Done work experience but too nervous to ask for your expenses? Check out our guide to getting the money you deserve. Because you’ve done the work and need to be paid for it…

Work experience and interning is daunting enough without having to ask awkward questions like “er, could I get that £10? I need it to eat” but, sadly, paying people is often the last thing on a company’s mind. Either they genuinely forget, or they have some strange disease which prevents them from processing payment. Either way, it’s not just you – this happens to all of us. A massive media agency once owed me £280 for three months and it wasn’t until I’d been in twice, called every other day and sent fifteen emails that I got the money. By that point I was eating only eggs as I couldn’t afford anything else. 

1. Choose your phrasing 

Be firm but friendly, as if gently reprimanding a friend who has owed you a fiver for a few months. Yes, it’s a bit awkward, but saying “Who do I speak to about expenses?” feels a little less rude than “When will you pay me?” even though it’s not rude at all. You’re just being British about it. Other ways to bring up the moola issue include: “I’ve brought my bank account details and stuff for expenses”, “Who do I invoice?” and loudly shouting “I HATE it when people I do work experience with don’t pay my expenses on time! You’re the best company because I know you won’t do this!” Then grow a small herb garden and place it on their desks as a show of thanks. Everyone loves a herb garden. 

2. Get more than one contact

The contact you’re given will most likely be the go-between guy who will have to chase the HR person dealing with finances; you need to get straight to the source of the pain, like Nurofen. Ask your contact who sorts out the finances whether you can “help them out and do it myself as I know you’re really busy. Who should I chase?” Bonus: when you leave, and if there are any issue, you can call the right person directly as opposed to having to go through loads of people.

3. Ask what the deal is the day before you leave

Leaving it until the last day is usually a nightmare, because sometimes forms need to be collected or filled in and you might not have time. Ideally, you want to get this sorted before you leave so give it a day and a bit to be organised. Plus, you’ll look super efficient.

4. Too scared to ask IRL?

Drop them an email because, hey, people email colleagues sat in the same office as them all the time. My boss once asked me to write a quick news story via email and she was less than a metre away. If there’s a topic I’m too embarrassed to broach (money would be one of them) I always find it a lot easier to talk about it in an email rather than suffer the stammering and stuttering of begging for cash IRL.

5. Be persistent

The key to break a reluctant company is regular reminders followed by some light guilt-tripping. Start with an email a week after you’ve finished. Then a call two days after that. Then, if you’re still no closer to seeing the dollar, an email every other day. You may think it’s excessive and a bit rude, but if the emails are politely worded, and you explain that you really do need the money, it’ll work. The reason payment gets delayed is usually down to forgetfulness which is, of course, no excuse for not paying someone for their work. But it does mean they’ll need to be reminded frequently and nobody will think any less of you. In fact, it comes off a lot more professional when you meet an intern or work experiencer who values the work that they do. 

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