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April 26, 2012 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Are you a freelancer held hostage by deadbeat clients? Add what you're owed to the world's longest invoice.
posted by quiet coyote (42 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
How does a client go $52,000 delinquent?
posted by modernserf at 10:19 AM on April 26, 2012


How does a client go $52,000 delinquent?

The bigger question would be why would a client go delinquent over a paltry $30. Some clients just hate paying for anything.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:28 AM on April 26, 2012


Yeah, I have to wonder about the stories behind some of those large figures. You'd think anyone working with such amounts would structure interim goals and payments into the freelance agreement. Maybe some fields don't work that way, such as scriptwriting. Dunno, never did one.

Also have to wonder about the person still peeved over $2 for converting Euros to Pounds. Let it go, my friend.
posted by Longtime Listener at 10:30 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had a client throw a hissyfit because I took cabs from the (terrible) hotel he put me in to a show he had me repping him at, adding about $15/day to my total invoice. Apparently, I was supposed to walk 3 miles each way through the hood in a full suit. Laughed my ass off when he told me that.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:31 AM on April 26, 2012


The real question is what goes on at a $33,000 photography job?
posted by theodolite at 10:32 AM on April 26, 2012


A lot of discretion.
posted by griphus at 10:35 AM on April 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


The real question is what goes on at a $33,000 photography job?

If it is a commercial photo shoot it would be very easy to spend that much; you might have set designers, make-up artists, wardrobe stylists, lighting crew, and so on, almost like a film production.
posted by TedW at 10:38 AM on April 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


If you cannot manage your financial to the degree that someone owes you the equivalent of six months of salary then you shouldn't be working on your own.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:39 AM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


How 'bout 60k for proofreading?
posted by Behemoth at 10:40 AM on April 26, 2012


I have a client that owes me $900, I kind of saw that coming because he was pretty bad with money management and had already filed for bankruptcy once before. But he'd paid me like $30k over several years and I kind of just assumed I would end up with some unrecoverable debt at the end.

I had another client who ended up owing $1200, but he was such a pain that I considered it a fair price for him never calling me again.
posted by justkevin at 10:40 AM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


What would be more useful is a site that lists all deadbeat clients -- their officers, and their investors, and their friends. Combine with a simple "shove off, asshole" script when they try to talk to you on LinkedIn.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:45 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Useful, but also Orwellian and witch-hunty and ripe for abuse.
posted by echo target at 10:52 AM on April 26, 2012


If you cannot manage your financial to the degree that someone owes youyou owe someone the equivalent of six months of salary then you shouldn't be working on your own.in business.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:53 AM on April 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


I have one client who is so disorganized it is impossible to get a check out of him. It's not malicious, he's just in his own world. I am convinced he must be a giant pothead or something outside of the gigs we work together and just can't remember to walk to the mail box.

The real question is what goes on at a $33,000 photography job?

When the client is spending big bucks on an ad agency campaign and planning to place ads everywhere, the actual production is just a tiny drop in the bucket.
posted by bradbane at 10:55 AM on April 26, 2012


I added mine; a former client still owes me $400 for copy-editing the second half of his publication's first issue, i.e., doing the work it took to make the raw copy I was given into something resembling a magazine. I only edited two issues of it before recusing myself, and a few months after that, in a single weekend, the magazine ceased publishing due to a lawsuit between the partners—and the poor editor's house burned down. This was the second incarnation of that particular publication, and apparently it's gearing up for round three this spring...with the same publisher and presumably an entirely new cast of characters.

The colleague I passed the freelance gig on to has fared even worse, though. He's been unemployed long-term, so the work was a small source of income for him—and the publisher still owes him several hundred dollars, too.
posted by limeonaire at 10:56 AM on April 26, 2012


Don't any of these people know about small claims court? Although I usually just shame non-paying clients on FB or Twitter or LinkedIn. Thus far, I've always gotten the money.

And why not list the names of the clients on Freelancer's Union?
posted by Ideefixe at 10:59 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


"If you cannot manage your financial to the degree that someone owes you the equivalent of six months of salary then you shouldn't be working on your own."

This statement is very naive.

Consultants regularly receive twice the amount as a regular employee in the same position. Consultants are regularly paid on standard creditor terms ... as much as 60 days (keeping track here ... 60 days after the month you perform the work your invoice should get paid ... at twice standard employee rate ... gets you to the equivalent of 6 months salary). Oh, and the client is publicly listed, so they are pushing all suppliers out another month to make their quarter look better in their public filings. Oh, and you as a consultant have employed another consultant to do some specialist work (which your client has promised you will be reimbursed for ... just add it to the invoice), and there is that travel you did to their foreign office (also paid by you, to be put on that invoice)

It is very easy to end up with 6 months of "real" salary outstanding.
posted by jannw at 11:06 AM on April 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


I know about small claims court, but for a while, I was hoping for a more amicable solution. Now it's almost two years since I edited my last issue for the client, though, so I probably should evaluate my options. Maybe I'll talk to the friendly lawyer downstairs...
posted by limeonaire at 11:11 AM on April 26, 2012


The real question is what goes on at a $33,000 photography job?

