Life at the other end of the carrot: When freelancers don’t get paid

No, most people are not civilized as much as I would like to think. It’s a jungle out there. Freelancing has a lot of advantages, a lot more advantages than being an employee; I admit it. But it also has some disadvantages, painful ones.

How does it feel when you work your heart off and at the end you either don’t get paid the already-agreed-upon amount or not at all? It simply sucks! One feels he/she has been abused. And the most surprising thing is that more often than not, for the Lebanese, it’s a game where there is nothing to win besides the illusion of power.

I personally do not understand why people engage in that path. I mean if they are getting work done perfectly, why wouldn’t they pay for it and keep the person who provided that excellent work as an asset for future business? I mean, let’s get real. Most of today’s freelancers have a presence on the internet; whether on their blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc… If they harm them, disrespect their agreements with them and it’s over. No one will want to work with businesses that ill-treat people.

When this kind of incident happens the first time, it really hurts, it’s borderline depressive even. Sometimes there is nothing to be done but to blame and shame. Sometimes, preventive measures are enough to discourage businesses to misbehave.

  • Always clearly communicate your terms before getting the job done even if a third party got you the job. YOU will be executing the job, not the third party. (Whatever the good feedback you got about the business.)
  • Get a written contract signed before getting the job done. Include a penalty clause. (Keep in mind that the ones who break their contracts, are those who believe that YOU would not engage in a legal pursuit BECAUSE it’s going to be long and hefty.)
  • If you want credit for you work, mention it. (People won’t do it by default.)
  • If possible, do not hand any work before payment is done. You can also require that 50% (or other %) be paid in advance and 50% (or other %) be paid upon completion of the project.
  • It should be clear that any extra work done beyond the scope of what was previously agreed upon is NOT FREE. Included them in the contract or in a second contract!
  • Do not let anyone fool you with promises of future projects. You are charging per project, not per promises.
  • If they refuse to pay all the amount at once, you can suggest payment by installments and still get paid in full. (Golden tip by @coo1pinK)

After asking a bit around, I noticed a most freelancers have experienced something of the sort at least once in their career. Some find themselves at crossroads where they have to sign a paper that states that they have perceived the full amount although, in reality, they did not; just because they need the money now.

Businesses do not work for FREE, why do they expect freelancers to do so?

There are interesting several posts about freelancing and the power-seeking businessmen in Lebanon on “Lorena’s Epiphany“. I also came across a nice post that treats about the same issue: “Freelancers Beware: Gentlemen’s Agreements Don’t Work. 6 Tips For Success.” by SocialPmChick.

If you are a freelancer, how did you deal with it and secured yourself? Any other tips you could share with other freelancers who are struggle with this issue?

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