Don’t Ever Be a Freelancer

Freelancer’s Union is pushing the Freelancers Payment Protection Act, which if passed, would give freelancers in New York State some recourse when clients don’t pay. To advertise how widespread the problem is, they’re compiling the World’s Longest Invoice by inviting freelancers to add their own lines of non-payment. Their total amount of unpaid fees is already $5 million, but that figure includes a $499,999 unpaid fee for a “pretending to be a horse” and a $311 entry for “this is so lame-go get a lawyer you whiny little pussies,” so it’s somewhat suspect.

Much of the list, however, is within the realm of plausibility, and it’s fun to see what people (don’t) get paid for various gigs. Check this sampling of the variety of fees for logo design:

Andrew M., Logo Design, $300
Josh B., Logo Design, $500
Kristin B., Logo Design, $200
Jeremy, Logo Design, $500
Tom K., Logo design, $250
Rachel L., Logo design, $150
William, Logo Design, $250
Dario C., Logo Design, $650
Grace N., Logo design, $100.00

Grace N. and Rachel L., ask for more money. Dario C., good work. Way to negotiate.

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7 Comments / Post A Comment

deepomega (#22)

We already have recourse. It’s called small claims court. Just make sure you have an email from the client confirming the dollar amount and the deliverable and you should be able to do it for pretty cheap.

mishaps (#65)

@deepomega go for an actual contract or letter of understanding. A simple email is going to leave things out.

Megano! (#124)

In one of my publishing classes about freelancers, the teacher literally said “Oh, you can’t get on clients for payment deadlines. They’ll pay you when they’ll pay you.” and I could not believe it. It makes me mad just thinking about it.

Re: Dario, it’s probably easier to get the client to agree to a high fee if they never intend to pay you.

jfruh (#161)

I was for 9 years (and will be again as of Monday, huzzah) a freelancer and … only once in all that time did I have a client that didn’t pay up? It was for like $300 owed to me by a company that literally went bankrupt. (For the next five years I got inscrutable paperwork from the courts every time something happened in the case, but I never saw any money.) Other near misses: once a check bounced (from a big payments management company that was subcontracted to deal with freelancers working for IBM — everyone involved was mortified and a good check was sent post-haste), and Mother Jones took like six months to pay (the checks came in the name of its creepily Orewllian-sounding parent institution, The Foundation For National Progress.)

So … editor clients: just less flaky than design clients? Am I just lucky? Am I lucky/smart to have mostly worked for big companies rather than fly-by-night shops or insane individuals?

mishaps (#65)

@jfruh I think the latter. I’m a designer with a similarly good record, but again I work for companies mostly and not individuals. Slow-jamming the payment date, yes; errors in accounting that were quickly remedied, also yes, but not non-payment. Yet. Knock on wood.

Mike Monteiro’s great talk on why you never ever design without a contract and a lawyer is also relevant here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZGra65Nob4

When I did freelance Web design, slow payment was the bane of my existence and a source of constant financial stress/overdraft fees.

One interesting tip my dad told me about is to offer a small discount (5% or less) for immediate payment. If your client is the federal government, they are actually required to take you up on this, but it might work on other large institutions too. Then again those places are usually pretty good about paying anyway…

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