Collecting money from recalcitrant clients is one of the most boring bits of being a freelance. The law does entitle you to interest and compensation from late payers. We also provide a much simpler tool for calculating these so you can send an additional penalty invoice yourself.

But if that fails, the National Union of Journalists can help its freelance members collect what's due to them. Often, one stiff letter avoids a trip to Small Claims Court - and, if it comes to that, the Union can often help its members there too.

This form is designed to help you - and NUJ staff - collect all the necessary information as painlessly and accurately as possible. That's why it's detailed.

Information in  tinted fields  is required. Other fields may be required, depending on your answers. The whole point is to check that the union has the whole story to start with. You may want to start by taking a look at section 5.

It attempts to check your entries to ensure that the Freelance Office gets all the information needed. It's supposed to be picky. And it will do most of the arithmetic for you. It should flag in  this colour  the fields it's filled in for you. You can still change them. Click here to stop automatic recalculation.

This has been updated to try to take account of changes effective across the European Union from 16 March 2013: see our summary of the changes.

Note that we are still checking our interpretation of the new rules, which are messy.

1: You

Your name
If you run out of space, keep typing - your text will move along.
Your NUJ membership number (see note 1)
You belong to NUJ Branch (or other IFJ union):
Your postal address

Your email address
Your full daytime phone number

2: Your client

Name of publication / programme
Name of client company
Name of commissioning editor
Full phone number for commissioning editor
Postal address
of publication / programme


3: The work

The work was:

If "other", what?
of work

Extent of work, e.g. nº of words or pix

4: What was agreed?

What record is there of the agreement?

(Whoops! But see note 2)
Agreed deadline was (dd/mm/yyyy)
Agreed currency      
If "other", what?
Agreed basic fee (e.g. First British Serial)
Agreed fee for extra licenses (e.g. web use) currency
Agreed expenses currency
Value Added Tax (see note 3) currency
due date

Payment was due days after...

Unless you agreed otherwise: N days after delivery if you agreed the whole fee and expenses in advance, but after your invoice if it told them the total after delivery. See note 4 for other cases.)
If agreed due date was 'other', then it was (dd/mm/yyyy):
Agreed jurisdiction (see note 5)

5: What happened next?

The more dates you fill in, the more error-checking we can do.

Remarks on what appeared/the fate of the work:

    (see note 7)
on date (dd/mm/yyyy)
for a total (re-calculate) of currency

Maybe do it now?
Payment was due before (see note 8) (dd/mm/yyyy)

And then...

Click here for the makings of one
on date (today?) (dd/mm/yyyy)
adding interest (show calculation) of currency
and compensation of currency
making a total (re-calculate) of currency
Check: The program automatically calculates interest, compensation & total above. If the amounts on the statement you sent were different, you can and should change them. Have you checked them? No Yes
(Click here to stop it messing with your numbers.)
Further remarks:

6: Click here...   

... and the magic will proofread your submission and, possibly, make utterly thoughtless comments. Keep trying. It's only a machine.

Data Protection: By sending this information, you are clearly indicating that you wish it to be held on file and to be disseminated as necessary to collect your money, but only for that purpose.

If you want to send supporting documents (e.g. scans of contracts, invoices, etc) please attach them to an email to - or fax them to 020 7278 1812. Please include a cover note giving your name and the same description of the work that you entered above.



Note 1

If you give your membership number, we'll be able to respond more quickly. The NUJ cannot help non-members collect payment, unless you belong to another International Federation of Journalists member union and have a problem collecting from a company in the UK or Ireland. If so, enter the name of the union you belong to in the "Branch" field.

Note 2

It is always better to have a written record of what you agreed. Oral contracts are as valid as any other kind - it's just that they are, obviously, harder to prove. If you are proposing a contract to your client, see note 7.

Note 3

Remember, you should add Value Added Tax if and only if:

  1. you are registered for VAT; and
  2. your client is in the same territory - i.e. the work is not exported.
Note 4

Under EU regulations updated with effect from 16 March 2013, by default payment is due 30 days after:

  • your client became aware of how much they owed you, or
  • you delivered or did the work, or
  • any "procedure of acceptance or verification" of the work that is specified in the contract is complete (see note 6),
whichever is the later (see examples).

If payment is delayed beyond this date, interest is payable at a penalty rate, plus compensation for debt recovery costs.

