I just finished an e-mail exchange with a couple of reporters bemoaning the fact that a certain Los Angeles agency has a longstanding debt to one of them. This agency is owned by a nonreporter.  I recently went through six months of e-mails and phone calls and personal visits in order to collect on invoices over two years from an agency owned by a reporter who has been in the business for over 35 years!  I have FINALLY smartened up and am now tracking my jobs using an Excel spreadsheet where I have all the info at my fingertips.  I freelance for many different agencies, most of which are honest and fair, but A FEW of which are counting on the fact that many reporters don't check their paysheets too carefully and are either shorting them or not paying at all.  I would LOVE to see a panel discussion on this subject at a convention sometime.  I'd like to hear how other reporters handle collections, how they track their jobs.  And there must be a way, without venturing into libel/slander territory, to bring these practices into the light so that reporters can avoid these agencies or force them to  be ethical.  We're always hearing about reporters/agencies trying to collect from attorney clients, but what about reporters trying to collect from agencies?

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Hi, Lindsay. I agree with you that we need some way to let other reporters know about these agencies who don't pay reporters, who play fast and loose with THEIR money.  I'm very fortunate in that I've only had one account that I sent to collections, EVER, and that agency was located in ... Los Angeles.  Oh, sure, they say they're pro's, and they want to be an atty's concierge service.  Uh, yeah, right.  After literally years of long, rambling bullshit excuses, I just got tired of hearing it.  At that point, it wasn't because I needed the money, it was simply because it was infuriating to be treated so shabbily and unprofessionally.

Lindsay, bookkeeping is not my forte - reporting is! - but might I suggest you try FreshBooks?  It's awesome, awesome, and really very easy to use.  I send invoices right from the job sometimes, and I'll tell you, it's GOT to be simple for me to use, and it is.  They are constantly updating it and adding neat features, and it's just a sweet way to send invoices immediately, effortlessly, and also track jobs, who owes us what, when we're paid, etc.  Give it a try!

I absolutely agree with you that everyone bitches about collecting from attys, but we don't see a lot of public discussion about collecting from reporting agencies.  The profession is being destroyed from within, and one way that's happening is by agencies treating reporters like this, not to mention the games they play.  


Thanks for the tip about FreshBooks!  I hadn't heard of that program.  See, that's why I'd like to go to a convention and hear a panel discussion or seminar about this subject - everybody has a different way to do things, and I'd like to hear different methods, programs, tricks and tips for keeping track and collecting.  I just sent an email to the Calif. Depo. Rptrs. Assoc. asking them to consider planning something like this in the future.

Lindsay, I believe you actually work there in the Los Angeles area.  We visited 2 years ago - it was great fun!  Just a thought, but Nancy Varallo is going to be presenting at our Annual Conference here in Washington, DC.  She's got a lot of good advice about that.  Nice write-off if you'd like to make the trip out here in October.  Best thing about it is all the tourists are GONE, beautiful weather, leaves are turning right at the peak of beautiful!  Just a thought, and we'd LOVE to see you.  Nancy Varallo is "Ask Nancy" with NCRA and a really nice gal, too!


I must confess, I'm one of the reporters that does not pay all that close attention to what I'm paid.  I do, however, only work for agencies that pay me copies up front, so I don't have to keep track of where are the copies.  I'm not even sure how to use a spreadsheet to set that up.  Probably a good idea to get into the habit of, though, just in case. 

I know when I worked in Southern California, I know there was an agency that didn't pay me on copies, as you say, and relied on the fact I didn't pay attention to it.  I am sure they have not paid me thousands of dollars on copy orders, probably over 15,000.  I worked for this agency for 10 years.  I'm not going to say who it is, but I do know what you say is true.  The reporter does have to take some blame; I should have been watching my copy orders a lot more closely than I was. 

The problem with copies is, we always have to take the agency's word for it that they have or haven't been paid for a copy.  And many of them have a policy that they don't pay the reporter on copies till the agency gets paid from the atty.  If you work for just a few agencies that you trust, there's no problem.  But I work for lots and lots...

One of the things I do now when I work for an agency I'm not familiar with is have them send me an email with their rates - medium and heavy 0&1, copy, realtime, rough, how they pay for expedites, reimbursement for parking, and TIME LAG BETWEEN MY TURNING IN THE JOB AND THEIR MAILING OUT THE 0&1 CHECK. I print out those emails and file them by agency, and I also save them in my email program.  I figure that's my protection in case I ever have to take them to small claims court.  If I ever have the time, I'll make up my own independent contractor agreement with more detail and have the owner sign it if I'm going to continue to do business with them.  But if I don't get a statement from them about length of time to pay, I really don't have a leg to stand on in court, because there is no existing agreement to break.

I've watched my receivables like a hawk for years.  I've been pretty lucky that most of the firms I've worked for, while not always paying timely, always paid up in the end.  But even the people who are really honest make mistakes.  I find payment for jobs that I didn't do in my payments every now and then, as well as no payment for roughs and the occasional slip-up where I just didn't get paid for a job.  But I point it out quickly, and there's never been a problem.  I know, I'm lucky.

Lindsay, this is exactly why I left said "Los Angeles agency"....... It's just wrong to put reporters in a situation where they have to BEG for their own hard earned money. I do understand that agencies have to wait many months to get paid by some firms, but that is not the problem of the CSR, that is the agency's problem.


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