A horror story from the pits of freelancer-hell. Dedicated to those that, like I, must learn these lessons. May you adopt these (incredibly obvious) truths and become empowered.
I had spent the last ten minutes trying to close accounts, filter emails directly to the trash, and protect writing. This was the last step. This was the nuclear option. I typed “Alright, boys, that about does it for me. Peace.” and closed the window.
“Alright, boys, that about does it for me. Peace.”
It had only been a month, but that was enough. I had actively been working when they wrote that they were fooling with my money. That was the brick to the face that made me realize any money lost was worth it to be rid of these people.
It wasn’t even that much! $27. You could argue, “What’s the big deal? It’s only $27.” To which I reply, “I agree. I did the work. I should be paid. It was only $27.”
It’s been a hard lesson to learn. But, I learn by doing, so I guess I’m one step ahead at this point. But where did it go wrong?
Luckily, a friend and long-time freelancer immediately recognized the red flags and empowered point of view that would have saved me a lot of stress.
For the scanners who don’t care about the story…
- You accept work. My client assigned pieces. They (and myself) never asked if I wanted to, or even could, accept the work.
- Rush jobs cost more. My client would assign pieces with next-day or same-day deadlines with no change in price.
- If the payment is wrong all work stops. There is no excuse for the payment to be wrong. If it is continuing on “in good faith” means they are taking advantage of you.
- Attitude counts for a lot. My client had an attitude. Rude. Uncooperative. Clearly disorganized. Plus one completely inappropriate dick joke when I asked about a hard deadline.
You Accept Work. It Is Not Assumed.
The online messaging system was, seemingly, always abuzz. I frequently woke up with a new article assignments due the next day. Soon, that increased into two assigned articles with no change in deadline.
My friend laid out that, as a freelancer, I can either accept or deny work. New and consistent work is wonderful, but I have the right to turn it down.
You are a freelancer. You choose when you work and what work you do.
He was right, of course. I realized that I had been so wrapped up in being grateful for the work, and wanting to impress, that I had never questioned the fact that I had never asked for more work.
Rush Jobs Cost Extra
From that point on next-day or same-day deadlines were assigned in the middle of the night (including one assignment I received at noon on New Years Eve that was due that night.)
Piggbacking on his first nuggets of wisdom, my friend was very clear that rush jobs come with additional charges. And after seven articles of stress, crashing at 1am, and turning down social engagements to write ill-payed articles, I can definitely appreciate why there should be an extra charge.
Stress costs money. Define what a “rush job” is for you, and do not yield. Rushed work, rightly, costs more.
The Almighty Dollar
The first payment was wrong. I couldn’t reconcile the total. I went back and asked for clarification. I was told that they had lowered client prices, and therefore freelancer prices.
I went back to the job posting and grabbed a screenshot of the rates I’d agreed to. I was told it would go into effect on the next assignment.
This happened over and over again. Payments were forgotten, or wrong. Each time I went to them to point out their mistake, there was not a whiff of regret or shame. It was as though I was the problem.
At any point during this journey, it would have been advisable to stop all work until the payment is rectified. But it wasn’t until they literally held my overdue money hostage until separate work was completed that I finally had enough.
There is no excuse for the money to be wrong. If it is, at all, stop and evaluate.
Read The Room
If your client’s disregard for your time, your pay, or your agreement isn’t enough to convince you this relationship is not in your best interest, then consider this: what is their attitude?
My client was not immediately rude. Like all toxic relationships, their true nature revealed itself later. But when it did, it never changed. Requests for input frequently went without reply. The assumption of work was offensive.
After receiving an article at noon, due that night, on New Years Eve, I reached out with “I just got this. How hard is this deadline?” My client responded, “Pretty hard. lol.” I was so thrown that it took me forever to realize it was a dick joke. Just before going nuclear, I expressed some concern over the limitations of an article. My client responded “DO BETTER!” (with a purple devil face).
If the client is not being professional, they are disrespecting you. If they disrespect you, they will also disrespect your work and your money.
If your client is going to treat to you badly, they had better pay you enough to be worth the trouble.
It’s You, Not Me.
The midnight assignment sprees; the doubling up on assignments; and the lack of response when asking for guidance all pointed to a problematic client. No matter how much you may need the money, these types of clients will never make it worth your while.
Before I went to sleep that night, I received $27. So…there’s that.