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Collecting money...?
Phoebe Sexton, Student/Intern, Photographer
Boston | MA | USA | Posted: 2:36 PM on 04.25.06
->> Any advice on how to get someone two time zones away to pay the $240 he owes you for a day of photography? He's been profiting off the work since February and is sort of avoiding my daily calls and emails. I have a document that says "checks will be mailed out two weeks after the event," if that helps anything. This is so terribly frustrating! Also, how do I talk to other people who may have shot for him or warn possible "employees"? I really hate learning experiences like these...

Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.
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George Bridges, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 2:54 PM on 04.25.06
->> Several things you can do.

First would be to send a certified letter (so you have a receipt that he did actually receive it) stating that he is past due on his payment as stated by a signed contract.

If he stills fails to pay you can then notify him that continued failure to pay will result in your contacting the proper authorities to report his negligence or possible filing of a lawsuit.

Usually threat of any legal action will get people to pay quickly, whether you intend to do so or not. It's even better if you can get an attorney to write the letter, but that may cost you more than the $240.

Check the laws in your state and his, see which one you have the right to file under -- different states allow different parties to file. You may have to file in his home state or your state's laws may allow you to file there since you live there and have a contract.

A quick call to a lawyer or to the state's attorney in his state should be able to clear up some questions of what actions you can take.

Back when I freelanced I would usually put a statement on the bottom of my estimates, that the client returned signed, that failure to pay withing 30 days of invoice would result in an additional charge of half the day rate. Now, I know that may not stand up in court, but no one ever was late on paying me either.
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Seth Laubinger, Photographer
Mobile | AL | USA | Posted: 3:19 PM on 04.25.06
->> I think I worked for this guy. Scott Happel...I'm still waiting for money as well.
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John Harrington, Photographer
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 3:30 PM on 04.25.06
->> Phoebe --

You can use a collection agency. I use Dunn & Bradstreet. They charge no upfront fees, and take 30% ONLY if they are successful at collecting. Further, your filing a D&B claim of this type will negatively affect their credit rating.

My account rep is Brian Andrees (sp?), and his phone # is 484-242-7561.

It's best to begin a relationship with a collection agency sooner rather than later -- you'll need them off and on throughout your career.

Let us know how it turns out.

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John Blankfort, Photographer
Monterey | CA | USA | Posted: 3:55 PM on 04.25.06
->> Phoebe,

Resist the urge to be rude or threaten him. Best approach is to smile, be really nice and sweet talk him into paying. Really, the bill is not that far overdue. I would use lines like... “I really hate to keep calling you, but my (wife, accountant etc) is on my ass and is wondering when you intend to pay.” Another option is to take a credit card over the phone or have them paypal you the dough while talking to him.

A lot of folks have the cash, but just forget, or seem to have a hard time getting the check from the checkbook into the envelope. If he does not have the money... One more reason to pay by credit card.

As a last resort, get a collection agency. Also, depending on where the work was done and your contact you might be able to sue him in small claims court in your home state. Even if you win, it will be a frustrating experience trying to collect the judgment.

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John Tucker, Photographer, Photo Editor
Cordova | TN | USA | Posted: 4:08 PM on 04.25.06
->> Once again, John Harrington provides that much needed answer.......plain and in the simple terms we all understand. This is one phone number that will go to good's amazing at the low life's out there that will keep you hanging for such a small amount.......I'm in the same boat scumbag has owed me for almost a year! It seems that that guys with the MOST cash are always the ones that don't pay on time! Thanks again John Harrington for GREAT info!
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Daniel Berman, Photographer
Seattle | WA | US | Posted: 6:25 PM on 04.25.06
->> John,

Does the collection agency you mentioned have a minimum collection amount? I am looking at a client balking on paying me about $200 for an editorial shoot, and am wondering if they only work with 'big' jobs?


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John Harrington, Photographer
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 12:21 AM on 04.26.06
->> Daniel --

I have sent a client to collection for as little as $100. That one was a wealthy woman in Georgetown who just had to have a print that was a 5x7 crop that, had the entire negative (800 iso) been enlarged, would have been a 30x40. I warned her that it would be grainy, but she just had to have it. So, we delivered. And the balked. The total was around $100, including the cost of the print, couriers to/from the lab, and a courier to her.

Here are the (relevant) terms from their form:

a) Collection services. D&B will make written, telephone, and/or personal demands for payment. Charges contingent upon collection, are 30% for the first $501 to $3,000 collected; 27% of the next $3,001 to $10,000 collected, 22% of amounts collected in excess od $10,000 with minimum charges of $150 on collections of $301 to $500, and 50% on collections of $300 or less. On accounts where the oldest invoice is more than one year old, a rate of 33.3% will be charged. If customer withdraws an account, settles directly or accepted returned merchandise, the customer may be charged these rates.

b) Forwarding service. D&B will forward accounts to attorneys on the customer's behalf in accordance with the customer's instructions. Charges contingent upon collection for services of D&B and attorneys are the same as outlined in section (a) above. There may be additional charges by attorneys when suits or other legal proceedings are authorized by the customer, consisting of an administrative charge, suit fee, advance costs, and in some cases, a retainer.


All you have to do is send them the name of the debtor, address, city, state, zip, phone #, amount owed, and the date of their last invoice, on a form, and fax it to them. You do not need to provide a copy of the invoice (in the beginning), or any documentation that the debt is valid, unless/until the issue escalates, or the debtor states that they do not owe any money to you.

