Welcome to the neighborhood, Freelance Collection. Artists don’t have to work for free.
So you’re an artist, a freelance artist and you did a fabulous job for a client. But they refuse to pay you for your work. Is this fair? No! What can you do about it? Go to Freelance Collection to help you get the payment you worked hard for. Just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean you have to work for free. Our independent spirit keeps our neighborhood thriving. It shouldn’t be hindered by some who refuse to honor a contract. We always say: “NoHo is only as good as its people.” Meet North Hollywood resident Howie and his business partner Steve, the folks behind Freelance Collection. We’re glad they’re in the neighborhood and are here to help our artists and freelancers.
Why did you start Freelance Collection?
Howie and I have both freelanced and consulted on and off throughout our careers. Last year, Howie’s wife, a web developer, took on her first freelance project for a client who stopped returning her emails when it came time to pay. She was frustrated with the whole situation and didn’t have the time or experience to deal with it. Howie rolled up his sleeves, researched her legal options, and, through persistence, finally got the client to pay.
Howie told me the story and said, “A lot of freelancers have this problem. What would you think about starting a company to help them solve it?” He didn’t know it at the time, but I had experienced a similarly frustrating experience earlier in my career, when I was an independent management consultant. So when I did a little research, I quickly found that he was on to something, and I got excited about the mission of using ethical collections practices to help under-resourced people get what they’re owed from companies who think they can take advantage.
Howie and I grew up together in Weston, FL, and we’ve been friends ever since, though we never thought we’d end up in business together. He’s a freelance creative writer who has worked in TV, graphic novels, interactive games, advertising, and marketing. I’m a tech company founder a couple times over. Most notably, I co-founded Tuition.io, which lets employers make payments toward their employees’ student loans.
So there’s no muscle involved. How can Freelance Collection help local artists?
If you’re an artist (or any other kind of creative freelancer or small business, for that matter), and you aren’t paid for work up front, you might have the misfortune of working for/selling to a nonpaying client or customer. You’re not alone. 77% of freelancers face client nonpayment at some point in their career.
Sadly, it’s a frequent occurrence: When you’ve already done the work, your client thinks they have all the power, so they’ll decide paying you isn’t as important as paying other bills. They might ignore you altogether, or maybe they’ll tell you they’re not paying for some crazy reason such as, “The work wasn’t used,” or “I didn’t like the format of the bill you sent me.” (Those are real examples!)
You can (and should) use phone calls, emails, formal letters, and in-person visits to demand that they pay you. You can sue in Small Claims or Municipal Court, depending on the amount. If you want to undertake those efforts yourself, we applaud you. But most people don’t know how to make the legal system work for them, don’t want to deal with the frustration, or simply don’t have the time to keep the pressure on with continued communication, demands, and negotiation.
If you don’t want to go that do-it-yourself route, your option is to find a collection agency or a lawyer to take your case. People react differently when they’re contacted by a collections professional, because frankly, it’s scarier than dealing with an individual. And for the individual, working with a professional removes the headaches and heartbreak of having a client (whom you may have considered a friend) refuse payment for your hard work.
These professionals can use tactics that aren’t available to the individual artist (like dinging someone’s credit score, assigning liens, and garnishing wages). They know how to deal with all the tricks a deadbeat can pull — and there are many. But finding the right collection agency or lawyer likely won’t go smoothly for you: First, you won’t have any way to tell the good ones from the bad ones, because their websites all look about the same. Second, they might not give you the time of day, because to them, you’re a small fish.
We created Freelance Collection to solve all those problems for you. We’ve researched and assembled a vetted network of the top collection agencies and lawyers, and they want to work with us, because we send them lots of cases. There’s never an upfront fee. We only make money when you get paid. And you never pay more than you would if you found the collection agency on your own.
How can artists protect themselves when selling their work?
I could write a novel here, but here are a few quick tips:
• Don’t work for sketchy clients. If someone rubs you the wrong way, trust your instincts.
• Use a contract, even if you’re working for a friend. There are good, free templates that are easy to find online. Find one that includes clear payment terms and a late fee.
• Get payment upfront and at intervals throughout the project’s duration. If you’re doing contract/freelance work or if your client is commissioning a piece of art, this is normal.
• If the payments stop coming, stop working! Don’t let them string you along.
Do you have a success story you’d like to share?
Because each case is confidential, we can’t disclose too many specifics, but there are a few cases that make me particularly proud. One that comes to mind involves a freelance writer who continued to work for her client for four months without being paid, based on his promise that the money was on its way. We found out that the client was a serial nonpayer and had filed for bankruptcy in the past to avoid paying his freelancers. We started to get the feeling he never intended to pay her a dime. But we now have him on a payment plan, and we’re well on the way to collecting $4,000 in full.
Do you have any last parting words?
One important piece of advice: Be impatient when it comes to collecting. Whether you go the do-it-yourself route or you come to us, collecting overdue payments becomes less likely as time passes. Industry-wide, there’s about a 70% success rate at 90 days overdue, but that drops to 52% at 6 months and just 23% after 1 year.
Spread the word that they’re here to help.
**** For information on Los Angeles theatre, tickets to theatre in North Hollywood’s NoHo Arts District, theatre reviews, the NoHo Event Calendar, restaurants, news and local businesses in NoHo, or anything and everything about the NoHo Arts Community, bookmark nohoartsdistrict.com. Follow us on Twitter @OfficialNoHo.