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Freelancers Collect

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Freelancers Union creates the 'World's Longest Invoice' to mark unpaid freelancer fees Freelancers Union creates the "World's Longest Invoice" to mark unpaid freelancer fees (Freelancers Union)

Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of the Freelancers Union, talks about the proposed Freelancer Payment Protection ActFreelancers: do you have deadbeat clients? Call (212) 433-WNYC (9692) or comment here.

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Comments [29]

oDesk Trainer from Dhaka, Bangladesh

This is incredible news for the freelancer! Thanks so much for sharing about freelancer union insurance. I know FU is a non-profit organization but someone said that "FU insurance is quite expensive". But I don't know is it actually true of false. Can you tell me about something.

Jun. 03 2013 09:26 AM
amy from Niagara, Ontario

After experiencing being stiffed a few times I started getting a deposit of 50% before starting the job and the remaining 50% before they receive files. If someone balks at doing this, I proceed with caution. I did have one instance where a client paid the deposit, I did the work, and then they weren't going through with their project... for some reason they thought they didn't need to pay the remaining 50%. I had done more than one concept and all were print ready when they dropped the product I had designed the packaging for. Needless to say, I still needed to be paid for my work. Went through hell with the marketing manager and finally ended up talking to the owner after sending a letter than proved to be effective in another instance as well. I was paid immediately.

That and two other times (when I first began freelancing) are permanently etched into my mind and to some degree changed the way I view people in business. I cringe when I hear the words, "it's only business". To me, it's your character, your word and in no way whatsoever should they be comprised just to save a buck or stiff someone causing undue stress to one's livelihood. Imagine their reaction if their paycheque was held back a month or two or forever.

Jun. 08 2012 10:04 AM
Lynn from NJ

As a freelance court reporter for the past 29 years, it has been very difficult at times to collect a check from certain law firms. In fairness, some law firms pay on a timely basis. Unfortunately, there have been far too many times when repeated bills have been sent and calls made to other law firms with no payment ever being received. The only recourse is small claims court. Who has time to spend an entire day in court? Certain unscrupulous law firms know that we probably won't waste time trying to collect when we can better use the time actually working for people who pay. You can bet the deadbeats never get another transcript out of me! It would be beyond fantastic if New Jersey would adopt similar legislation that would protect the ability of freelancers to be paid for work that they have done without having to jump through hoops to get that payment.

Jun. 02 2012 05:08 PM
Bijou Miller

I listened to the Freelancers Union piece with a lot of interest. In a perfect world, a contract stating that a freelancer must be paid by a certain time (30 days) and that would include penalties for not getting paid in that time frame would actually work. In the real world, large corporations sign those contracts and then completely disregard them. As the wife of a freelancer, we have had to battle this from the very first job. The latest debacle involved a large law firm that kept jobbing in our contractors and extending the contract by months, but were not paying on time. They have now gone bankrupt and we are left with a loss of $64,000. Sara says it is a moral issue. You certainly have that right.

May. 31 2012 11:47 AM
DC Listener

I freelanced between jobs doing social media for a smallish nonprofit that I still really like. Every month (the only pay period they would allow) something went wrong with paying me. I ended up being stiffed part of the final amount they owed but after spending a month to get the last payment, I gave up. I would've loved to have any recourse, even if I didn't use it because it was clear that part of the reason I was being jerked around was because I was a lone contractor. I hope a movement like this makes it to DC!

May. 30 2012 02:39 PM

Case in point:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/28/waking-up-to-major-colonoscopy-bills/?src=me&ref=general

"It was a similar situation when Ms. LaMontagne went for her colonoscopy. She said she told Dr. Michael Krumholz in Manhattan about her husband’s experience and her concerns about a lack of coverage for full anesthesia. She said she was not told about conscious sedation, which is not available at his practice. Instead, Ms. LaMontagne said, she was told that full anesthesia was standard practice. She went ahead with the procedure in February.

Dr. Krumholz accepted $192 from Ms. LaMontagne’s insurance company, Freelancers Insurance Company, which is affiliated with the Freelancers Union. But the insurer rejected the bill from the anesthesiologist, Dr. Joanne Goldman, because she is out of network.

So Dr. Goldman’s charge was sent to Ms. LaMontagne: $2,800. She called Dr. Krumholz’s office to ask about this charge and any others of which she might be unaware. She said she was told there would also be an additional “facility fee” of $1,800 charged by the endoscopy clinic."

