing on a price.
     
  6. Gianluca Teti

    Gianluca Teti Member

    As the old saying states: "Do what the priest says, not what the priest does." Preaching for the good and not being an example on their own is unfortunately a widespread habit in the church environment. In Europe, churches usually don't have great money and they count on church-goers to have some job done. This is perfectly acceptable in the spirit of the Christian community. But if they promised you money and they are not paying, to me they are just clients like anyone else. The moment you didn't state a price was probably where your problems started. They might have felt that they were dealing with a non-professional, and took advantage of it. They could count on the fact that it's a church and that you might feel bad asking money. You are in good company though, I heard many stories like this. When I did my early works for Christian organizations, I directly did it "pro bono," and I was happy like this. That's not your case though, so ask for the money and be firm and inflexible about this.
    By the way, the only country in the Western world where you can make money out of churches is probably the United States. Here, churches are like clubs and in order to join a community you have to pay a monthly fee. The parrish is managed as a non-profit company and therefore it has a budget for visual identity and for all the rest. No comment.
     
  7. gcol90

    gcol90 Junior Member

    hey, thanks for the replies.
    i had a reply back, but the guy who i did the work for, his replies are becoming a bit.... ambiguous, so i'm kind of giving up on any hope of getting anything. would have just been nice to have done some work for someone and have got some money for my time and effort. suppose i'll keep emailing every so often until i know for definite as to what's happening.
    yep, everything has been done by email. i've met the guy in person, that's how he got a hold of my email address, but then everything afterwards was done by email only, never met up with him or spoken to him on the phone or anything like that. i'm hoping it's the latter - they don't have the money yet, but i literally have no clue as to what's going on.
    yeah, i seem to be getting a bit of a reputation of doing stuff for free, someone contacted me last week to do a poster for them... for free. need to break this habit asap.
    that's the only upside, it's another piece to add to my portfolio. every cloud eh?!
    yeah i hope that's that case anyway. i suppose if this drags on and by the end of this month i've still not heard anything, then i'll take it as that they're not paying me and never intended to. ah well. lesson learned, anyway!
     
  8. Levi

    Levi Moderator Staff Member

    You should be a bit more like me (yeah yeah I already know what you're thinking Sean :p) because I won't even do 'professional' work for free for close family and friends... I'll give them a discount but that's it, this is my source of income so my time equals money :)
     
  9. A bit more like you Levi? I don't think dressing up in a vibrant dress and heels is going to help him very much.... Haha, I am with Levi on this one though, I don't do work for free for anyone, although I will do a discount for close friends and family. The closest I'll come to working for free is to exchange services.
    Personally I would just go down to that church and ask what's going on. Just be friendly, but direct. If he doesn't offer up information on the payment after the pleasantries have concluded all you need to say is "So the reason I have come down here today is to find out about payment for the project I recently completed for you". Specifically you need to know how much and when. Don't leave until you have this information! You might think that it's not worth it, or that you don't care any more but this is exactly the kind of situation that will help you grow and deal with similar issues much more successfully in the future.
    You're not a slave, you've got to stick up for yourself!
     
  10. scotty

    scotty Well-Known Member

    "It'd be such a shame if your church was to catch fire and explode."
     
  11. shaunalynn

    shaunalynn Active Member

    Where are you located? If you do go with charity work, you could potentially use it as a tax write off.
     
  12. gcol90

    gcol90 Junior Member

    Had an email this morning, they're paying me. Not a lot at all, but it's something!
     
  13. Levi

    Levi Moderator Staff Member

    yeah, it's something but could it have been higher if you'd have agreed terms at the start.... take this as a lesson learned for the next job :)
    and I should have got in earlier for this....

    "Hell hath no fury like a designer refused payment"
     
  14. Gianluca Teti

    Gianluca Teti Member

    LOL. Trailer from the new reality show "Mob Designers."
     
  15. scotty

    scotty Well-Known Member

    "When Designers ATTACK"
     

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