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ASK US WEDNESDAY: “How to deal with ongoing payroll issues?”

by Leo Wiles
13 June 2018

I work as a casual writer for a magazine at a publishing house – and have worked from home for them for several years. I invoice for every story I do but am constantly waiting over a month for the invoices to be processed and sometimes the invoice amounts paid are incorrect or I’m paid twice for the same one. It’s really tricky. My editor hasn’t been able to help and emailing payroll directly achieves nothing. Who are we supposed to go to with these kinds of issues when even the editor shrugs and says she can’t help? Amanda

Wow – what a quandary! You work from home and have done for many years for one publisher, which is a pretty cushy gig few would want to give up. But on the flip side, you’re dealing with a crappy accounts department that at best are wildly disorganised and at worst sound completely incompetent. Having been a regular full-time independent contractor for a few news and feature desks, I know how incredibly irritating receiving multiple payments for one invoice is, while others are ignored. And obviously as your only source of income, you can’t afford to get them off-side – therefore here are some things to consider to try and get your pay back on track.

Has the accounts department or invoicing process changed?

The accounts department may be down a staff member, leading to mistakes across the board. Are the offshore? Have they changed how they accept invoices, needing all the details in the right place on the invoice itself? I remember this happening at Bauer; if you didn’t use their template and send it to the right email, you had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting paid. So ensure your invoices are easy to read and decipher, make sure there is a clear description of who commissioned the work, what it was AND of course the publisher’s commission number if there is one. You’re probably doing all of this already – but double-check your invoices fit the accounts dept’s expectations anyway.

Consider how regularly you’re invoicing.

This might not be how the magazine does things, but it’s worth asking if you can invoice either monthly or fortnightly, instead one invoice per story. Invoicing for a batch of stories once or twice a month or for all the stories you worked on for a particular issue might eliminate some of the problems you’re having – and means you only have one or two invoices to monitor and chase.

Put in some face time.

Is there any way you could go into the office for the odd day here or there? That way, you’re on the ground to chat to the editor about what’s going on (you’re much harder to brush off when you’re in his/her office). At the same time, you can pop into accounts department to see if you can sort out the payroll issues face to face. The more you do this, the more motivated they’ll be to sort the problems out (if just to get you to stop visiting the accounts department!).

If going in isn’t an option… befriend a payroll person.

I know you’re probably feeling less than friendly towards the accounts department, but getting on first-name basis with one specific person in there and being nice as pie can do wonders for fixing payroll issues. See if you can cc that person on every invoice you send your editor, and follow up in a friendly manner when things go awry.

Check bank statements thoroughly.

And if you’re not already doing it, track invoices with a spreadsheet to make sure there is an issue in non-payment. Because even one error when approaching the client can undermine your credibility.

Streamline your invoice process.

If you send your invoice with the copy you’re filing, it increases your chances of prompt accurate payment. The added bonus of doing this is that you won’t second-guess yourself about whether they received your invoice. If you use an accounting program like Rounded or Xero and send invoices separately to copy, try to send both at the same time.

Have you had payroll issues while working for a large publisher? How did you solve them?

Leo Wiles

Leo Wiles has worked as an editor, journalist and PR for over 20 years before recently retraining as a photographer. These days, she spends her time behind a lens, juggling her own clients with her work at Rachel's List, and her three gorgeous but lively kids.

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