with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
We’ve all heard the horror stories about clients who don’t pay, of course. I’ve shaken my head more times than I count, as fellow freelancers recount for me how this client or that one owes them thousands of dollars for completed work.
I have a confession to make: I’ve always felt… well, a little smug listening to those stories. I’m not saying it’s ever okay for a client not to pay up as directed by their contractual obligation, you understand, but in listening to more than one story I thought to myself, “How on earth did she continue working for them without getting paid? Why didn’t she just say, ‘Until payment is current, I need to cease work on this project.’??” Non-payment—I thought—was quite possibly a result of a freelancer who wasn’t professional enough, assertive enough to push for payment in a timely manner.
Naturally that was practically an engraved invitation for karma to come bite me on the ass. I should’ve known better.
In seven+ years of freelancing, I’ve only gotten burned on payment twice. I think that’s a pretty good record, so I can’t complain too much. Moreover, neither situation has left me looking for huge chunks of money, either, so if I never got paid, financially it’s not a huge deal. A quick perusal of The World’s Longest Invoice reassures me that I am still small potatoes in this arena. Heh.
The first situation happened a couple of years ago, and involved a client just like the ones you can so often find on Clients From Hell. It was a Really Big Project and was going to lead to Really Big Things, all of which seemed to require hours upon hours of phone calls and emails before there was even a contract. And then the client was very specific about the work required, and finally I turned in an actual assignment… which they hated. I don’t think I’m infallible, or anything, but that’s never happened to me before. I did what I was told to do and then ripped apart for not doing what they wanted. Apparently this job required omniscience; it was suddenly all clear. I backed out of the contract as gracefully as I could manage, explaining that I didn’t think I was really the person they needed. Payment for the work completed was promised, and I made a mental note not to hold my breath.
Good thing, too—they never did pay me. I didn’t pursue it, either, because the stench of Utter Crazy on that entire project made me just happy to have escaped.
Today, however, I had to send an email that quite literally made me a little sweaty. Let’s be clear: the amount of money owed to me is in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands. It’s not going to make or break me. However, I did the work requested, I did it on time, and I did it well. It was published; it was actually published in a major magazine, one which I know could easily pay my bill using money from their petty cash drawer. (Do companies have petty cash drawers anymore?) It is not the case that the people involved are crazy or scattered, or that the company is broke.
They simply haven’t paid me. I submitted the work in December, and it’s now June. And I still haven’t been paid.
For a while, the editor who hired me sent back the obligatory “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, let me look into that for you,” emails. We would go back and forth, and then… radio silence.
Ordinarily I would stay on top of something like this with a vengeance, but I’ve had kind of a crappy year and a lot of distractions. (When my kid was in the hospital, I wasn’t doing invoice battle with anyone, for example.) So maybe it’s gone longer than it should because I kept just walking away from it.
Still, the last three emails went unanswered.
So today I sent one more email, and I copied it up the food chain to The Powers That Be, and I made it clear that in two weeks I will seek legal action pursuant to their non-payment, if I have to.
Said legal action would undoubtedly cost me more than what they owe me. It might be a stupid thing to do.
Nonetheless, I’m just the stupid sort of person who would do it, anyway, because I can’t shake the feeling that the big magazine is probably just disorganized, sure, but also maybe they figure the little guy will eventually just give up and walk away in disgust. I’m the sort of stupid person who would rather make a stink, make things difficult for them, and yes, make sure that all of my freelancing cohorts know exactly which magazine thinks it’s okay to stiff their freelancers, than walk away and not lose even more money.
But honestly, I hope I don’t have to do that. I hope they just pay the damn bill.
Subscribe to blog via RSS