Tuesday 29 November 2011

Freelance Lessons #1: How (not) to get paid

Should you ask to be paid?
Normally that is agreed before you sign on the dotted line and work for a company and as part of the agreement you will get paid weekly/monthly or whatever.
When you are a freelance it is quite another matter.
I agree with the editor, who has already agreed how much he can spend per issue with the publisher; what the editor wants, when he wants it and how much I will be paid to deliver it. I meet all my side of the bargain and send in an invoice in the expectation that it will be paid within 30 days of publication of the article.
Sometimes I write these articles up to two months before publication so the earliest moment I can reasonably expect to be paid is 90 days after I have written and sent in the job.
Normally there are very few hiccups.
A lot of things can happen in 90 days.
In this instance the magazine I was contracted to write for was sold. OK I thought they’re a large firm and efficient; there should be no problems in sorting everything out.
How dumb am I?
Of course there are problems and for 90 further days my invoice has been ping-ponged backwards and forwards as they try to work out who is responsible. I am NOT interested in who is responsible I just want to get paid. I don’t care how complicated the deal regarding the sale of  the paper is, that is not my problem, having money in my bank account is. It has been exceedingly frustrating and up till now I have been terribly, terribly polite and understanding.
But today I got two letters from the former publisher not dated or indeed even signed and addressed: “To Whom It May Concern”. Attached to the letters were a couple of outstanding invoices.
I was informed in the terse note that the attached invoices should be directed to the new owners and I should contact the other company with any queries.
Thank you and Goodnight.
Hands washed clean
I checked the invoices; they were for work done and published before the sale. So doing as directed I contacted the new owners who immediately responded that they had nothing to do with that and I should contact the previous company.
I got a teeny weeny bit cross.
I should have waited and counted to 10 as Granny always advised.
But SOD THAT! I thought in righteous anger and I snarled into the phone that I needed to speak RIGHT NOW to My Big in accounts.
Possibly I should not have said I was calling in the debt collectors.
Possibly I should not have said that the NUJ was going to be involved.
Possibly I shouldn’t have said that the obvious financial difficulties being experienced by the company would be a great tip for the FT.
It worked.
Not the threat of debt collectors or angry union but the idea that I might tipoff the FT.
Power of the press.
Gonna get paid….

(PS. However, I don’t think I am EVER going to be employed at the old publishing house in a hurry!)


mrsnesbitt said...

Good for you! Payment issues are a pain for small businesses/individuals - just not good to overlook the hard work that has taken place. Dxx

Cait O'Connor said...

Great result. We have to push and threaten God knows what to get anything these days don't we?

Irene said...

I'm glad that you got mad enough and put your foot down. It seems that was the only way to get your message across. They thought they could just string you along. Well, they couldn't. XOX

About Last Weekend said...

So galling that you had to go through so much. When I worked in newspapers in the UK there was one national I wouldn't do anything for as they took six months to pay (and they were one of the left wing ones)

Wally B said...

Losing it pays dividends sometimes.

Go on you know you want to...


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