You just worked your butt off for an agency and are expecting a big, fat, juicy check to arrive in the mail in 30 days just like the agency promised. 30 days goes by and you wait…and wait…and wait.
One of the best/worst parts about being a Brand Ambassador is that often times we are classified as Independent Contractors and not Employees. What this means for us is that we understand that we are not on payroll and that we agree to the payment terms that an agency sets for us before accepting the work.
But what happens if an agency is late on their payment or worse, shows no intention of paying you?
There are really only three reasons why an agency isn’t paying you. Those reasons are cash flow, miscommunication, or they just have no intention of paying you. Let’s address each issue one at a time:
*Legal Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and I have no legal training. The following article is a product of my own experience at an agency as well as hours of research. Please do your own research and hire proper legal counsel if necessary.
1. CASH FLOW
Agencies are the middle man between you and the client (brand).
In most cases, your payment is delayed because the client is late on paying the agency. If the agency gets no money, you get no money.
It’s like the airline safety demonstration: “passengers must take care of themselves before they can take care of others” and that is exactly what agencies must do from time to time, even the best ones.
As annoying as it is for you to have to wait, this is an absolute nightmare for agencies as their entire company is on the line at this point. Try to be understanding. If it’s just a cash flow issue, you’ll eventually get paid.
I advise you to just be patient, polite, and to check in from time to time. You don’t want to burn any bridges here by being rude, annoying, making threats, or posting publicly. Simply ask for a timeline of when to expect payment and hold the agency accountable.
If it’s NOT a cash flow issue then it might just be a miscommunication issue.
We all make mistakes sometimes. We’re human!
I’ve seen countless situations where Brand Ambassadors throw a fit, claiming they never got paid, only for them to find the check in their room under some clothes. On the flip side, I’ve seen agencies claim that they have paid all of their staff up to date only to realize that they misplaced an invoice or sent the check to the wrong address.
There are a billion other reasons why a check might be delayed or missing but all it takes is a few quick emails to resolve the issue.
If an agency claims that they paid you but you didn’t get it (and you’ve already double checked your house), you can request a receipt of the payment and ask if the checks have been cashed.
-If the agency realizes that they did not pay you, then they should pay you immediately.
-If the agency did send the payment but the check was cashed by someone else, then you have a fraud problem on your hands. Work with the agency to figure out who cashed the check and then file a police report. The agency should send you a new check in this case.
-If the agency did send the payment but you did not receive it and it has not been cashed, then it’s most likely lost somewhere. Agencies may delay paying you here because of the fact that they would have to pay a void check fee and that would be a waste of money if the check eventually showed up at your door. However, if a reasonable amount of time has passed since the check was due (2+ weeks), you have grounds to request a new check be sent to you.
If it’s neither a cash flow nor a miscommunication issue, then you have the issue of an agency or individual who has no intention of paying you.
3. NO INTENTION OF PAYING
The third and most dreadful reason why you haven’t received your payment is because the agency or individual you worked for has no intention of paying you.
If the money owed to you is not substantial, then the best option for you will be to just write it off as a loss and move on.
I know, that’s not what you want to hear.
While the principle of it is not right and you may really need that money, the time and money you’ll spend getting that check is usually not worth it.
However, if the money owed to you is a substantial amount ($1000+) and you are willing to fight the good fight, then you have a couple options here:
-Filing a complaining with your city’s Labor Board
-Suing the agency/individual to your city’s Small Claims Court
While both options present their own challenges and timelines, if you are dead set on collecting that payment, I would recommend going to Small Claims Court over the Labor Board.
In fact, debt collection cases are by far the most common type of cases that are resolved in Small Claims Court.
Additional Things to Consider:
-Unless you are a classified as an employee of the company, you are not entitled to waiting time penalties
-Most agencies have you sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) upon hire. If that’s the case, you are not legally allowed to contact the client of the agency directly and doing so may get you in trouble. Don’t do it unless you have evidence of the agency or individual not returning your correspondences and are absolutely sure that they have no intention of ever paying you.
-While you could hire a lawyer and/or go to Superior Court, I would advise against doing so. Small Claims Court is where you’ll want to handle small debt collection and unless the amount owed to you is significantly more than the Small Claims Court limit or you would like to sue for something other than your missing payment, hiring a lawyer and going to Superior Court is going to be much more money and time than it’s worth.
Good luck to any of you who are experiencing a delayed or missing payment right now and I hope that this article helps you get your money in a timely and convenient manner.