Contractor Payments: All the Ways to Pay Independent Contractors [2023]

contractor payments
Michelle Brannan
Latest posts by Michelle Brannan (see all)

Paying talent should be one of the most straightforward things you do as a producer in the entertainment industry. In addition to managing every little detail that goes into production, such as finding production insurance, renting out the perfect photo studio, and searching for the perfect talent to bring your creative vision to life…paying your independent contractors shouldn’t add more stress. 

While we may not be able to help with the lighting and set designing, LÜK can help manage contractor payments. We wrote this article to cover everything you need to know about paying independent contractors accurately and on time. 

Let’s begin! 

What to Know Before Determining Your Contractor Payment Method

entertainment payroll management

Classifying Employees vs. Independent Contractors

The IRS recommends employers look at various elements when determining if an individual is an independent contractor or employer. An independent contractor does not get paid a salary or receive any benefits for their work. Contractors are their own entity and are brought in by companies to work on specific projects or in short-term roles. 

Failure to classify independent contractors correctly or not properly filing procedures will result in penalties. Organizations face penalties based on the size of their businesses and the time they default. These penalties might include:

  • Paying up to $1,000 for every misclassified employee
  • $50 payment for each unfiled W-2 form
  • Paying up to 3% of each misclassified employee’s wages
  • Up to a one-year sentence in prison
  • Total payment of unpaid FICA taxes

Correct classification is especially important for California employers who must follow some of the most stringent labor laws in the country. The latest AB 5 law requires employers to determine whether a worker is considered an employee or independent contractor using an “ABC” test. 

Unless the hiring entity satisfies all three of the following conditions, the worker would be considered an employee:

  • The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact;
  • The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  • The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

Wait Time Penalties 

California also has wait time penalties for employers that don’t pay out wages in a timely manner at the end of a working relationship. The penalty is calculated by multiplying the daily wage by the number of days the employee was not paid (up to a maximum of 30 days).

This isn’t only for full-time employees: wait time penalties are also issued for payment delays to independent contractors living and working in California.

If you’re in the entertainment industry, you can avoid all of this easily with LÜK. LÜK Pay takes on the responsibility of ensuring that all payments to contractors follow the labor laws of California and other states in the US. By using LÜK to pay your contractors, you will have a reliable system for linking and keeping track of all your 1099 talent.

Our payroll software covers all aspects of freelancer classification, worker compensation, and tax payments and allows for paying talent from multiple talent agencies with only one invoice. Log in to your platform when tax season arrives and obtain all the information. All the data you’ll need is stored, organized, and prepared for you. 

It’s that easy.

1099 Contractor Taxes

Independent contractors file differently than the average W-2 employee. The money they earn isn’t taxed, so they must pay self-employment taxes. The amount that they have to pay depends on their total income and the state that they live in. For example, the state of California requires that contractors pay 15.3 percent in self-employment taxes. 

Contractors should receive a 1099-NEC from their employer no later than January 31st. If you use LÜK to pay your 1099 talent, you’ll have a secure system to track them all. When tax time comes around, you can easily log into your platform and access all the necessary information, which will be saved and organized.

Number of Contractors

The number of contractors can also influence how you intend to pay them. If you have one to two contractors, you may find it easier to pay them in cash or check whenever their pay period comes up. 

However, in entertainment, specifically on productions, hundreds or thousands of people work together on one project. This can make it difficult to manage how and when to make all of these payments. 

While you can take the time to figure out how to pay everyone all on your own…you can also use LÜK! 

LÜK specializes in providing entertainment payroll services tailored to the specific needs of the entertainment industry. The user-friendly platform makes tracking and managing the payroll for independent contractors in cast and crew easy. This comprehensive solution ensures freelancers are appropriately classified, workers’ compensation and payroll taxes are handled, and talent from multiple casting agencies is paid through one invoice.

One invoice!

Payment Frequency 

Whether it’s weekly, biweekly, or project-based, it’s essential to pay the talent promptly. This can be tricky when dealing with multiple contractors in different time zones or with each contractor having preferred payment methods. 

Contractor Locations 

One of the amazing things about working in the entertainment industry is that you can meet talent worldwide. But that can make it difficult when it comes time to pay them promptly and correctly. Make sure you discuss payment methods available for any international talent or contractors in your project. 

