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Seriously, you owe me; you know you owe me, so pay me!

Oh how I wish that the world of fashion was immune from the evils of doing business. We should live in a Higher Place where people live to design, love to collaborate, never steal and always pay their bills. But that is a dream for another day. If someone currently owes you money or you have the realistic expectation that someone, someday will stiff you, keep reading.

If you’ve spoken to me or you’ve read this blog, you know that I am a big fan of Get it in Writing. When the result of something that you do should be that you will get paid, you always want it in writing. Ideally, that writing is signed by the person or entity that will need to pay you, it specifies the amount that you will be paid, and it states the act (by you) that will trigger the obligation to pay you. Where you are providing “design” work, that last item can be a sticking point. You feel that you have delivered the drawing or other design that your “buyer” wanted, but they are not satisfied and keep asking you to change this, tweak that … and they won’t pay until you (in their mind) “finish” the job. That particular topic is a common problem I will address in another post.

So setting aside the topic of what is going on in the mind of whomever should be paying you, take a look back at what you have in writing and make sure that you are confident that you delivered the services or goods you agreed to provide. Look back at that writing and make sure that you are demanding payment from the proper person or entity. If you’ve done those things and you are not getting paid, contact an attorney. Don’t wait – time is not your friend. Don’t assume that you will be throwing good money after bad. Most attorneys (certainly this one) will take a quick look and tell you if taking action to collect the debt is likely to be more expensive than the probable return. Most attorneys will start by sending a demand letter, and that is a very inexpensive step. There are some folks that won’t take your demands seriously, but will take a letter from a law firm seriously, so sometimes a letter is all that is needed to get you paid.

Sadly, some folks ignore my letters and need a bigger push to do the right thing. Filing a lawsuit to collect a debt is sometimes necessary. Before taking that step, make sure that the attorney you are using has experience collecting debts and the right staff. I work with a talented collections paralegal. It keeps costs down for my clients, and she does a great job. Also, an experienced collections attorney will discuss with you the probable cost, likely reward based upon cost-efficient gathering of entity and asset information, and assess any risk of a counter-suit. Even a tremendously talented collections attorney won’t make a guarantee that you will get your money, but they will help you keep a lid on the expense of the collection action so that you, to the greatest extent possible, don’t throw good money after bad.

What, you didn’t get it in writing? Don’t beat yourself up. If someone owes you money for work that you completed or goods that you provided, don’t give up hope. Instead, gather up everything that you have - email, invoices, hard copy or electronic records of any kind that show that you kept up your end of the bargain. You may have more “in writing” than you realize, and it may be enough, in the hands of a good collections attorney, to recover what you are owed.

Have questions or need a hand? Email me, dswisher@fosterswift.com.

Categories: Collections, Contracts, Fashion


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