With expenses, that's easy. Figure rental for cameras, lenses, and lighting, salaries for assistants, catering, scenic design and decoration, fees for the studio or location, lab fees, hair and makeup, renting an aerial lift for an overhead shot, local permits and police if it's an outdoor shoot, and so on and so on and so on. High end photo shoots are all about acting like film productions, which is kind of insane, but they are really pretty similar from the face of it.

Anyway, $33K is small potatoes when you're talking about buying space on a few dozen (or more) billboards or taking out a bunch of full-page newspaper or magazine ads.
posted by zachlipton at 11:16 AM on April 26, 2012


I was going to add up all those delinquent receivables (knowing that the sum is just a drop in the national fiscal bucket), but people keep posting before I get to the bottom of the page.

Capitalism may be in trouble unless we can just plug our debtors directly into our creditors and let them work it out....Oh, wait, that's been done. Never mind.
posted by mule98J at 11:17 AM on April 26, 2012


Don't any of these people know about small claims court? Although I usually just shame non-paying clients on FB or Twitter or LinkedIn. Thus far, I've always gotten the money.

The last time I got majorly stiffed by a client, here's how it went down. After a few months of getting the run around from various assistants, all of whom insisted that payment was "being processed", the head of the company told me that he wasn't going to pay me, because "he didn't want to, and I couldn't make him" when I mentioned that I'd be forced to sue, his response was "fuck you, get in line" and then threatened to countersue me for harassing his staff. Turns up that this guy's entire business was built on lawsuits and labor violations.

For me, it just wasn't worth it to get sucked into all that. My time and energy was better spent finding more business. After that experience I learned to research clients thoroughly before working with them.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:41 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


In almost 20 years, I've been stiffed only about $5,000 total, $4,000 which was for one job. That one happened near the end of the .com boom, and I was raking in cash so it didn't really make much difference. Needless to say, those days are gone, that would be crippling today.
posted by maxwelton at 11:50 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been following the #getpaidnotplayed hashtag for a while, and added mine (for a little over 18 grand) to the "invoice" this morning (it appears to have scrolled off)

Last year, I was stiffed by a small specialist IT consulting shop who was in turn subcontracting my work out to their clients. The person running the consulting company (a former colleague of mine, who I thought I knew well) was billing and collecting from her clients, pocketing the proceeds, and not paying me for my services and travel expenses. Unfortunately, considering that our contract specified calendar month billing on a net-30 basis (not unusual at all for this industry and type of work), I was ten weeks into the job before I figured out I was being scammed. Unfortunately, I was told by several attorneys that a lawsuit was unlikely to be productive.

As it turns out I wasn't the only one - she had done the same thing to another consultant a few weeks prior, and only brought me on after he cut her off. Rumor I've heard is that she also did the same thing to a group of employees in another non-IT business she owned - just closed up shop one day and skipped town, stiffing her employees on their back pay, plus customers on services prepaid and not rendered.


(note to TLP if you happen to be reading this: there's a special place in hell waiting for you. I hope it's extra hot.)
posted by deadmessenger at 11:53 AM on April 26, 2012


Don't any of these people know about small claims court?

One of the issues there is that you can't sue an out of state corporation in your state's small claims, unless the deadbeat has an office or some other presence in your state. Believe me, when I got stiffed that was the first thing I considered. In an era of telework and virtual offices, this problem will only get worse.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:56 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


The real question is what goes on at a $33,000 photography job?

Could be production, could be licensing. I've seen invoices for shoots plus licensing well above 100K. In fact, I just read today that a Vogue shoot of the Syrian first lady involved a $25,000 fee for the PR firm that negotiated access for the shoot.
posted by msbrauer at 11:58 AM on April 26, 2012


I'm not sure if this campaign is related to the Freelancers Union, but they're currently advocating a Freelancer Payment Protection Act in New York state.
posted by msbrauer at 12:01 PM on April 26, 2012


In 15 years of freelancing I've only been stiffed twice; my very first client and one about 3 months ago who I knew was going to be difficult but was a friend of a friend.
posted by Mick at 12:17 PM on April 26, 2012


I'm most curious about the $10,000 in cat haircuts.
posted by maryr at 12:18 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, this is by the Freelancers Union and they will be presenting this "invoice" to NY legislature on May 22.
posted by bonefish at 1:35 PM on April 26, 2012


I'm most curious about the $10,000 in cat haircuts.

