Most bloggers are paid for sponsored posts after they publish the post, which means there is an opportunity for your to get… SCREWED!
Listen… we’ve all been there. If you’re reading this post, it is likely that you’ve been screwed by a sponsor or client in the past, or you are dealing with a jerk who is trying to screw you right now. I’ve been freelancing for over a decade and blogging for nearly as long, and I can tell you that this is unfortunately a reality of the business.
But you aren’t without recourse! Let’s talk about a few things you can do if a sponsor (or client) disappears without paying you:
Give the Sponsor Some Time (But Not Too Much Time)
Honestly, sometimes, very rarely but sometimes, you are the victim of a mistake. Maybe your contact with a brand went on vacation or medical leave and no one else knew or remembered you were supposed to get paid. Maybe your payment went to the wrong person. Maybe there was a miscommunication they are trying to get sorted.
Don’t turn into an angry chihuahua the very second a payment is late. Give the sponsor and your contact the benefit for the doubt, the same way you’d want someone to give you the benefit for the doubt for a mistake.
I typically send one email noting the missed payment, a follow up email about 24 hours later, and a third email about 24 hours after that. You want to stay in constant communication, but don’t give the sponsor weeks or months to fix the mistake. They should only get days (for good reason… read on…)
Take the Post Down
In your third day, about 72 hours after a due payment hasn’t been paid, I recommend taking down the sponsored post if you do not hear back. Don’t just completely delete it. You want to be able to restore if you do get paid. But I do recommend taking the post down very quickly.
Why take it down so quickly?
Well, most people who are helping brands get sponsored blog posts published need to send them a report with all the links of the published posts. This typically happens within one week of the campaign ending. So, you want your link to be broken when the person tries to send it to the brand. If you want until a week or two after your payment was missed, they may have already sent the link to the brand’s marketing department and received “credit” for it. After that, they don’t care as much if the link is live or not.
Obviously, this isn’t how all sponsored post campaigns work, but because so many brands are working with third party PR or marketing companies, or have a marketing department that works independently and needs to report to people higher on the food chain… if I take down the post fairly quickly, I find many times that my emails are suddenly answered.
I do always notify my contact that my post is coming down so they are aware, rather than being able to say that I just didn’t do the work as agreed.
File a Lawsuit
Honestly, this is a pretty severe reaction, and I really don’t recommend it for sponsored posts where your payment is set to be less than $1000. Even at the $1000-$5000 level, filing a lawsuit can be extremely expensive and time-consuming.
I know, I know… it is the principle of the matter.
But here’s the thing… most judges are going to have no idea how sponsored post works, and unless you have a strong contract, these kinds of lawsuits can be very hard to win. Which means that you’ve spent a lot of money for nothing.
If you do decide to go down this route, make sure you talk to a lawyer FIRST to make sure it is the best path. I have personally never gotten this far. Sometimes, you can pay a lawyer to write a strongly worded-letter on your behalf, which is less expensive than jumping into a lawsuit. I have had to do this a few times and it was VERY effective.
Again, don’t just file your lawsuit. Talk to a lawyer first. (And take their advice… they are the experts here. If they say your case will be hard to win or cost you more than you’ll be awarded, believe them!)
Contact Someone Else with the Brand
No one likes to get in trouble with their boss.
If your main contact isn’t responding, start emailing anyone you can at the company. I typically send an email and copy as many email addresses that I can find – customer service, CEO, marketing, sales… everyone!
Be polite and explain what is happening. Thank them in advance for any help contacting the person who is ignoring you. Attach an invoice and note that the post has been removed for your website until it is paid.
Ask Your Accountant for Advice
You probably can’t “write off” the bad debt for a tax credit. It’s complicated (here’s an article about it).
But it doesn’t hurt to ask. A CPA can tell you if there is anything you can do tax-wise to get credit for the hours you worked and the bad debt. I have never been in a situation where I’ve been able to claim anything on my taxes, but you might be, especially if you already reported the debt as income for some reason,.
If you are anything like me, picking up the phone is something you dread. But it’s a lot harder to ignore someone if you’re speaking on the phone rather than communicating via email. If promises are made while you are on the phone, ask the person to send you an email confirming the conversation, so you have it in writing as well.
Don’t hang off the phone until they do. Otherwise, they’ll “forget.”
Sometimes, you’ll have to do some hunting to find a good phone number. Sometimes, you’ll have to stay on hold for hours or get transfered ten times until you finally get to the right department.
Worth it, if you get paid.
What Not to Do
Above all else, act completely professionally. Here’s what not to do:
- Do not threaten. You can inform the sponsor about actions you are taking or will be taking, but be polite and professional, not threatening and angry. Remember that your emails could be read in court.
- Do not retroactively try to charge fees. It is very tempting to start tacking on late fees, but if a sponsor didn’t agree to those fees, you really have no legal ability to charge them (in most cases… I’m not a lawyer obviously). Suddenly receiving an inflated bill will not convince a sponsor to pay you.
- Do not be unreasonable. If the sponsor is having financial difficulties, offer a deferred payment or a payment plan. Some money is better than no money, right? If you offer a payment plan, I suggest requiring a down payment upfront of about 25% – 50% of the bill as a “good faith” payment.
- Do not drag in people who are not involved. This is between you and the brand. Yes, you can email or call other people in the company, but leave other people out of it. It just makes you look unprofessional.
- Do not give out personal details. Nothing makes me cringe more than someone whining about not having enough money for bills because a client did not paid. I have heard every sob story in the book. And yes, I think that most of them are true. It really sucks when you are living on the edge and a payment doesn’t come through as promised. But at the end of the day, this just makes you look unprofessional. It will absolutely not help your case.
- Do not equate an individual with a company. It’s like getting mad at a customer service rep on the phone. Sometimes it is not their fault that they can’t help you. Your contact might be dealing with a company in financial crisis, a jerk CEO, or an unorganized payroll department. It might not be that specific person’s fault that you aren’t getting paid. So be kind and reasonable. When they leave that job or drop that client (in the case of third-party PR reps), they might start working with other potential blog sponsors they WILL remember you.
Mitigating the Potential for GETTING SCREWED
If you are dealing with a sponsor who has ghosted already, the rest of these tips aren’t going to help you this time around… but they can help you avoid getting screwed in the future!
- Sign a contract. I make sure that I draw up at least a basic contact any time I am being hired for a project of more than $300 (some people sign a contact for EVERYTHING which is okay too). The basic parts of a contract should be: the agreed upon work, the amount you’ll be paid, and the date you’ll be paid.
- Get paid upfront. Some sponsors will be strongly opposed to this, but stand your ground. The fairest option is 50% upfront and 50% upon completion, but as your start to get more opportunities, you can start to make your own terms. If they don’t like it, you don’t have to work with them.
- Get referrals. What other bloggers has the sponsor worked with in the past? When you are considering a potentially large amount of work, don’t be afraid to reach out to those bloggers to ask about their experiences. You can also ask in blogger groups on Facebook to see if anyone has any experiences they are willing to share.
I hope that helps! If you are currently dealing with a deadbeat sponsor or client, I know how frustrated you are right now. It is one of my least favorite things about this job. Try to keep a cool head, and avoid burning bridges whenever possible.
Are you new to working with sponsors? Check out my ultimate guide, which will teach you everything you nee to know to get sponsors to pay you for posts on your blog! Use the code ALLISON to get $10 off for a limited time!
Click the below image to pin this blog post so you can reference it later and share it with your friends: