PHOTO: Amanda Moore
In how many industries would you question whether you are going to be paid after doing some work?
In architecture and other creative industries this issue seems to be fairly prevalent. Architecture involves expensive costs such as insurances, staffing, administrative fees, software costs, etc, etc. It can be very disheartening when a client says that they will not pay your invoice.
But why does this happen?
I’ve seen it happen when the client is having a financial dispute with the contractor and they withhold architect fees ahead of the value of any dispute with the contractor. They want to hold onto any money which they may have to give the contractor in a contractual dispute. But how is this fair as the two relationships are separate? They may feel that the client could have avoided the contractor dispute somehow.
Sometimes the client’s project funding is in jeopardy, according to the AJ, this is one reason along with projects being held up in the planning process.
Other times it is because the client simply doesn’t like the work that you’ve done. Architecture is complex but it doesn’t always look complex. If you ask an architect to produce a design which meets your needs and will get through planning, should you trust their opinion as much as any other professional?
I have had a similar experience with public art projects where the commissioner hasn’t set a very defined brief to respond to. You try to produce concept designs which meet their need but all they know is that they don’t like this particular idea and they are not paying until they get an idea they do like. Or they are made up of a panel of people who are all disagreeing about which ideas they like and don’t like.
Recently, I’ve also seen clients proposing that you get a fee if you get planning permission. But you can’t guarantee this, just as you can’t guarantee that a particular medical treatment will work or that the value of your pension will go up.
General advice appears to be to try and resolve things out of court which only incurs fees. My own view is to take regular stage payments and to stop work if there are non-payment issues.
CREDIT: Drawing: Amanda Moore
When working as a freelance artist or creative, you need to be clear with your client about fees for your services and any other costs from the outset. You can also lose out on hard-earned fees because of simple invoicing mistakes. I definitely have. Here are some helpful tips:
Decide whether you are charging an hourly/day rate, or flat fee
If the project is a service, like designing some graphics or editing photos as part of an ongoing freelance gig, you may wish to invoice on an hourly or daily rate. Make sure that you agree a rate in advance. It may be worth joining an artist membership site like a-n, (a-n.co.uk), for current recommended day rates.
If your project is a one-off larger commission such as a piece of bespoke artwork, you may be better off agreeing a flat fee. Work out a budget breakdown to include estimated time you'll need for; project research, meetings, site visits and production using your day rate. Include an estimate of any necessary expenses and fabrication costs. Get quotations from any external fabricators.
Day rate invoicing
If you are working on a day rate, include the time worked on the invoice and your hourly/daily rate so that there is no confusion over this. If extra work is required later, you can easily separate the extra work from the work already completed and invoiced for.
Flat fee invoicing
Agree a payment schedule if the work will run over a longer timeframe. This may be based on completion of certain tasks or on set dates along the way such as once per month over a six month project.
This is very important. Otherwise you could end up working for a long time with no payment which will affect your cash flow. You may also end up invoicing periodically based on the amount of time you have spent and not end up receiving the full lump sum fee agreed once the project is complete.
If you have to outlay a lot of money on materials, make sure that your payment schedule is timed and sufficient to cover these costs to reduce your risk.
Scope of services
Make sure to detail what you will be responsible for and what will be provided by others before starting any work. Who is printing the final artwork? Will you be expected to pay for any consultant costs such as engineering fees for a bespoke three-dimensional work? How many meetings will you be expected to attend? How many design revisions will you allow within the agreed fee?
This all needs to be agreed or your fee could be spread very thinly.
Delivery and installation
Following on from the point above, make sure that you agree with your client who will be hanging or installing any physical work and whether you are expected to arrange delivery. Get quotations from specialist companies as there could be a massive cost difference between a small van delivery and a large truck with crane.
Keep your expense receipts as proof of costs for clients if required. You will also need them in order to claim any tax back on your yearly income tax return.
Basic invoice information to include:
Tax on income
Keep copies of invoices in separate folders for each tax year with receipts. This will make completing your income tax return much easier. Register to pay tax in your country, (called Self-Assessment in the UK), and make sure to put the tax away in a separate account when you get paid so that you don't spend it! Don't forget that there may be other deductions such as student loan payments and National Insurance in the UK.
What am I doing here? I'm collecting sea water to fill 1,000 bottles and hang them from a scaffold inside an old ruin. Why? Why not?