Wahl Clippers: $20
Cat wranglers: $2500
Insurance: $1000
Ambulance trip, ER co-pays, and long-term followup care for cat wranglers: $6480
posted by zippy at 1:36 PM on April 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


You can either open your cat salon in Mumbai, or you can have your $1 cat haircut day promotion. Never both.
posted by griphus at 1:38 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


oh god that was a population density joke I swear
posted by griphus at 1:38 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


What would be more useful is a site that lists all deadbeat clients

Freelancers Union has Client Scorecard.
posted by bonefish at 1:39 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


If this isn't a viral for this company, it should be.
posted by abulafa at 2:25 PM on April 26, 2012


I've stopped short of publicly shaming deadbeat clients - it feels squicky to me to air their (and my) money issues. Although my community is small enough that spreading the word that they're deadbeats might get me paid, and would definitely affect their ability to hire (and not pay) other service providers. What's the conventional wisdom? Ok to publicly shame or not?
posted by TallulahBankhead at 2:53 PM on April 26, 2012


Fuck You. Pay Me.
How to avoid having to say this by Mike Monteiro & his (super) lawyer Gabe. Even if you don't care about client services & stuff, it's pretty damned funny.
posted by morganw at 4:32 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't any of these people know about small claims court? Although I usually just shame non-paying clients on FB or Twitter or LinkedIn. Thus far, I've always gotten the money.

Well publicly shaming wouldn't work for me because it would be seen as unprofessional drama/talking shit regardless of whether I was in the right or not since my clients are usually individuals. And small claims court is an awful lot of time sucked away for work that is (by then) long in the past for a client that you have zero interest in pursuing again. Why waste more time when you could be looking for non asshole people to work for?

I guess if I were stiffed for enough (or for a lot of expenses that should have been reimbursed) I would do it, but I usually just cross that person's name off the list and pick up the phone.
posted by bradbane at 4:41 PM on April 26, 2012


it feels squicky to me to air their (and my) money issues.

Damn sight more squicky to not be able to pay your rent. I worked on a film that debuted at Tribeca this week and my invoice was outstanding until right before it opened. I did remind the producers that the luster of the reviews might be tarnished by the fact that not all crew and vendors had been paid and that it would be a shame if the critics and reviewers heard about that. Not to mention that few distribution companies rush to pick up a film that still has lingering debts.

I don't understand all this nicety-niceness about money. I did the work, I want to be paid. As the man says, fuck you, pay me!.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:55 PM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've taken exactly one client to small claims court. It was, maybe, 25 years ago. An ad agency owed me $200 for an illustration. They stiffed me for over a year. I was friends with their accountant and she told me privately that she was simply told not to pay me.

So, I filed with Small Claims Court.

Here in Indiana, when you file in SMC, they send a county sheriff to serve a summons. That got their attention. I had a check in-hand two days after the sheriff showed-up at their office. Of course, I never got work from them again, but, I was a hero with a few of their art directors for embarrassing the owners who, apparently, pulled the same bullshit with a lot of freelancers.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:00 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I manufacture stuff. I had a client, whom I thought was a large distributor in a market where I had no contacts, place a very specific custom order. I had to buy expensive materials, have custom molds made, order special packaging, etc. I got a deposit, but because she was a member of a community, and seemed on the up and up, I set the deposit level at 25%, which was stupid of me.

The deposit was the last money I saw. I ended up with more than three hundred pounds of soap...about 1200 bars. Each with her company name on them...custom molds. I couldn't resell them. I couldn't resell the molds. You can't repurpose traditional saponified soap if it includes botanicals, it's not like melt and pour or glyerine...once it has cured for 6 weeks; it's pretty much in it's final form until it has melted away from use.

That one client was pretty much the beginning of the death spiral of the company. I still make stuff, and I still trade handmade soap for stuff like goat's milk, and local honey, and eggs and produce from neighbors, and I am the go-to girl if you live nearby and need a bubbly gift basket in a hurry, but I haven't saved up enough to actually try again as a business concern.
posted by dejah420 at 6:05 PM on April 26, 2012


don't understand all this nicety-niceness about money. I did the work, I want to be paid. As the man says, fuck you, pay me! .

yeah, his advice in that video is "Get a contract." And that's great advice, but it won't do a damn thing to protect you if you're dealing with an out-and-out grifter like I was. A contract only works if you're dealing with someone who's has either personal integrity or assets that can be attached after a lawsuit.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:09 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually in my linked video, it's burn the place down. Goodfellas.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:34 PM on April 26, 2012


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