When Should You Receive Payment for Your Work?

There are many stressful business decision to make in photography. One of the biggest is regarding payment. Should you be paid upfront, on the day, upon delivery, or should you invoice at 30,60, or 90 days?

Across the board in photography, we need to make sure that we are being paid both a fair sum of money for our skillset and value as well as making sure that we are paid in a prompt fashion. I am sure many of you across the globe can relate to chasing payment from invoices well past the 60-day mark or maybe ending up never delivering files because the client hasn't paid.

I have certainly fallen foul to all of these, which is why I now work with the billing system that I have and adapt it for smaller clients who may have less money in the bank or are an unknown quantity. 

In this video, I look at the three main ways of billing for photography work, and I discuss the pros and cons of all of these as well as in which scenarios they would be applicable. One of the biggest reasons that photographers go under is because of cash flow. I have seen several friends lose their job because they had too many bills come in before anyone had paid their well overdue invoices. 

In spite of this and although my cash flow is far better, I still suffer from the occasional client who has taken obscene amounts of time to pay their bills, and sadly, this is usually the far larger clients rather than the independent businesses. 

How do you manage payments in your photographic niche?

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Ivan Lantsov's picture

10% C.O.D. ~ 2% 10 days Not carry aqnyone!

Benoit Pigeon's picture

New clients pay the day of the shoot. Never had a problem, but most of my clients are in advertising. They have the check ready before you ask. My largest repeat client pays 90 days. I don’t like it but they pay and don’t ask for discounts.
Things to consider are end of year when some companies want to hold the money for their next budget. They may have over spend due to changes in the company, or added a project for another department. You will be paid but that other department has to let accounting know that it comes from their budget first. I have seen it where the other departments did not understand that it has to come from their own budget and did not understand the cost. It can be scary but the people who hire you will have the situation straightened even if it takes time.

Mike Ditz's picture

With a lot of my work I have a open PO with the client, payable in 30 days. Happens automatically thru their system. If there is a lot up front costs then I may get an advance. And at the end of the fiscal year sometimes they prepaid for future jobs as the rule in big corporations is that if you didn't spend all of this year's budget you won't get it next year.
Newer and small clients are kept on a shorter leash, net 10 or net 15 days but they signed off on the estimates T&C so they will pay...usually haha.
I see no reason to wait 90 days for payment, it's not the 80s or 90s anymore where the invoice needed to be literally passed thru 4 or 5 people to get it approved. GM used to pay their bills every 60 or 90 days so it depended on when in that cycle you billed. It could be a couple days or it could be 89 days.
Never had an agency show up with a check on the day of a shoot but have had some direct clients bring a check :)

It's always a red flag when clients drag their feet and make excuses like can I re send the estimate or Connie is out for the week and she is the only one who can approve it. Then the promises to "cut the check" on Thursday which buys them until next Wednesday... BTDT!

Andrew Eaton's picture

One option is to give a early payment discount on 30 day terms. So instead of issuing an invoice, you issue a pro forma and on payment you issue the invoice for the lower amount if paid early... This also means your not liable for (in the uk) the vat

Mike Ditz's picture

I tried that for a while but some of the clients would take the discount yet still pay in 60 days :(

Roger Botting's picture

I had clients, all corporate who usually paid within 30 days. Insurance companies usually paid within a week, the telephone company post dated cheques for 30 after invoice. I also had a couple pay in cash, sometimes for a discount. And by cash I meant a stack of 100's and once a $1000 bill.
I never dealt with non business clients.