We’ve Gotta Talk About: Freelance Workers Not Getting Paid

Getting into the wonderful world of publishing is rough. A great way to get your foot in the door (or at least get close enough to the door that maybe you can start politely knocking), is by doing freelance work. It’s a great way to practice your writing or editing skills, get your name out there, and do some networking. The one drawback that I’ve found when it comes to doing freelance work, however, is not getting paid. And that’s just unacceptable.

I’m currently in the middle of getting shafted for the second time in the freelance world. I know…fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on this new guy who’s trying to get out of paying up.

In 2014, I had a very brief stint as a freelance editor for a new publishing company based out of Alabama. All of the work I did was communicated via email since I was still located up in Michigan. I never actually spoke to the woman who owned the company. It was literally all emails. I was given my first assignment, which was to edit a complete manuscript. I was given two weeks to get it completed and returned. I worked my ass off and got it done in 5 days. When it came time for payment, based upon the contract I had signed, I kept getting brushed off. The publisher said that I wouldn’t get paid until the edit was complete and that it wasn’t because they were having another editor look at it. In the mean time, they asked if I could do some pro-bono work.

My answer was, of course, a resounding “no”. They weren’t even paying me for work that I had completed, what makes them think I want to work for them for free? Long story short, I never saw that money (over $300), and I terminated my contract shortly after.

A few weeks ago I applied to be a writer for a new entertainment website. It was agreed that I would write 3, 300-350 word articles per day, and each article would be worth $4. I wrote 27 articles before I went on a two week vacation (which was another sore spot for them…apparently their freelance writers aren’t allowed to go on a vacation that was booked and paid for months prior to beginning writing for them…but I digress). I returned from vacation and it was radio silence. I was never sent any more articles to write. I was removed from their “Team of Authors Page”. Fine, whatever. But I did need to get paid for the 27 others I had already completed. Especially seeing as they’re still displayed on the website. I sent the website owner, the man who “hired” me and gave me all of my assignments, an email last Sunday about payment. I mean…that’s $108 we’re talking about. So far, I’ve heard not a peep. Surprise, surprise. I’m giving him until this Sunday before I send another email. I refuse to let this happen to me again.

I read an (admittedly outdated) article earlier today that stated that something like 14% of self-employed people in New York alone never receive payment for work done. I don’t even want to think about how high that percentage is today.

Not paying people for work they’ve done for you is not only immoral, it’s a pretty shitty way of going about growing a business. I’ve never taken a business class, but I’m fairly sure “Paying your Employees” is kind of Business 101 content. I’m trying to not let these two incidents taint my view of freelance work, because I really do see a benefit of it, but it’s difficult when you’re owed over $400 for work you’ve completed, to their satisfaction and agreed upon terms.