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View Full Version : Dispute with client about rate and time - settle or go to small claims?



Aliceinwonderland
22nd March 2019, 11:21
Hello, I'm a digital video producer / editor and recently took a freelance gig from a small production company. They revealed immediately to be unprofessional. The two producers gave me contrasting instructions for the same brief, made me do a lot of work for nothing, took very long time (up to half day) to check my work while putting pressure on me to do it urgently, sent me back home because they didn't have the right equipment / space in the office etc

We did not discuss a rate for this specific job because they just wanted to see if they liked my work and whether we could establish a relationship for the future. I have never discussed rates with previous clients unless they specifically asked me to give them a quote, so I didn't think to had to spell it out. My daily rate has been the same for the last few years (£250 to £400 per day) in the last couple of years and never had problems before - I generally invoice my clients at the end and always get very good feedback.

The job advert for this gig was stating "Starting from £200 depending on experience & skills" so I thought that would be in line with my rate and experience (I have 10+ experience as freelance, with public credits - a lot of long term contracting work). The job advert was also only for an easier type of editing, while they also left with me the more complex task of coming up with the story. Something they felt comfortable doing because of my extra skills.

I kept on asking for feedback every day, I generally do this at the beginning of a relationship because I don't know the taste of the client and I want to make sure I am on the right track and they are happy. This feedback was always late. At times even a whole day later. Sometimes it involves contradicting instructions.

I had mixed feedback from them, sometimes positive and sometimes negative, I tried to change the things they didn't like (Music tracks, graphics etc) which resulted in obvious delay and more work.

Despite they told me they were happy with the final version, they are not willing to pay for the invoice I sent them. They claim that it took too long and in their opinion it wasn't up to other editors' standard and they they clearly stated the rate to be £200 (although the wording says it "STARTS" from and it relates to an easier type of work.
I offered to meet them in the middle and cut my rate to £250 and detailing every single fault that it was their responsibility- but they say their position remains unchanged at almost half of the original invoice.

I would like to take them to the small claims tribunal (the total initial invoice is around £2000) because they should not get used to take advantage of freelancers - but I fear I might waste a lot of time and energy and they might win because I didn't spell everything out.

Anybody here had a similar experience or any advise?

thanks ! Alice

northernladuk
22nd March 2019, 12:01
Horrible mistake not agreeing a price particularly coupled with the comment below


My daily rate has been the same for the last few years (£250 to £400 per day)

That's a huge spread so not sure you could say it's the same! That spread covers most of contracting outside London from junior to experienced rates so far too woolly to be assuming anything.

It does appear you've got a pretty open and shut case from what you've said but the lack of agreements and and all the assumption is not going to work in your favour. The fact you've billed for nearly the minimum does mitigate some of that though. Work has been done so there is no question there and you've billed the minimum so no one can claim over charging.

Before you threaten court though you need to go through the proper process. Generally, not being rude, but anyone that goes straight for the 'I'll sue you' or 'see you in court' line doesn't know what they are doing and can generally be ignored. If you show the proper diligence quoting the right legislation they may sit up and take some notice.

Have a look at the PayonTime website for information about the Late Payments of Commercial Debts legislation and how to advise your client you will be charging them interest at some point. They also have some templates for you that might help.
Late Payment Legislation Letters Forms & Templates - Pay on Time (http://payontime.co.uk/late-payment-legislation-letters-forms-templates)

You also need to go through the 'Dunning' process. Keep mailing them and escalating this to sign for letters and so on to show you've done what you can to chase it.

You might try a mediation service first as there is undeniably work been done so they have to pay something
Civil mediation | Find a civil mediation service (http://civilmediation.justice.gov.uk/)

Once you've exhausted all that you could try small claim. I believe they lose if they don't turn up and if they that arrogant they may just ignore it. Dunno how getting payment after that works but there you go.

From dealing with small companies in the past the owners/directors tend to be a very tough bunch and will completely ignore what's right, the law, contracts etc. They don't have their legal people telling them what they should so I've a feeling you will have to take this the whole way.

northernladuk
22nd March 2019, 12:02
Are you an IPSE+ member? Can you claim on business interruption or any other policy they have? Not to sure general non payment is covered but there might be something useful they do?

Lance
22nd March 2019, 12:12
tl;dr

but you can't take someone to court for an unpaid invoice without agreement to purchase. With no agreed rate then you have no agreement to purchase and no leg to stand on.

northernladuk
22nd March 2019, 12:15
tl;dr

but you can't take someone to court for an unpaid invoice without agreement to purchase. With no agreed rate then you have no agreement to purchase and no leg to stand on.

I'm not sure that's remotely true. Work done, emails, verbals etc can all constitute a contract. Just allowing the OP on site is surely acceptance of an agreement?

jbond007
22nd March 2019, 12:25
Hello, I'm a digital video producer / editor and recently took a freelance gig from a small production company. They revealed immediately to be unprofessional. The two producers gave me contrasting instructions for the same brief, made me do a lot of work for nothing, took very long time (up to half day) to check my work while putting pressure on me to do it urgently, sent me back home because they didn't have the right equipment / space in the office etc

We did not discuss a rate for this specific job because they just wanted to see if they liked my work and whether we could establish a relationship for the future. I have never discussed rates with previous clients unless they specifically asked me to give them a quote, so I didn't think to had to spell it out. My daily rate has been the same for the last few years (£250 to £400 per day) in the last couple of years and never had problems before - I generally invoice my clients at the end and always get very good feedback.