Top Contractor Payment Method Options

There are multiple ways to pay a contractor as long as you pay them on time. Some contractors may want to be paid upfront or right after finishing the job, so this should be discussed before any contract is signed or any work has begun.

1. Online Accounting Software

managing contractor payroll

Accounting software is a platform that stores, records, sorts, regulates, accesses, and shares financial data. It helps automate tedious tasks including creating financial statements, sorting taxes, and managing payroll and expenses. Not only does this save you time, but it also reduces human error and helps pay employees efficiently. 

If you’re looking for something that can pay talent on time and all from one place, then look no further than LÜK! We’re a one-of-a-kind platform created for the entertainment industry, but we’re from your average entertainment payroll service
With LÜK, you’ll have an effective way to manage and track all your 1099 talents. Our comprehensive solution accurately categorizes freelancers, takes care of employee compensation and payroll taxes, and pays talent from various modeling and casting agencies with just one invoice.

2. Direct Deposit

Direct deposits are done electronically through an ACH network. You’ll need the contractor’s bank account number, routing number, account type, and transaction type. The money is sent directly into the contractor’s account immediately and without any fees. 

You can also set up a recurring payment to the contractor’s account using direct deposit. 

3. Credit Cards

Contractors need to establish a merchant bank account to accept credit card payments. Those with only a regular bank account may be more inclined to use other payment options. Credit card payments require an added layer of security, and should any disputes arise, the process of resolution and refunds can be much faster.

4. Checks

Writing checks may be a convenient option for employers. However, it can be a major disadvantage to some freelancers as it usually takes longer to receive payment than with an electronic payment. 

Additionally, checks can easily be lost in the mail or returned due to insufficient funds. While this traditional payment method has been around for many years, many freelancers today expect to be compensated more quickly for their services.

5. Wire Transfers

Wire transfers can provide increased security and payment guarantees for larger sums of money. However, this payment method can be costly depending on your bank and the money being transferred. 

You may have to pay up to $50 or more for the service, so be sure to inform your independent contractor about any additional fees they may need to pay at the time of receipt.

6. Online Payment Apps

This has become increasingly popular among freelancers and contractors, especially if they want to receive their money fast. Venmo, Paypal, and CashApp are a few examples of the new online payment apps used to transfer to other people. 

Payment apps sometimes require fees to deposit money, which can vary depending on the amount that is being deposited. 

More About Contractor Payments

contractor payment

What are typical payment terms for contractors? 

When hiring an independent contractor or freelancer, they typically set out their payment terms. These include the pricing plan, which could be hourly, per-project, etc., the currency they would like to be paid in, the payment method they prefer, and the details of when and how frequently they expect to be paid.

What is the safest way to pay a contractor? 

The easiest and safest way to pay a contractor is direct deposit. The money is paid immediately to the contractor’s bank account without any fees or waiting period. This is also a great method to use when paying multiple people. 

How do you document cash payments to contractors? 

The IRS is extremely thorough and might want more proof than bank statements. To keep track of cash payments, you need to have the employee fill out the W-9 form so that they can file their taxes with a 1099-NEC come tax season. 

Make sure to keep track of everything in case the IRS needs to do an audit. 

Do you give contractors 1099s? 

If you paid an independent contractor more than $600 for services during the year, you must complete a Form 1099-NEC and give a copy to the contractor by January 31 of the following year.

What is a 1099-NEC form? 

The 1099-NEC is the latest form used to keep track of income earned from a job as an independent contractor, often referred to as self-employment income. This form documents money paid to someone who is not an employee. The form includes the names, addresses, tax identification numbers of the payer and recipient, and the total nonemployee compensation paid in the year.

Make Contractor Payments Simple

Paying talent for all their efforts should be easy and simple. There are multiple ways to pay your talent, and it’s best to choose a method that is easiest for you and your contractors.

LÜK simplifies paying contractors by providing a one-stop shop for entertainment payroll needs. We take care of billing and compliance so you can rest easy knowing your workers are paid the right amount on time. 

In addition to managing contractor payments, we’re also a comprehensive talent-booking platform that gives you access to the best and most varied talent. In other words, we’re here to be your industry expert, personal booking assistant, and accounting department’s most reliable partner–all in one easy-to-use platform. 

Let us take care of everything while you get the job done. 

Start paying talent on time!


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