The other day I had that horrible feeling of, “I just got screwed.” This is not good. Because in my work life, if I get screwed there’s very little I can do to recoup the loss that won’t end up costing me more.
You see, I had invoiced a client a while back and heard NOTHING. When the client sent more work I did it thinking it was just because the first payment always takes a while. But then when I was caught up with the second batch I sent a little, “Hey, did you need any from me so that I can get paid?” email which should require being drunk to send. Because it is painful and weird and weird and weird. And weird.
“Oh, we had just cut the checks when you sent it.” was the response… which sounded very “The check’s in the mail.” to me. And we all know that the check is not in the mail.
About a week later the client asked if I could do more work and I wrote the most painfully awkward email saying, “Uh, no… because I have to make a living.” and hitting send took far longer than I wanted it to.
On one hand, I perform a service like any other and I should be paid like anyone else. My income is taxed like anyone else’s. There’s no health plan or even a guarantee of work. And the money is not so good. This is a particularly low paying job but it’s actually really interesting non wine work. So I keep doing it.
On the other, dominant hand I am really uncomfortable being assertive when it comes to myself. I am a pitbull when it comes to fighting for others but a complete and utter pushover when it’s personal. Unless I get pushed too far. But it takes a long time to push me too far. But I finally hit send and figured I’d cut my losses and find another client to fill the hole.
A few days later the client sent a lengthy email outlining where the error was, acknowledging that it wasn’t cool, letting me know exactly how and when they were paying me, telling me how much they appreciate my work, and offering me more than twice what I was making.
Let that sink in for a minute.
What’s the message here? There’s three.
First, the work you do as a freelancer, is work. Just like mowing a lawn or diagnosing a flu is work. And you should advocate for yourself and make sure you’re not working for free (but don’t call it paylancing because that is just fucking obnoxious). Make sure that clients understand the terms and conditions of your relationship and that they pay you. And if they don’t pay you, be nice but firm and refuse to do additional work until you at least have, in writing, a plan for how they are going to pay you.
Second, you are valuable. No, seriously. I’m not going to send you granola and hug a tree on your behalf but you must value yourself, your finances and your time and realize that you have a right to ask to be paid when payment is due.
Third, people, for the most part, are actually really good. They are not looking to screw you, they are not trying to get around things, they are simply human and mistakes are made. And, as you have been reminded since, what… Labor Day, it’s the holiday season. Shit is crazy.
While it was awkward for me to put out the message I learned a few things: that I am valued, that my work is valued, and that my work is good enough that they want to keep me at DOUBLE the rate we had agreed to.
That’s pretty awesome.
Stay tuned for a special blog post coming tomorrow about something unrelated to freelancing. And wine. And writing in general.