After filling in the relevant dates and amounts, click "show calculation" to get a detailed account of the interest and compensation, and see any error messages.


  • The 30-day rule is overriden if you agreed a different due date when you took the work on.
  • If your client is a public body, it should not let the clock tick for more than 30 days.
  • If your client is not a public body, and if you made a contract with it on or after 16 March 2013, it can ask you to agree to be paid later - after up to 60 days of clock-ticking. In fact it can ask you to agree to even later payment - but this must not be "grossly unfair".
  • If you agreed your contract on or after 16 March 2013, and if your actual costs in recovering the money are greater than the statutory minimim compensation, you can claim your total actual costs.

For clarity, we repeat: unless you explicitly agree otherwise, payment is still due 30 days after the clock starts ticking.

The regulations authorise your union to act on your behalf against clients that try to impose contracts that are "grossly unfair" or circumvent the penalties. If you are an NUJ member and think you have been "offered" such a contract, contact the Freelance Office.

From 16 March 2013 minimum compensation of €40 applies in all EU member states, on top of the penalty interest. The minima are higher in the UK, and in Ireland when the amount due is greater than €1000.

Note 5

Really detailed contracts specify a "jurisdiction" - the country where you agree to go to court. This also decides whether you can claim interest and debt recovery cost compensation, and how much. As a rule of thumb, unless otherwise specified in a contract the jurisdiction is the country your client operates in.

Note: We have yet to confirm the interest rate applied by Germany and that it has in fact implemented the €40 compensation that the 2011 EU Directive mandates.

Note 6

If you agreed your contract on or after 16 March 2013, your client can ask in it for a "procedure of acceptance or verification". This should not take more than 30 days. You may be asked to agree a longer period, but this must not be "grossly unfair".

The exact meaning of "procedure of acceptance or verification" probably will not become clear until a court case has gone as far as the Court of Appeal. Please let us know at if you sight one of these in a contract.

We believe that publishing or broadcasting your work should constitute acceptance, whatever the contract says.

Once again: payment is still due 30 days after invoice or delivery unless such a "procedure" is specified in your contract with your client, and unless a longer period is specified therein.

If you just agreed on the phone "650 words by 4pm" then you have an oral contract, but it ain't specifying anything else.

The NUJ recommends that when work has been commissioned and carried out satisfactorily according to the brief, it should be paid for in full. If publishers over-commission or change their minds, that should be their problem. Many publishers, however, offer "kill fees" of 50% to 67% in the hope you'll accept that, shut up and go away. Your having read this far may suggest otherwise.

Note 7

The UK government has in the past advised including the following text on your invoices:

Note 8

Repeating some of Note 4 in more normal English... usually there is one of two stories to tell. Either:

  • On 24/03/2013 you agree to do a piece of work - and you agree then and there how much you will be paid. You deliver the work, as agreed, on time, on 28/03/2013. So the clock starts ticking on this, the second date. The payment is overdue 30 days later, which is 27/04/2013. Or:
  • On 24/03/2013 you agree to do a piece of work - and, say, you agree that you'll let your client know later on what the expenses are. You deliver the work, as agreed, on time, on 28/03/2013. But this time the clock doesn't start ticking until the client knows formally how much they owe. On Saturday 13/04/2013 you get around to invoicing for the work and expenses. Allowing the usual two working days for the post, your client is aware how much they owe you on the Wednesday, 17/04/2005. The payment is overdue 30 days after that, which is 18/05/2013.

Note that though this program knows about weekends, it doesn't know about state holidays. If the due date is counted from the date on which you sent an invoice, please adjust it if necessary.

So why do you need to tell this program when you agreed to do the work, when both stories seem to ignore this date? Because it determines which late payment regulations, if any, apply.

For example in the UK the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 allowed you to claim interest, but no compensation, on contracts made after 01/11/1998 - though Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) were exempt up to 01/11/2000.

And remember that both these stories assume that your client didn't persuade you to agree some other payment terms, or vice versa.

Looking for 'JavaScript'... please wait a moment. If this message doesn't go away, sorry, this may not work fully with your computer and browser. Please try it anyway.
From an idea by John Foster; design & code © 2002 Mike Holderness
Nothing on this page may be construed as legal advice.
Last modified: Nagasaki Day, 09 Aug 2013; first posted 03 Jan 2003
If you have problems, send comments to:
[NUJ.LFB home]