Iona Bain on the need for freelance-friendly payment systems

Financial adviser Iona Bain says companies must make it easier for freelancers to get paid on time.

We all know the biggest problem freelancers face is getting paid on time, and sometimes getting paid at all.

A new trend I’m worried about is insane levels of bureaucracy and red tape. From my recent experience, freelancers are liable to bump up against a one-size-fits-all payment process.

Three pieces of work I did in July brought it home. The first was for a public agency. Having participated in their event for a token fee, I then had to apply for a supplier account. After some to-ing and fro-ing, I was offered payment via Paypal, or by more conventional means such as a bank transfer which would take longer – it did, nine weeks.

But that was easy compared to the next gig with a higher education institution. The headed notepaper rigmarole (funny, but digi-coms businesses don’t have much use for it) was followed by a request to fill in a diversity and equality form.

I had to tick the boxes (literally) that assured it was not my practice to discriminate on all grounds imaginable. Just as well, as the event I had chaired was now weeks behind us.

Finally came a media day with a financial institution. All went swimmingly until payment processing was passed to a media agency, which passed it to YunoJuno (YJ). 

Almost two months after, I found myself scanning copies of my birth certificate and a five-year-old payslip in order to verify my identity, and being presented with timesheets to fill in (for a day’s agreed fee work).

Eventually I had to send an actual, proper invoice direct to YJ, because there appeared to be no way of correcting the one I had finally put into their system. Yes of course it needed correcting.

And I’m still awaiting payment.

I know I am lucky to have a diverse spread of clients, but I can’t believe I’m unusual in being a sole trader in today’s gig economy. Can payment systems become a bit more freelance-friendly please?