This service is available through what D&B refers to their Recievable Management Services partner. More information here:

Further, you also may be able to submit your debt claim online, once you set up an account (free, as I recall), at the RMS site:

In my mind, unless the bill is over about $2k, the amount of time involved in letter writing, phone calls, emails, more letter writing, etc, and the mental anguish of being upset that someone to whom I delivered on time and as required services, is now ignoring me, I just go with D&B. Typically, I send them $600 - $1400 past due invoices, and with rare exceptions, they get results, and at that point, it was worth it for me to give them a few hundred dollars not only for all the hassle they saved me, but the knowledge that there is now a black mark on their credit, and the wrong has been righted on principle, in that they paid. In the end, I'd happily send them a $200 past due bill, let them go through all the hassle of writing letters, etc, and in the end get $100 net, because it's more than likely $100 more than you'll get from someone who won't return your calls, or objects. When they get a collection notice, it's paid attention to.

Having been through Small Claims (and Federal court), while it is rewarding, when you have to give up a day (or more than one day if they get a continuance at the last minute), and I have to turn away assignment(s) for that day to be in court, I then loose the amount I'd have won had I won in court, from the lost assignments. So, farming out the collections with the muscle of D&B just makes the most sense.

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Melissa Miller, Photographer, Assistant
Columbus | OH | USA | Posted: 1:23 AM on 04.26.06
->> I'm dealing with the same thing right now for $300. I was just about to go the registered mail from a lawyer route, but then I saw this post so I'll be thinking about my options.

John, thanks so much for the info. Good to know.

Phoebe and Seth, I'm going to contact you privately. I think we're all in the same exact situation. Let's talk.
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Jeff Brown, Photographer
Greenfield | MA | | Posted: 9:57 AM on 04.26.06
->> Phoebe... Collections have to be the worst part of doing business. I would use a colection agancy if need be after sending a certified letter. That way your being as professional as posible. The hardest part is to keep this as business and not to get personal.

Seth, Melissa and Phoebe.... Not to mention names but if it is S.H. all I can say is be presistant. I herd the checks in the mail for over a month or two. Eventaly after a few polite yet threatening letters I received my check. Best of luck and let me know how it all works out.
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Daniel Berman, Photographer
Seattle | WA | US | Posted: 10:03 AM on 04.26.06
->> John,

Thank you for the detailed response! I will keep that in mind as I consider what to do with this client.

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Phoebe Sexton, Student/Intern, Photographer
Boston | MA | USA | Posted: 1:08 PM on 04.26.06
->> Thanks to everyone for your great advice! And yes, this thread was brought to you by the letter S and the letter H. It seems I might be able to relax a bit on the matter, because literally about a minute after I posted here, I got an email from a different guy asking me to resubmit a pay sheet and W-9. I'm not going to breathe a sigh of relief until the check has been put in my bank account, but it feels like progress. I will definitely keep in mind the recommendations about how to handle this in the future--thanks!

If anyone else out there is having trouble with our Las Vegas friend, send me an email and I'll connect you to the magical guy who responds to his emails.


p.s. totally irrelevant, please don't flag, but I just handed in my last-ever paper (14 pages on Rev. Dr. MLK), meaning I have NO academic obligations standing between me and my diploma. Sweet.
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Jeff Stanton, Photographer
Tucson | Az | USA | Posted: 2:30 PM on 04.26.06
->> I don't know if I would want to surrender 30 percent of $240 or as John said, $100 in one of his situations. That doesn't leave you with much. A collection agency may be a good idea for some cases, I agree. if it works for you and you're happy with the outcome, then fine.

A collection agency can make phone calls and write letters till the cows come home and they still cannot force anyone to pay. Yeah, the guy may get a bad mark on his credit. So what. He may not give a shit.

Only a resolution through the legal system can provide the kind of relief that has any sticking power. The collection agency can threaten you over the phone, write nasty letters, be rude as hell and call your mama names, but they have no more right to demand payment than a guy begging for money on a street corner. That's why we have a legal system.

I think I would exhaust all of my resources and attempt to collect what is owed on my own and if that doesn't work, seek resolution through the court system.
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Delane B. Rouse, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington, DC & Seattle | WA | US | Posted: 2:47 PM on 04.26.06
->> many people are really going to keep making phone calls, writing letters, etc in asttempt to collect?

In 2003 we had about $4000 in NSF (bad) checks from customers...myself and my business partner probably collected $250 of that amount...after calls, letters, threats, etc.

In '04 we subscribed to a service that collects the checks for us. Out of 105 NSF checks totalling $3986 we collected 80 of them for a total of $2983...much better than the $250 the previous year and it took NO TIME from me or my business partner. Sure, we still lost $1003 and we chalk that up to the "cost of doing business".

If you waste 10 hours attempting to collect a $240 check what good is it? Not to mention the time you suggest spending going to court plus courts cost and fees. That has to total more than the $100.

Harrington has done a great job of providing some really good information...THANKS John!!!
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Jeff Stanton, Photographer
Tucson | Az | USA | Posted: 3:20 PM on 04.26.06
->> Delane, as I indicated in my post, "if it works for you and you're happy with the outcome, then fine."

What it sounds like here is Phoebe has one person she is having a problem collecting from and not multiple situations like you describe. Correct me if I'm wrong.
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Thread Title: Collecting money...?
Thread Started By: Phoebe Sexton
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