I’ll quote from the email directly:
Your invoice got lost in accounting again.
And, no, I’m no longer working for this client. They did pay me the full amount they owed for all the work I’d done, and sent the check Fed Ex — which I insisted on — and they graciously actually did.
The great challenge of working freelance?
When do you stand up for yourself?
When do you accept crap without complaint ?
I started freelancing as a magazine and newspaper journalist when I was still a college undergraduate. I needed that income to pay my bills, for tuition and books and clothes and housing and food, with zero financial aid or any help from my parents. My writing was not some cute hobby or unpaid internship or spare change I planned to blow on shoes or partying. This was the cash I needed to support myself.
So I learned at a very early age to negotiate, to ask for what I thought was fair. I once overheard an editor begging a fellow freelancer, (a man, older than I), not to quit his weekly column, for which he was getting — in 1978 — $200/week. She was paying me $125. I was 19.
Lesson learned. You can’t get what you don’t ask for.
But you can’t ask for what you don’t know is possible.
Every woman working for income needs to read this great book, “Women Don’t Ask”, which teaches women to negotiate (better) and explains culturally why we often just don’t even try. Men usually do!
Here’s a long, smart and persuasive blog post about why women freelancers so often undervalue their skills and under-price them as a result.
Like many self-employed people, I work alone in a super-competitive field, one (journalism) that is shrinking and whose pay rates have been cut in recent years even as our living costs soar. That means being up to date on what’s happening out there with my colleagues.
Are they getting screwed, too? (Often, yes. When I posted the comment above on Facebook, I quickly got sympathetic replies from peers across the nation with similar stories.)
Standing up for yourself, all alone, is scary.
If freelancers, (some of whom just refuse to stand up for themselves), just keep on accepting the bullshit — “Oh the person in accounting who writes the checks is on vacation” –– you’re going to be a broke, angry, bitter doormat. The people feeding you this BS certainly got their paychecks! Their lights are on, their phone bills and rent paid.
But if you fight the bullshit and demand better treatment, even politely at first, people can dismiss you as a diva, never work with you again and tell everyone they know you’re a pain in the ass.
This one, on how to avoid burnout, is something I need to read more often.
If you work for yourself, how do you negotiate this crucial balance between assertiveness and deference?