The EvilImp™ '48 Hours'

For anybody working in a freelance capacity, no matter what the trade, the biggest challenge is not necessarily finding work to begin with but getting paid for doing that work. Simply put, freelancers have to wait far too long in many instances to get paid for the work they do.

In our own experience, here in TheLab™, the waiting time for getting paid for commercial work ranges from just a few hours to, staggeringly, over 18 months.

The anecdotal evidence from professional dancers put wait times for invoices to be "processed" from several weeks to several months. Dance makers touring to small and medium scale stages report having to repeatedly contact venues over a period of months to receive box office takings that are vital to pay dancers and other employees.

Anybody working in the freelance game knows that cashflow is all important. Keeping money flowing through your bank account so you can keep paying the bills and, more importantly, living your life is vital to the dancers career and your mental health.

Too often though a dancer will land a six week job not knowing when their money, and it is "their" money is going to hit their bank account.

In the past the excuses were all about cheques, needing those cheques to be signed by the right person and waiting for those cheques to clear when they finally did arrive.

The advent of the internet and more advanced online banking however has made any excuses an employer can come up with completely redundant.

An invoice can be emailed instantly and a payment processed, without any kind of specialist banking services, within minutes. There are no more excuses other than indifference or poor organisational structure on the part of the employer.

New agreements between banks mean that payments are often transferred instantly. No more waiting for 5 "working days" for a payment to "clear".

Big vs Small

Large corporations can, to a certain degree, afford to have people pay them late for the services they provide. After all, they often have tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, in reserve along with massive credit lines at the bank so they can pay their own bills.

A freelance professional dancer is, obviously, not in the same position. Their cash reserves will be, if they are lucky, a few thousand and probably a lot less than that if they live and work in an expensive city like London.

Delayed payments can often cause problems for an individual, with paying rent and other essential bills. In turn this can lead to a lot of stress and additional charges from utility suppliers and landlords who are, more often than not, less than sympathetic.

When a dancer completes a job or a weeks work for an employer the money ceases to be the employers property and becomes the dancers property. As such the employer has no right, legal or otherwise, to hold on to that money.

Dancers face enough problems in the wide world of the arts without adding overdraft charges and threatening letters from landlords into the mix.

All employers, large and small, that hire dancers to do work should commit to a simple principle.

Pay your dancers within 48 Hours of receiving an invoice.

There is no technological excuse anymore so if there are problems with paying dancers then it is an internal procedural issue that can be easily fixed. You just have to want to fix it.

The dancers did the work, now pay them.

  • guest

    Whilst in principle I agree totally - and my practise in the past has always been to pay invoices pretty much as soon as they've hit the desk, I have two scenarios to present in the defense of the 'micro-employer' and / or unfunded company
    1. Often the company itself needs to be paid by the client for the work done. Not everything is an ACE-funded project with up-front payment. The cash flow situation of a micro or small company is not necessarily much more stable than that of an individual, especially in the case of independent producers.
    2. Any company using CAF bank must have 2 signatories. Whilst it is, indeed, a matter of moments to set up a payment, the assumption that the authorising signatory is instantly available is a tad naive.
    Making blanket demands (or requests really - we have no power so can't make demands), isn't useful.

  • I see this - if TheImp agrees - as a call for a shift in mentality, rather than stating "okay everyone, let's change what we do, starting now."

    I agree with you on both points - I've too-often had to wait months to be paid before I can pay anyone else, or dealing with shows not breaking even, and I've also been at the mercy of awol signatories. This may be the 21st century, but some banking still lurks in the last century.

    More importantly, though, is the shift in attitude not to hire people until the funds are in place. How many times have we heard that "funding may be secured at some point", leaving dancers uncertain if they will be paid or not. So people should make sure they have the money up front, and respect that dance artists, just like any other freelancers, have bills and rent to pay by specific deadlines. If they don't have it, borrow it. Our industry is too small to piss people off.

    But as this article says, it's not just about ADs and choreographers delaying payment but venues etc too - which is usually the death knell to any friendly working relationship.

    There is enough exploitation in this industry without perpetuating it; it's way past time we focused more on supporting each other rather than letting our collaborators struggle needlessly. And that's what EvilImp is saying here: let's prioritise securing those funds first, rather than deal with them at a more convenient time. It may be idealistic, but so were a lot of things which we now take for granted.

  • What you list are simply excuses. Somebody, somewhere has the money and is holding it up, the reasons for which are of no concern to the employee. If banking procedures are slowing up payments then better banking procedures are needed, especially when it comes to paying people who are already on low income.

    You say the dancer has no power to demand anything. Well, therein lies the problem. If the dancer does the work then the money ceases to be the employers and becomes the dancer's money and they can ask for it to be paid as fast as they want or start racking up the late payment charges.

    Such a decision would, probably, end their relationship with that employer but too many dancers have to work for organisations that respect them so little they take months to pay the money that is owed, so perhaps it's not such a bad thing.

  • Lucy

    Also dancers/actors/performers/builders/creators/magicians/people should invoice before the job, from experience (on both sides) it helps for quicker/happier payment release. Lets all change change.

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