May. 29 2012 02:33 PM

As a freelancer, I don't need advocating against my deadbeat clients - I'm used to getting stiffed and collecting all on my own - I've done it for the last 33 years.

WHAT I NEED IS ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE NOT WORTHLESS HEALTH INSURANCE!!

DON'T BUY THE FU® "Insurance" BS!!

May. 29 2012 12:05 PM
Carmine from Brooklyn

My deadbeat story is about a video promo gig I got after having just moved to NYC in 2000. It was for a small record company who needed a promo video for one of their bands. I drew up an estimate, made the video and had them sign an invoice upon delivery of the video. The invoice stated half payment upon delivery and the balance due after 30 days. After 30 days I contacted them and they told me they were not going to pay because they thought the amount was too much. I reminded them that they had signed an invoice but this had no effect on their decision. I ended up going to small claims and they paid me a little bit less than was due but I was happy with the result. How anyone could receive a product, sign an invoice and still refuse to pay a freelancer, is a despicable move in my book.

May. 29 2012 12:03 PM

Freelancers Union health insurance is FOR PROFIT.

This is why the insurance is KRAP®!!

It is BUSINESS AS USUAL!!

Nothing altruistic, here!!

You can bet that Horowitz, as the president/CEO of Freelancers Union Insurance Co.™ is NOT advocating hard for a single-payer health insurance system.

Her payday depends on something different.

May. 29 2012 12:00 PM
Edward from NJ

If you're a full time freelancer, you're running a business with multiple clients. In that situation, net 30 should be acceptable because you've got different clients on different schedules. If you only have one client who you depend on to "pay your bills", you're probably really an employee -- not a freelancer -- and that's a whole other issue.

May. 29 2012 12:00 PM
Denise from Huntington, NY

As a freelance writer and editor, one thing I've found, over and over, is an attitude about writers that we are artists who care more about our art, our work, than about money. So somehow even following up on invoices and demanding better payment terms is seemed somehow crass or distasteful of us. As though we're doing what we do for love, not money. It's maddening. I do love what I do, but it's far less an art than it is a business I'm running, in service of little things like paying my mortgage and keeping my kids in sneakers!

May. 29 2012 11:58 AM
Dan Winckler from Williamsburg

I'm a member of the Freelancers Union and I am tired of its campaigns asking its members to shame their clients by complaining about unpaid invoices in public. It would be counterproductive and extremely bad for business to publicly call out my business's clients for late payment.

May. 29 2012 11:58 AM
Clif

I've been freelancing music & web design for almost 15 years. Thankfully, I've never actually been stiffed, but have had to chase down some money. I attribute this to my brisk management style. I manage my clients with tough love and have the common sense to know when to avoid a client all together. I ALWAYS get a deposit of 50% up front when the Statement of Work is accepted.

I think that sometimes the problem is that we (freelancers) are so desperate for a job that we forget and/or bypass some simple common sense practices. Deposits are the golden rule!! If a client starts hand-wringing when you ask for the deposit, that clues me in that they either can't pay, that their budget is too tight, or they never intended to pay you.

So the moral of my story is:

- use common sense
- take your gut feelings seriously
- get a deposit!
- manage your clients, don't let them manage you!

May. 29 2012 11:57 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I have a deadbeat client who is an attorney.

An attorney friend assured me that I can go to the Department of Labor with my complaint - no new law necessary. If nothing happens, I can sue.

May. 29 2012 11:57 AM
Jenny from Inwood

As a freelancer who has been waiting for more than 2 years to get paid $5,000 (and have slogged through court proceedings as a result), I have firsthand experience with this issue. I live in NY and the deadbeat company is in Minnesota. Though I support NY-based legislation to support freelancers being able to collect, what I wonder what it will do to support freelancers who work with clients who are based out of state?

May. 29 2012 11:56 AM
Ben from Westchester

One trick that worked for me when I freelanced -- I had a partnership with a friend who also freelanced, but in a different business. We would do each others "collections" work, trading about an hour each week.

I found that if I called for collection on my own unpaid debts, I seemed a bit more desperate and it was harder to challenge people who came up with various excuses for non-payment.

When I called as the accounts receivable group for "Sarah," however, I could be extremely hard-nosed. I would ignore excuses and just keep asking directly when we might see a check on invoice number 978, or whatever.

