When PayPal Met WeTransfer: The Site Claiming to End the Age-Old Issue of Not Being Paid

When PayPal Met WeTransfer: The Site Claiming to End the Age-Old Issue of Not Being Paid

Having your images stolen at one point or another is virtually a formality when it comes to being a photographer. It’s frustrating, not least when it happens through one of your customers. One new website claims to have the solution to make sure you never get ripped off again.

Perhaps I’m too trusting, but I’m very chatty at a shoot, and like to get to know my client, both before and during the photo-taking process. Many times (more often than I’d care to admit), I’ve handed over photos before payment has been received. There’s a level of trust I like to believe people won’t break, especially if we got on well on the day. Unfortunately, I’ve inevitably ended up in several situations where client relationships have soured due to their disregard for payment deadlines. Once, it came dangerously close to filing a court claim. However, one new website claims to have the solution.

Step forward, Fileship. “If PayPal and WeTransfer had a child,” this would be it, according to their website. The concept is simple: you upload the respective file(s) and receive a link, which you then forward to your client, the catch being that the files contained within the link cannot be downloaded until their payment is processed through PayPal. In more formal terms, this site essentially holds your images hostage so you don't have to.

From experience, any kind of “formality” often runs the risk of turning the customer off, especially if you’re working with someone who is an amateur in their field, somebody who may not be used to the way the creative industry works with forms, agreements and releases, and who simply wants a smooth, low-maintenance exchange. Quite often, how they’ll react to the photographer they’re hiring essentially saying upfront “I don’t trust you to pay” is anyone’s guess. One advantage from the client’s perspective is that they will receive their images the instant they pay; it removes the issue of having to wait until the next time the photographer is free to send over the images.

Fileship and sites similar in principle may face an uphill battle in getting creative people onboard with their concept. I for one would feel a little skeptical about using this payment process, at least until I hear from some of my peers that their clients were more than happy to go through the process. So is this an acceptable way to do business? Is it worth the commission Fileship takes? Should we be asking why nobody has thought of this sooner? Or is it just creating a resolution to a nonexistent problem? After all, in most cases, nobody is forcing us to send our images over until we’ve received payment, and it’s at our own risk if we choose to take a leap of faith on our client by providing pictures before we’ve been paid. As photographers, our clients often want their images right away, so sometimes, it can feel like we don't have a choice. Are you looking forward to testing out this service, or is it doomed to fail? 

Jack Alexander's picture

A 28-year-old self-taught photographer, Jack Alexander specialises in intimate portraits with musicians, actors, and models.

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I like the idea of fileship. But honesty I've found the best way to to avoid these situations is to require payment the day of the shoot. In an initial meeting/email/phone call ill tell the client to have the payment day of. Anything under $300 I'll tell them to have it all upfront. Over that much and I will tell them to give me a deposit by the shoot day and the rest when We review proofs. But that's just for individuals. Business and corporations normally have a payroll system that you go through.

I think requiring money up front does a few things. It weeds out people who are not serious, it helps them become committed to the shoot. And now that you have taken there money you are extra motivated to get the job done well and have a quick turn around so you can have a happy client. This is what I have found works best for me when dealing with individuals.

I used to try and do this - but as jobs get bigger, larger companies expect to pay in net30 or 60, and literally can't pay you the day of the shoot and you'd just be turning them away. I just get a signed estimate and I've only ever once had a problem.

Totally.. If a client has a payroll system then it just makes is that much simpler. But I have to say, net60 is kind of bullshit.

I came here to highlight the "Let's have sex later" emoticons. That is all.

This looks like a great service for shooting real estate. I can't tell if you can up load folders, and if they charge over and above my Paypal fees.

Appears you can only upload one file. Not too many jobs where only one file is delivered.

Neat idea, but I find that charging a non-refundable deposit with the remaining due at the shoot at lot more professional looking. And you can use your own website to deliver the files which looks even more professional.

The best 2 things I ever did was initiate a deposit system for shoots, no deposit no shoot. The other was Images are not delivered until full payment has been received. I have had challenges with this one particularly with bigger companies that have 30 day payment policies but usually I'm dealing with the marketing department that want the Images straight away. They are always able to get their accounts department to bend their policy. I never bend mine ! So, I like this idea, would I use it, meh, my system works just fine. I find that most people have no problem with my system. The only ones that do are the dodgy ones anyway.

That's basically the same policy I use. I also have added in my contracts that "failure to pay agreed upon rate for work performed according to said clients billing period (be it net 30, net 60 or net 90) shall constitute legal arbitration with said client, with ALL costs paid by client." With a separate line at the end of the paragraph for an initialing by the client that they have read and understand this stipulation. In 28 years, I have lost a few jobs to shady clients ( I work A LOT with tech companies around the San Francisco bay area), but that is all part of running a business. By requiring the shoot deposit to be paid 1-2 weeks prior to the shoot date, it also keeps you from wasting time and money. Handle yourself as a business and the client will reciprocate and treat you with respect also.

Where on that site do they mention fees or is this all just pro bono?

Simple... don't edit until you've received the full payment... at least in the non-commercial world you can do this. Commercial world you generally have to wait 30-90 day type of deal to get your checks, but generally this is with large brands and paying 4+ figure checks. So the wait is worth it, and they skipping out on payment is unlikely with the risk of bad PR.

mmm I use Photodeck and that's pretty much the same :) no payment no picture !

Different for everyone, but my policy is essentially the same as this website. No pay, no photos. Anything under $1000 is paid before the shoot ever takes place, for anything bigger, paid in full before files are delivered. However, I don't think it's so much of a problem that I'm willing to take yet another cut off the top to prevent it.

(And for those screaming about how this doesn't work for commercial jobs, I understand how large commercial jobs pay you after, but large commercial jobs also don't pay you through paypal.)

I would find it difficult to use as it essencitally say to the client "I don't trust you to pay me, so I hold you hostage" it's a bit of a relationship killer. Also it might not work for a big brand or client that have their financial unit separate.
In Belguim I use a biling companie that act between me and the client, It's a non profit made for artist and audiovisual technicians called SMART. I make the client sign a purchase order before, so it's easy for them and one week after the job SMART pay me in advence and bill the client, it's all automatic, if the client don't pay after 3 weeks, he get a recall and 3 other weeks after a bailiff at his door. Also if they are broke and cannot pay, the company I use have an insurance and I get paid anyway. It cost me 6% of everything I bill through them but I find it well worth as it release me to the job of hunting my money back from the clients and give me the assurance to get paid anyway. It has also save many client relationship as I can conveniently blame SMART for pushing them to pay and keep a good face with them and so keep working with them without worries. SMART exist in some other european countries.


Using Pixieset or other e-commerce websites,
digital downloads are released once online payment is made.
Maybe a good option for events and portraits.