I Need To Get Paid. Now. This is Funny, Because….?

Image by jenn_jenn via Flickr

I wrote a piece about this, as yet unpublished (and therefore, itself, as yet unpaid) for The New York Times, about how sloooooooowly so many freelancers/vendors are getting paid in this crummy economy. Forget 30 days past invoice. People told me about 45, 60, 90, even 120 days.

Last week I had dinner with a friend, a fellow NYC freelancer, who’s been waiting — wait for it — a year+ for payment by one of the country’s Big Name Consumer Magazines. I gave her the name of my friend the attorney, whose letter to a local deadbeat publisher last year got me a check within days, after four months of “nyah-nyah-you-can’t-make-me-pay-you” emails. Last fall I sued, and won 50 cents on the dollar after six months, an out of state deadbeat publisher who left many freelancers nationwide empty-handed. I know that many others preferred to wait and hope.

Today was the latest mano a mano with a moron in accounts payable at yet another Big Organization who laughed in my face when I asked where my check was. She had no record of the invoice, this 30 days after submitting it. She found it risible, my impertinent assertion that, I having behaved in a professional and competent fashion promptly meeting her organization’s needs, would expect the same in return. Does collecting a paycheck really still seem like some Kryptonite defense you won’t soon be making the same damn call to someone equally rude, dismissive and unprofessional?

So here’s the current small business/self-employed/freelancer menu. You demand as much payment as possible upfront, (which many refuse), or use Paypal or a credit card to collect your dough. Or you get to be the jerk calling people to find out if they’ve paid you for the product or service you have already provided them, (and risk burning valuable bridges) or the broke jerk who’s paying high APRs to their credit cards to keep paying all those nastily insistent monthly bills that keep showing up anyway; Amex just cut me off my decades-long 9.9% fixed rate and threw me into the 15%+ variable APR sharkpond. Or we’re using our lines of credit, the ones we’re seeing cut or cut off entirely. It’s called cashflow; when it becomes a trickle because your buyers are clinging to their cash, your creditors could not care less.

I’ve earned plenty this summer. But no one’s paid me. How about you?

4 thoughts on “I Need To Get Paid. Now. This is Funny, Because….?

  1. I’m seeing 40- to 60-day payment cycles, none of which were really “announced,” they just started happening that way. And a number of clients (for lack of a better word) halved their 2008 pay rates, although this they did announce when asked. So I have no horror stories about outrageous pay delays, but because I keep hearing them, I know eventually they will happen to me, too.

    “I’ve got one word for you: Plastics.” Shoulda listened.

    1. Marc Flores

      Who would have known just how profound that “plastics” statement would become? Before my time, but I love that movie.

      Sounds like freelancing isn’t a good business to be in right now (except if you’re a programmer/developer, my friend gets paid before he starts work). Maybe I should become a life coach or a “Generation Y” consultant – some BS job that pays a ton and requires very little effort.

  2. markbolton

    I know a guy who knows a guy who could get your pay for you. It’ll cost you 15-25% – but hey, I gotta eat too! Let me know. 🙂

  3. Caitlin Kelly

    I did hire a collections attorney who charged me 30 percent. Hoping I won’t need to hire another one for a while.

    Sorry to hear, Scott, about pay cuts, which I’m also seeing. Plastics indeed.

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