It increased my collections and decreased my receivables tremendously.

May. 29 2012 11:55 AM
Bob from Flushing

The simple fact is: The longer a company holds onto money, the longer that money continues to make money for the company. I worked for a very large media company that routinely stalled payments to freelancers in addition to routinely dragging out payments to many companies that provided services to our company.

May. 29 2012 11:55 AM
Tim Goldman from Jackson Heights, NY

I always include a 2% surcharge for payments not made within 30 days at the bottom of my invoices.

Also I started using Freshbooks this year, and allowing customers to pay either by check or PayPal, and I've noticed clients pay more quickly using this service.

May. 29 2012 11:55 AM

You can write whatever you want at the bottom of your invoice.

That will be ignored just as the TOTAL DUE line will be ignored.

May. 29 2012 11:54 AM
Alan from Gowanus

With the ubiquity of internet reviews, social media, etc. companies have no where to hide if you threaten to trash their online reputation, contact their clients, etc. It's worked for me the few times I wasn't paid. It's just not worth the hit to their rep to stiff a freelancer out of small change.

May. 29 2012 11:54 AM
Molly from nyc

To the caller.. don't put net 30 dyas, put due upon receipt. Also, you can put al the clauses in your contract you want.. but two things 1) often the client will want you to sign their contract 2) how do you make good on your clauses for late payment etc?? It seems freelancers have no recourse other than small claims. How to you enforce your contract?

May. 29 2012 11:54 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

Have been imnpressed with the amount of attention Freelancer's Union is bringing to this problem; thanks!

My best deadbeat client story is I worked for an educational publishing company 4 years ago, that required freelancers work 60 days BEFORE the company would pay the first invoice; at the time, I was so desperate for work, I agreed to this insane arrangement. I got paid for the first two invoices I billed, but then for the 3rd and 4th, the company claimed they were strapped for cash, and couldn't pay ANYONE until a larger publishing company paid them for their sub-contract.

I was owed $7000.00 for about 2 and a half months work of full-time freelance work, and I finally contacted the show segment "Shame,Shame Shame," and told the producer my story; she emailed me back, and said they would have an interest in profiling the company I worked for. I immediately sent this email to the owner of the company that owed me money, and was paid out half my money within a few days, and the rest in 2 weeks. Meanwhile, many of my other fellow freelancers labored for MONTHS to get their money. Shame shame indeed!

May. 29 2012 11:53 AM
Jim

Who are the biggest culprits? Large companies or small companies.

May. 29 2012 11:53 AM

PLEASE, PLEASE... P L E A S E...

...ask Ms. Horowitz why the crappy, expensive, FOR PROFIT HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANY!!!

As touchy-feely as the Freelancer's Union advertising is the HEALTH INSURANCE IS FOR PROFIT!!

4 PROFIT!!!

May. 29 2012 11:52 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Not paying, or paying as late as possible, is how the rich get richer.

May. 29 2012 11:51 AM
Robert from NYC

Ah, the balanced news syndrome, lol. There is very little that is balanced. Sometimes one side and only one side is correct. This station is very guilty of the balance syndrome. Find the right side when there is one and report that, we don't need to hear the wrong side when there is one!

May. 29 2012 11:47 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Hugh, Where is there a ranking of health insurance plans?

Brian, I believe a show on increasing cost Medical Insurance premiums would be very useful.

May. 29 2012 11:27 AM
carole from NYC

I have been a freelancer for 15 years, selling an online service rather than a product. I provide the service and then send an invoice, always assuming that my clients will pay up--especially since I am dealing with clients at established academic institutions. Every year, I end up spending as much time dealing with non or late payment issues as I do with the actual provision of service. It's incomprehensible to me how people accept and use the service and then think they can get away without paying for or paying for it 6 months later. I could never succeed with the business if I demanded payment prior to delivery of service, by the way.

May. 29 2012 11:19 AM
Hugh

Freelancers Union has done terrific work raising an issue that has gone completely unaddressed for decades. I've had several clients try to get away without paying me. (I gotten each to pay . . . eventually.)

The real kicker is that _all_ a freelancer can ever recover in court is what is actually owed on the invoice — no additional costs, no punitive damages. So the client is in a no-lose situation when it tries to skip payment.

One question for Freelancers Union: Why is their health insurance plan among the _worst_ rated in the state?

May. 29 2012 11:18 AM

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