Freelancers’ Questions: As a TikTok presenter, is only the live billable?

Freelancer’s Question: I’m a presenter on TikTok for some brands. This one brand I've been working with pays me by the hour. But there was an issue when I submitted my invoice following two live shows I did for them, for which the hours I was asked to be there were 13:30-17:30. They say I cannot charge four hours; rather I can only charge three hours as the actual live part was three hours’ long.  

As outlined, the brand asked me to be available to them for four hours and I was. So who's right? As far as I'm concerned, If I’m there for four hours, getting ready before ‘the live’ and de-briefing after the live, I have still worked a full four hours. I have told them I expect my invoice to be paid in full and that if they don’t want to agree to pay me for all my hours (including non-live hours when I’m still dedicated to them ), I won’t work with the brand in future. Please advise!

Expert’s Answer: I’m sorry to hear that you’re having difficulty with your client over simply getting paid fully for your services. 

Invisible versus Visible (project parts)

When clients engage freelancers, they can often overlook the ‘invisible’ costs incurred by a freelancer to deliver the more ‘visible’ parts of a project. 

In your case, the client seems concerned only with the value you provide when broadcasting live to their audience. But as we both know; it takes more than that for you to just appear on screen and deliver to the standard you were hired for!

The question of ‘Who’s Right?’ will ultimately come down to what’s in the contract. However, what strikes me is that this dispute is focused on the number of hours you have worked for, when this is only one part of the tailored service you’re providing to your client. 

Single-metric vision is to be avoided

Hours do matter of course, but what about travel costs? What about the value created by any specialised knowledge, training, skills, and experience you bring? 

I’m sure you already factor those aspects into the rate you charge.

But by placing too much importance on hours – rather than the total value of the service you provide as a freelance presenter – the client will see they have a single metric – time – over which they can attempt to haggle. 

How to stop this happening again?

Going forward, you could consider negotiating a new contract with your client that frames the total cost of your services in a more holistic way, detailing the specific activities, deliverables, and timelines required for you to deliver an engagement. But if your client insists on paying solely for time spent presenting, you could look to increase your hourly rate to an amount that is commensurate to the value you believe are providing.

A satisfactory agreement...

I hope you can reach a satisfactory agreement with your client soon, but for more tips in the meantime, consider taking a look at our late payment guide. The guide includes suggestions on how best to request overdue fees from your client, and how freelancers can tighten up their payment terms to minimise the risk of a payment dispute.  

We also run regular online advice sessions aimed at helping freelancers to tackle issues just like yours. You can find the events we currently have in store on our website, and if there’s not one available which suits your schedule as a TikTok presenter, check back soon as we are offering new sessions all the time. In the meantime, good luck getting paid!  

The expert was Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed