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What is reasonable time to wait for payment?

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#1 Marjo


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Posted 09 June 2008 - 10:36 AM

A big wellknown sports magazine approached me last October at a event and wanted to purchase some images I was shooting. I directed them to my online site where images can be downloaded at what I think is pretty reasonable cost. The came back to me after the event and wanted to purchase 4 images, but wanted to bargain on the price. I dropped th price for them. Then they wanted me to send them a larger selection of images to be able to "play around" and make a final selection. I sent them images. No payment happened. When I inquired about the non-payment, they came back to me and said that the contract I sent was not worded like they wanted it to be worded (it was a contract for single use, print only). They said they wanted to possibly also repackage the images for webuse ( of course at same already heavily discounted price). Fine, I agreed. And sent them a reworded contract. Also they wanted a new invoice. I sent them that too. Months later, after no payment, when I contacted them, they said e-mail with invoice never got to them. I sent them a new copy of the invoice and a new copy of the contract. That kind of back and forth went on until 8 weeks ago when they finally said they had "put thru the payment". The images were already published, months ago, I think in February. Now 8 weeks after tyhey said the payment was put through I still don't have a check and they are telling me that waiting 8 weeks for payment is "normal" payment processing time and I should just wait. I don't want to seem pushy, but I am starting to wonder if they are having me for a ride. With other publication I have never wited this long, nor had to just trhu so many hoops to get paid. My question is, do you think 8 weeks is reasonable time for cutting a check? How long should I reasonably be expected to be "patient"? How do you approach a big magazine to get them to pay? I have been dealing with the Chief Editor, so i can't ask to "talk to the boss"... Any thoughts? :D

Edited by Marjo, 09 June 2008 - 10:41 AM.

#2 james


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Posted 09 June 2008 - 10:44 AM

A lot of payment departments take 90 days to pay AFTER your invoice has been approved. Then again, so pay within a week or two. Many contracts allow for "net 90 days" for payment. It's a drag but what can you do?

I'd be interested to see what other people think too.

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#3 underwatercolours


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Posted 09 June 2008 - 02:44 PM

James is right. Sometimes it does take a long time, but it doesn't hurt to be pushy, yet professional too. I would avoid going over someone's head unless that person is totally non-responsive. Send a couple of emails and follow up with a phone call to the person who you were dealing with in the first place. Sometimes things get swept under a pile. Even if someone has been negligent in getting back to you, you probably don't want to burn any bridges. Its a small industry and someday that person may move on to a company you do want to work with. You never know what work they could bring your way in the future. They have to pay you if they published them and provided you retained your copyright you would have them over a barrel if they didn't. If they do have "net 90 days" in a contract I cross it out and write in "30 days". I don't know if that's binding, but it let's them know what my expectations are.

#4 JackConnick



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Posted 09 June 2008 - 03:38 PM

General terms are net 30.

i have found through experience to just play dumb and contact the accounting department and ask when you can expect the check. They may say something like, oh, we don't have the invoice can you resend it, ok, but also tell them the editor was sent it twice. A lot of times that gets things moving. Remember the bookeeper writes the checks.

The best policy is to get a P.O. number then attach the contract for use to your invoice.


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#5 MikeVeitch


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Posted 09 June 2008 - 04:46 PM

magazines can be anywhere from 30 to 90 days after publication. 90 days is the longest they can legally wait (as far as i know)

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#6 ce4jesus


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Posted 09 June 2008 - 07:39 PM

I know my large company just moved to net 90...just another way to hold onto accounts payable.
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#7 masguy



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Posted 10 June 2008 - 09:52 AM


As a former free-lance writer, and a (retired) lawyer who has worked with free-lancers over issues like this in the past, I'd like to point out, that while there are laws that govern contracts, what governs most contract issues is the contract itself. It is also important to note that there are two basic ways that free-lancers get paid, one is upon acceptance, and the other is upon publication. The contract you have with the magazine should cover this issue. In working for a number of publishers, the signed contract was treated as the bill (whether in acceptance or upon publication agreements). In that regard, requiring an invoice of you seems like a stalling tactic - if they pay on publication - they are the only party that knows the actual distribution date. You shouldn't be expected to be scouring the newsstands to see when you can send in an invoice.

What is unclear in your post is, how long has it been since; you gave the magazine the photos, how long has it been since they were published, were they published online and were you properly credited?

If you haven't already done so, you might want to go to the website of the American Society of Media Photographers at:


If you want to, you can contact me privately at mitchmberger@msn.com.

As an aisde, years ago, a friend of mine, tired of waiting for payment from a publisher who always paid late, went to their offiecs after the issue with her work was on sale, and waited in their lobby and ate a giant (and quite fragrant) tuna salad sandwich until they cut her a check.


#8 Marjo


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Posted 12 June 2008 - 05:02 PM

Thank you everyone for sharing your experience and advise!

Well this story ended happily. I just received the check. 7 months after the shoot, 4months after the publication of the images, 9 weeks after the editor finally assured that the check was being cut.

It is nice to see ones images in print in magazines. But from this experience I have learned that I am not going to be quite so quick in the future to sell my images short just because the magazine is "big name". I will stick to my prices and I will be more adamant about payment and permissions. I belive if they really want the images, they will get them. If not, then oh well. I realize I might, and probably will, loose some gigs this way. I am sure that if this was not a hobby, but a main source of income I might feel differently. But for now I am not interested in gigs that require heavy discounting and spending a lot of time on chasing some editors to pay up.

I don't strive to be "one of the worlds most published photographers"... For now, I choose quality relationships over quantity even if it will mean less exposure.

I realize there will be a whole heap of photographer willing to fill my space. So be it...

#9 diverdon


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Posted 16 June 2008 - 09:46 AM

I am glad to hear that you finally got paid. I am sorry that it was such a drag. I do thank you for sharing this with us. I do not think 90 days would be that bad but Seven months sounds unprofessional to me. I would like it even more if you felt free to share the name of the publication. However it is understandable if you are reluctant to do so.

#10 John Bantin

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 11:27 AM

It's a sad fact that most magazines pay 60 -90 days AFTER publication - and they can sit on your stuff for months. That's because there are so many people out there who undersell their stuff (which is OK I suppose if you are an amateur but it makes it very hard to become professional). The only way to cope with this is to have so much stuff continuously published that you get a cash-flow going.
I used to turn over big bucks in the advertising business and half of it was costs. I always had to build in the cost of lending the Agencies the money (and I charged a lot more than a bank!).
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#11 FlyingKiwi


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Posted 18 July 2008 - 04:44 PM


But from this experience I have learned that I am not going to be quite so quick in the future to sell my images short just because the magazine is "big name". I will stick to my prices and I will be more adamant about payment and permissions. I belive if they really want the images, they will get them. If not, then oh well. I realize I might, and probably will, loose some gigs this way.



I figure that if I miss out on acceptance for half the requests that are made for my photos, then I'm doing well.

Even sticking firm for the prices that I feel are appropriate, I've often realized afterwards that I've left a lot of money on the table, particularly if the magazine where the photos are published are full of advertising for huge multinational brands.

When I notice that it's that sort of magazine, or an advertising or other artistic design agency that wants the photos, then I'll often ask them what their standard price is for that type of usage, which is often more than what I would have requested.


#12 Elainew


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Posted 19 July 2008 - 12:51 AM

Glad it finally worked out for you! 2-3 months is pretty standard in my experience but 7 is excessive. As others have said, be firm, persistent and professional (even when those you're dealing with aren't!).

#13 Kelpfish


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Posted 19 July 2008 - 11:53 AM

Now that you got paid, you taking us all out for drinks? :)
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