The Chronicles Of A Swindled Freelancer

Being a freelancer, no matter what kind of service you offer, is fraught with plenty of stumbling blocks and there’s tons of potential for getting screwed over. In fact, it’s probably one of the primary reasons that so many creative people give up their independence, freedom and autonomy only to succumb to the lure of an unsurprisingly droll, voluntary ‘happiness-suicide’ existence as a full time employee for some soulless firm: for the steady salary and supposedly ‘no surprises’ way of life. All because of their motivation-crushing experiences with unscrupulous swindlers.

I do not speak metaphorically or in abstract terms as I have been on the receiving end of such behavior, personally. As a writer and journalist for more than 17 years, I do love a good story, and although this is not directly related to the swindling episode I would like to talk about in just a bit, I feel like I first must share an incident that happened to me, which should have taught me better about a certain kind of person who seems to feature prominently in these scenarios. Please bear with me.

A couple of years ago I was in between jobs, having taken a break and wanting to do something that didn’t involve sitting for hours in front of a computer, doing mind-numbing work while I tried not to strangle my colleague who sat listening to trashy movie OSTs on maximum volume, which I could hear loud and clear despite his use of cheap earphones. Through some contacts, I was connected to a certain socialite who as of a couple of days ago has been jailed after much controversial drama surrounding her various shenanigans. Back then, she was still controversial and frequently appeared in the tabloids who seemed to never get enough of the antics that either she or her relatives were up to.

I wasn’t concerned with any of that. Her request of me was simple enough: she wanted me to ghost write a book for her. The topic? After many long, descriptive and detailed chats over tea in what appeared to be bespoke Versace cups, sipped in an ornately over-decorated parlour featuring the head of a stag, I understood that she wanted me to come up with a book of advice for women. I thought it was a great idea, after all, we women should band together and use all the help we can get, right? Wrong. On further explanation, it turned out that the advice was for women on how to deal with their mothers in law and other extended relatives in her ‘new’ family, post marriage.

 While I proceeded to discreetly lift my jaw off the floor so I could take another delicate sip of tea while I regained my composure enough to ask, “Oh really? That’s interesting!” she enthusiastically brought out her secret weapon – the reference material. All it was really, was a copy of Victoria Beckham’s That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels and Everything in Between, which she handed over to me like a personal triumph, with a look that dared me to respond with anything other than sheer amazement equivalent to the kind a person might have expressed if faced with the cure for cancer.

 I will cut this already lengthy story short with an assurance that I didn’t take on that or any other project with her, and good thing I didn’t. Now while this should have given me some inkling of the kind of things that colossally bored and painfully wealthy women get up to, I guess I hadn’t quite learned my lesson yet.

Which is why years later, in late 2014, when I met another socialite, I allowed myself to get ensnared in a silly trap that I should have seen a mile away.

Late last year, I was introduced to a lady best described as a socialite type, from an obviously extremely wealthy family, who claimed to be a Harvard-educated writer (she could barely pronounce Harvard correctly, which should have tipped me off) wanting to start a project, ostensibly a book. 

For this she wanted to hire my services as a writer and editor. Although she initially proposed that we would be working out of an office space in Nariman Point, eventually it ended up with a work from home arrangement and a rubbish contract was sent to me. I disagreed on the terms and so sent it back, upon which she encouraged me to start work, which was more or less a bunch of nonsense rewriting stuff and some original copy. After a period marked by arbitrary demands, lots of back and forth punctuated by random, long silences in the middle when she was supposedly globe-trotting, the communication tapered off and I wised up to her asinine ways.

Of course, when I tried to get in touch, I repeatedly received a bunch of attitude from her the few times she finally did deign to reply, and her minions claimed confusion and denied any knowledge of what she was up to. Months later, she did finally pay me a fraction of the amount we had originally discussed after I fought hard for it. She even tried implying that the work I had done was worthless and that I was clearly being greedy for asking for anything at all.

I slowly found that others too had backed out of her ‘project’ but only after getting their dues because she’s clearly horrible to work with. Why don’t rich, idiotic women like her find other ways to wield their power, project their insecurities and spend their empty hours instead of preying on hard working and naive people?

I refuse to share the name of either lady, because it will not accomplish anything and I don’t wish to stoop as low as those morally illiterate women. I guess what I want you as a reader, to take away from this, is that all creative folks should insist on watertight contracts, advance part-payment and most of all, on listening to your instincts when you meet phony, manipulative posers.

In fact, heres some quality advice for how to negotiate if you’re a freelancer.

Good luck and wishing you success in your career.


[Editor’s note: The author of this piece is an avid reader of and currently creates digital content for where she writes about food and wellness related topics. She also loves her 7 year old baby, The Bicycle Project that she birthed with her friends Hemant and Sangeeta Chhabra.]


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