How do I get paid?

There are different systems through which you will get paid. It's important to understand which one applies to your situation.

How do I get paid?
Image: © Channel 4

You will be paid in different ways depending on your role. For example, a researcher on a factual series with a 20-week fixed-term contract would likely get paid monthly through the company’s payroll. Whereas, a camera operator doing a 2-day shoot would likely invoice on completion of the work and be paid in accordance with the company’s terms and conditions (often 30 days after receipt of invoice).

PAYE fixed term contract

If it’s a PAYE role according to HMRC’s Employment Status Manual then you will be paid on the company payroll, usually monthly, in the same way as permanent employees. It’s worth checking with a company what their payroll dates and cut-offs are so you know when you can expect to get paid.

For example, most companies have a cut-off date in the middle of a month when they run the payroll, with payments being made towards the final few days of the month. If you start work there in week three or four of the month you might find that your first payment won’t be paid to you until the end of the following month and will cover both months’ work.

Sole trader

If you are self-employed then you will be expected to send an invoice to the client company for your services. You will need to quote your 10-digit UTR (Unique taxpayer reference) to show that you are registered as a sole trader with HMRC.

Your contract should detail who and when you should invoice. Once your invoice has been received by the company it will need to be approved by the budget holder and then sent to accounts for payment.

You will then be paid in accordance with the company’s terms and conditions, typically these can be 30 days after receipt of invoice. If you are doing a big job or one that requires up-front costs for you to deliver the work, you can ask for an initial payment to cover these costs.

Limited company

If you run your freelance operations through your own limited company, then, just like a sole trader, you will be expected to invoice for your services before you can be paid.


An invoice must contain the following information legally:

  • The word ‘invoice’
  • A unique identification number (invoice number)
  • Your freelancer services name, address and contact information
  • The name and registered-office address of the client
  • The date of the invoice
  • A purchase order or contract number
  • The date the goods or services were delivered (supply date).
  • A description of what you are charging for
  • The amount(s) being charged net of tax
  • If you are charging VAT then add in your VAT registration details and the amount of the VAT
  • The total amount payable
  • How the invoice should be paid – your bank details
  • When the invoice should be paid – e.g. please pay within 30 days

What do I do if I don't get paid on time?

If you don’t get paid on time, politely nudge the finance department to find out where you are in their system. They will be able to advise you when you can expect payment or tell you if it has not yet been passed for payment. If the latter, then get in touch with your client contact to ascertain what the delay is and try to resolve it.

If you still don’t get paid then it’s time to send a firm reminder to both your contact and the finance department, explain that the payment is now overdue for no legitimate reason and that you want it settled within a specified period (e.g. fourteen days).

If the invoice is still unpaid after this period then send a final demand. Write again, this time expressing disappointment that they haven’t paid and outline the amount owing and again request payment within a specified period (e.g. fourteen days).

Follow each of these stages up with a phone call. As a last resort, you might need to take legal advice on how to claim an unpaid debt – many industry bodies include legal support with their membership.

Whatever happens don’t start a new project for the client if they haven’t paid their last invoice.

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