Net 30: “Do this work for us, give us that work, then 30 days later you will get paid.” Even worse are net 45, 60, or even 90. Sadly, these have become the so-called standards for working in the design industry. Another way of looking at net 30 is, “We don’t respect you, we don’t trust you, and we don’t care about you.” Here’s why you shouldn’t be working with clients who require net 30:
Design is not meant to merely be an expense, it is an investment. You don’t invest in a house and say, I’ll give you the down payment once I’m all moved in and get to know the neighbors. You don’t invest in Google and request that you wait to see how things go before any actual money transactions occur. You don’t go to the auto shop, get all new tires, and then suggest you pay them a month later. You don’t buy new locks for your house and ask Home Depot if you can pay them down the road. These are all investments—investments you need to make up front. Design is no different.
Design is an investment
Net 30 inherently puts freelancers and small studios at a disadvantage. To reiterate, if you value what you do as a design professional and you want others to value what you do, then design should be addressed as an investment. Clients should be able to anticipate the end of a project and clear invoices accordingly. If a client isn’t in a position to pay the design professional within the agreed upon timeline, perhaps this isn’t an investment they should be making. A general rule of thumb for everyone, you don’t make investments, that you don’t have the money for. If a client wants to work with you, they will work according to your terms. If a client wants to work with you but is unable to comply with your terms at the moment, they will come back later.
The design professional sets the payment terms
The client shouldn’t inquire about design work and request to pay the design professional 30 days following the completion of the work, instead, the client should pay the design professional according to the payment terms in which they define. It is not up to the client to define the payment terms, that is the responsibility of the design professional. Clients who insist that they define the payment terms are not ready to work with a design professional and aren’t deserving of your time.
Yet, it’s appalling that design and creative services are still being subjected and still conforming to net 30/45/60/90. Why has it become the norm to deal with creative professionals with such disrespect? Furthermore, why are designers allowing themselves to be treated with such disrespect? It’s time this changes. It’s time designers break away from a scarcity mindset, and it’s time we change the standards of working with designers. Here’s what these clients actually think of you:
They don’t respect you
Yes, clients who insist on defining the payment terms (i.e. net 30) are not respecting your time or your professionalism. They do not respect you. Why would I work with people who don’t respect me, my process, my professionalism, or my career? Do you tell your doctor how to do her job? Do you tell her how the payment terms work? How about your mechanic? Or an IT expert? As a design professional, it is your responsibility to define the payment terms. As for the client, they should be asking what your payment terms are, not trying to define them for you.
They don’t trust you
Furthermore, the persistent need for a net 30 payment term is a clear indication that the client does not trust you. Yes, I said it. They don’t trust you. Net 30 inherently puts them in a position of power. Being subjected to net 30 payment terms means you’re on the submissive end. During the process, the client can leverage this unbalanced relationship because you’re in a position to not only get through the entire process and keep them happy, but you then have to wait 30+ days until you’re actually compensated for your work. This kind of relationship shows that all they want are the final deliverables; they don’t care about you. Net 30 is purely about buying them time, ensuring they get what they pay for (because they don’t trust you), and doing what’s convenient for them (not you).
They want you to go to college, buy a house, and get a credit card
Net 30 promotes and contributes to the ever growing debt mentality of our culture. Everyone will try to convince you that net 30 is the standard. Just like going to college and ending up with tens of thousands of dollars in debt is the standard. Just like buying a house that you need to pay off for the next 40 years is the standard. Just like getting a credit card and accumulating debt is the standard. There’s a catch though, these standards are set to only benefit one side (the side you’re not on). Debt is not necessary, but payment methods like net 30 make us assume that’s how things should work. In the end, it’s a vicious cycle and is entirely one-sided. Refusing to work net 30 means you’d rather work with mutual respect and honor.
But maybe I’m wrong
Perhaps this whole net 30 thing is just a part of how the company works, it’s not necessarily the fault of the individual you’re working with. Here are some questions for you: do they believe in what you do? Do they truly see the value in what you do? Do they see how that value will translate for their company? Do they honestly respect you and want to work with you specifically? If you can answer yes for all of those, then that individual should be willing to fight this battle with you. They should be working inside of their company to change their policy. They should be working inside their company to make working with creatives easier. If they aren’t willing to make those changes happen then perhaps you should reconsider your previous answers.
Net 30 is unfair and disrespectful. I will not contribute to a standard that will inherently put the generation of designers that follow me at a disadvantage. I believe in what I do. I believe in the value, significance, and importance of design. That is why I don’t take on projects that require net 30. This is bigger than me or you. This is about redefining our industry’s standards.