A Perennial Problem in the Campaign Industry: Chasing Unpaid Invoices

If you’ve run a consulting firm, or even just worked at one for any period of time, this won’t be surprising: we’re often chasing political campaign clients for unpaid invoices. 

This can be an issue even if your contracts are well-written with clear payment terms for deliverables. (And if for some reason your contracts don’t contain crystal clear payment terms and language, then you’ve got bigger problems.) 

But late or non-payment in this industry is a challenge, and it’s often not only because you’re waiting for payment from cash-strapped campaigns. With frequency, I hear from clients who are not getting consistently paid by even larger, well-resourced organizations that don’t have the financial ups and downs that a political campaign may experience.  

The other question I often get is how to chase payment without ruffling feathers. On the one hand, I understand the instinct to not get on the wrong side of a large client whose business you value or whose business is critical to your bottom line. But if the business relationship is going to work long-term, they must respect you and the work you do for them. A big part of that is paying their bills promptly. 

So sometimes you’re gonna ruffle some freaking feathers, friends.

If you’re delivering a product or service that provides value to your client, you deserve to get paid on time. Full stop. Your contracts should be structured so that you’re getting paid at least partially upfront, even for campaign clients.

If you’re not getting paid as agreed in that contract, you’re not delivering. Yes, even if that means holding back a website or TV spot or mail piece that the campaign needs to go out at a certain time.

If someone tries to guilt you about how you’re not being a team player or blame you for a campaign loss or any such nonsense because you’re holding that boundary, stop doing business with that person. They’re making something your fault that isn’t your fault. 

That’s like walking up to a vending machine and screaming at it for hurting the movement because it won’t give you a Snickers until you put a dollar in. No dollar, no Snickers.

And for anyone else reading this: Pay your vendors as agreed. And if you can’t, communicate that clearly, make a plan to make it right, and adjust your expectations for the timing and quality of service you’re going to receive in the meantime.