I've been chasing a client to get a €250 or so invoice paid.
I did the work in February and invoiced it in March. In May, I resent the invoice to make sure it had been taken into account.
In July, I sent another e-mail wondering why I still hadn't received the money.
Ten days later, I sent another e-mail demanding to be paid within 2 working days.
All this very politely, although a bit more cringingly with each passing e-mail. So far, the client had never paid on time but had paid eventually. I hate harassing people with reminders and late fees.
The next morning, I sent another e-mail, ccing the company's CEO. He called me to announce that the company was bankrupt and had been declared insolvent since the end of June.
Although my work and my invoice largely predate the bankruptcy, their inability to pay me within a reasonable deadline means I will probably never get paid at all. The State and the other secured creditors will come first. Unsecured freelancers will come last, with the "mass".
For months, that company continued to outsource work to freelancers, knowing that they didn't have the money to pay them. Worse: they probably did have money to pay €250 invoices, but decided to spend it elsewhere, leaving people like me for last.
Here's my advice to companies that outsource work and want to retain a resemblance of moral and professional credit:
1. Always pay your freelancers first. Even if you owe tens of thousands of euros to the State. Those freelancers actually depend on the money you owe them to feed their children. Be a decent human being.
2. If you don't have money to outsource work, just don't. Be sensible.
3. Be honest about your situation. If your company is in trouble and your subcontractors are waiting to be paid, give them a head's up. Ask for more time. Don't let them chase you without replying. Be a good professional.
4. Don't add insult to injury. When one of those freelancers gets mad at you on the phone for outsourcing work to her knowing very well that you would not be able to pay her and for not informing her earlier of your situation, don't patronise and condescend, telling her it's "only" €250 after all. If it's "only €250", then open your wallet and pay her from your own pocket. She doesn't care where the money comes from, as long as she's paid for the work she's done.
Brussels' communication sector is very small. A world where your good reputation is everything. And, like most unpaid freelancers of that company, I've been working in it for a long time and I know a lot of people. I'm not a name and shame person, but one thing is for certain: I will make sure word of mouth travels as it should on this matter.
Because, as I wrote in an earlier post, my children always come first. And I won't forgive anybody who deprives them of money that should have fed them, which I earned doing my job well.
Even if it's "only" €250.