The job advert for this gig was stating "Starting from £200 depending on experience & skills" so I thought that would be in line with my rate and experience (I have 10+ experience as freelance, with public credits - a lot of long term contracting work). The job advert was also only for an easier type of editing, while they also left with me the more complex task of coming up with the story. Something they felt comfortable doing because of my extra skills.

I kept on asking for feedback every day, I generally do this at the beginning of a relationship because I don't know the taste of the client and I want to make sure I am on the right track and they are happy. This feedback was always late. At times even a whole day later. Sometimes it involves contradicting instructions.

I had mixed feedback from them, sometimes positive and sometimes negative, I tried to change the things they didn't like (Music tracks, graphics etc) which resulted in obvious delay and more work.

Despite they told me they were happy with the final version, they are not willing to pay for the invoice I sent them. They claim that it took too long and in their opinion it wasn't up to other editors' standard and they they clearly stated the rate to be £200 (although the wording says it "STARTS" from and it relates to an easier type of work.
I offered to meet them in the middle and cut my rate to £250 and detailing every single fault that it was their responsibility- but they say their position remains unchanged at almost half of the original invoice.

I would like to take them to the small claims tribunal (the total initial invoice is around £2000) because they should not get used to take advantage of freelancers - but I fear I might waste a lot of time and energy and they might win because I didn't spell everything out.

Anybody here had a similar experience or any advise?

thanks ! Alice

Are you saying you put in an invoice for £2000 and they are only willing to pay £1000 ? If that's the case - how much is the £1000 worth to you ? Do you have work on at the moment and would taking them to small claims distract you from your current project ?

If you get a decent project at £400 it's 2.5 days worth of effort to cover the unpaid invoice. Even at £250, it's 4 days of work to cover it. If you have a longish contract, you should be able to absorb the cost

Could you chalk it upto experience and something to be more clear about before starting a new project especially with someone you haven't worked before? As a matter of principle - should confirm your rate before you start a project regardless.

northernladuk
22nd March 2019, 12:30
Are you saying you put in an invoice for £2000 and they are only willing to pay £1000 ? If that's the case - how much is the £1000 worth to you ? Do you have work on at the moment and would taking them to small claims distract you from your current project ?

If you get a decent project at £400 it's 2.5 days worth of effort to cover the unpaid invoice. Even at £250, it's 4 days of work to cover it. If you have a longish contract, you should be able to absorb the cost

Could you chalk it upto experience and something to be more clear about before starting a new project especially with someone you haven't worked before? As a matter of principle - should confirm your rate before you start a project regardless.

Ughh. Missed that. Good point well made.

Lance
22nd March 2019, 12:43
I'm not sure that's remotely true. Work done, emails, verbals etc can all constitute a contract. Just allowing the OP on site is surely acceptance of an agreement?

Unless there's something that say pay xxx for yyy work there's no agreement.
sounds like yyy work was done, as well as zzz work, but without an agreed for xxx amount.

WTFH
22nd March 2019, 14:52
... they clearly stated the rate to be £200 ...
I offered to meet them in the middle and cut my rate to £250 ... their position remains unchanged at almost half of the original invoice...
the total initial invoice is around £2000...

So, they say £200, you say you met them in the middle at £250, which means your original invoice rate was £300. £200 per day compared to £300 is not half, but 2/3

My guessing is you've invoiced for 6 days = £1,800
And they have offered 6 days = £1,200

In contracting, the contract is key. Without an agreed contract, the next thing I'd be looking for is some sort of agreement in writing, even if it's just "yeah, happy to give you a go at £250 a day". What would further concern me is this line:

...they just wanted to see if they liked my work and whether we could establish a relationship for the future.
This is the kind of thing said y companies looking for interns would say, or those looking for free work from an artist (they then cite "we'll give you good exposure")

mudskipper
22nd March 2019, 16:41
It sounds like you hadn't agreed anything, so it's going to be very difficult to chase. You made assumptions, they made different ones.

Your only option is to threaten to take your work and not bill anything - but that will leave you financially worse off.

FrontEnder
28th March 2019, 12:36
Unless there's something that say pay xxx for yyy work there's no agreement.
sounds like yyy work was done, as well as zzz work, but without an agreed for xxx amount.

The amount was offered at £200 per day, so that's the agreement to work. Its clearly been offered from the advert.

From what OP has said, there is no agreement to charge higher than that, unless he approached them with "my rate is £400 per day..." and then they accept.

With no discussion of rate the OP has made it difficult for himself. The advert states "from 200" but has failed to negotiate a higher amount so that is the agree rate.

Just my opinion, I'm no expert. Bird law is more my area of expertise.

fool
28th March 2019, 17:42
The amount was offered at £200 per day, so that's the agreement to work. Its clearly been offered from the advert.

From what OP has said, there is no agreement to charge higher than that, unless he approached them with "my rate is £400 per day..." and then they accept.

With no discussion of rate the OP has made it difficult for himself. The advert states "from 200" but has failed to negotiate a higher amount so that is the agree rate.

Just my opinion, I'm no expert. Bird law is more my area of expertise.

I'm not a lawyer but whilst their advert may be argued as an implied agreement, the OP stated the scope of work was different. I'd probably argue nothing was agreed, and thus the work belongs to OP.

Pragmatically, the options are:


Take your ball and go home. Hoping they want the work bad enough to pay, now that you've established the price.
Accept their payment. Going legal would likely cost you more than the difference.


It really depends how much the money means to you. Personally, I'd play chicken, but that's probably bad advice and you'd have to be able to establish whether or not they'd just use the work anyway. ( You'd then chase them for non-payment of the total amount, but again this might cost you more than it's worth ).

Your probably better accepting their payment, and next time agree the rate before hand, or at least when you know the scope of the work.