Shreya Jain has been a freelance writer since January 2009. She’s worked with some of the most reputed clients, some of them major players in their industries. However today her opinion of them is not what you see in the media.
“I was assigned to write 6 articles for their upcoming health blog. I submitted them all in time, spending enormous time and resources researching, writing and publishing them. To this day, I’m yet to receive my payment, while the client enjoys visits and ad revenue on the said blog.”, says Shreya, with a touch of disappointment.
Unfortunately, Shreya’s case is not a one off.
With media and content websites mushrooming, the demand for quick and personalized content and design has risen rapidly. Content writers, most of them freelancers, are in demand, and internet message boards are overflowing with requests for jobs.
However, in an industry as unorganized as this, and in the absence of any legal formalities or documents surrounding these jobs, it’s not surprising that often it’s the interests of these content writers that are compromised. Non payment, payment delays, rude behaviour and sometimes even an inappropriate suggestions are the most common woes of these freelancers. The amounts that these people are owed range from a couple of thousand to even lakhs of rupees, but the common grouse remains the same. Unprofessionalism and lack of ethics by the client.
We talked to some freelancers who’ve been at the receiving end of such behaviour. Their stories are quite telling, and contain valuable lessons for freelancers everywhere.
1. Ashwini, a content writer, was left with a bad taste in her mouth after owner of a reputable restaurant did the vanishing act after extracting an article from her. “About 6 weeks back a client asked me to work on an article. I promptly sent the same and have been following up for payment. Not only has he been ignoring my messages but has also threatened me that I’d never be able to freelance again if I make this conversation public.” Ashwini went ahead and did just that, and support and words of advice followed. This is the conversation Ashwini had with her client.
When she pressed for her overdue payments, she either got no replies or defiance from the client.
2. Tehriyat, a government registered writing professional, has been at the receiving end of not one but three clients who have disappeared on her, and is missing payments to the tune of 60,000. She was working as a contractual writer for a client where she’d worked on several articles over a period of a year. The agency she worked for had also assigned a designer. It’s been a year and neither the deisgner nor Tehriyat have seen any money in their accounts.
“There are many more such instances. A client from Bangalore, who is now based out of Dubai, still tells me that he will send the payment and many times has lied about it.”, says Tehriyat.
3. In another instance, Simona, a freelancer, recalls when a popular socialite had commissioned her for ghost writing her book. Simona did go on to do a lot of groundwork and initial set of articles for the book as per the informal agreement but wasn’t paid her dues, despite repeated requests.
“She claims to be a writer and talks big but when it comes down to reality, she’s a huge fake and still owes me money for largely stupid rewriting work that she got me to do while we were still negotiating my so called contract. She ignores my calls, messages and emails….Too many unscrupulous people out there who think writers are just playthings.”
4. Not just freelancers, but even artists and writers on a retainer have had bad experiences with their clients
“I handled a social media plan for a big brand for a monthly retainer fee of 20,000.00 but when the time came to pay, I was paid only 5,000 and all shit excuses were given despite having a written agreement. From that day on, I decided I won’t do any freelance work till I am paid 50% advance.“, says an artist who wished to remain anonymous.
5. It’s not just unpaid dues. Freelancers are often subject to abuse when they’re scouting for jobs online.
So, what does the freelancer do to protect their interests and avoid bad experiences like the above? We have compiled a list of all the measures one can take.
1. Take it in writing
“Have all the terms of the contract written down pay before committing. Preferably get the document signed and sealed by the client, have it scanned and sent it back to you. Should the worst happen, you have a somewhat legal document to hold the client by. A good contract should include and elaborate on all possible scanarios, for example, what happens if the project gets cancelled.”, suggests Shruti Bajaj, a content writer who also suffered various payment delay issues and has learnt the hard way.
2. Don’t submit the work till you’ve received full payment
Submit a preview or in case of a design, a watermarked copy to the client. Once approved by the client, send the finished work and the copyright-free content after receiving the payment.
3. Instead of phone, discuss all terms on email or chat
It’s easy for the client to go back on their words from a verbal discussion. An email or chat would serve as a proof of the contract should future disputes arise.
4. Ask for advance
In cases where significant resources are to be used for an assignment, insist on receiving a part payment for the work.
5. Deliver and due diligence
Ultimately, make sure to fulfill your end of the bargain in time and up to the required standards, so no disputes about lack of promised deliverables can arise.
“I have also seen the other side. A lot of my friends have startups and they get their work freelanced. They complain that the freelance designer/ writer is not delivering on time or throwing tantrums or going back on his word after advance payment.”, says Shruti Bajaj.
6. Name and shame them
This is the last resort for many a frustrated workers who’ve been taken for a ride. When polite requests, desperate demands and angry threats have all failed, shaming them publicly seems to do the trick. No client of repute can afford to be associated with deception and fraud.
Recommended Read: The Chronicles Of A Swindled Freelancer