Get a contract
Firstly, make sure you’ve signed a contract before you start. According to Mike, whose latest title Ruined by Design explores design ethics and activism, freelancers are “notorious” for not doing this. We spoke to Shirley Watson, chief finance officer at London agency Uncommon, about what this document should include. “Besides the usual indemnity, non-disclosure, and other clauses that go into services contracts, you want to make sure your contract includes your daily rate, how long you are being hired for and what happens if you don’t get paid on time,” she says. “Having a contract means that both you and the agency are legally protected should things go south.”
Before signing a contract, read it thoroughly and negotiate any terms you’re not happy with. You could, for example, ask for a portion of your fee upfront. “The bigger the client is, the tighter their contracts are,” warns Mike. “So if you’re working with a Fortune 500 company they’re going to give you the most airtight contract in the world that helps nobody but them. If you just go ahead and sign it, you’re screwing yourself.”
Befriend someone in finance
Rather than relying on the person who commissioned you or someone in HR to get your invoice to the right person, find out the details of someone who works in the finance team as soon as possible and liaise with them directly. “You have to do everything in your power to short circuit all the company bureaucracies,” says Mike. “Make sure your invoices get as close as possible to the person who can actually pay you. Go meet that person, because they can save your ass.”
It seems finance departments are perfectly friendly and willing to connect, as Shirley concurs, “Say hello. introducing yourself always helps!” Plus most commissioners will be happy to have a bit of admin taken off their hands.