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This post is part of a series of freelancer stories about waiting to get paid -- or never getting paid.
Presently 71% of freelancers have trouble getting paid by their clients and the average unpaid freelancer is owed over $6,000 in income.
Read on for first-person accounts from Freelancer Union members facing this issue -- and their thoughts on how to solve it.
My brother’s former boss hired me to help set-up new office space in NYC for a tech start-up primarily based in Europe. It took the company weeks to make the decision to hire me – which I chalked up to international communication issues.
Finally, I was hired for the months of September and October to both set up the office space and plan a soft launch event for their product during Ad Week.
Because I knew and trusted my contact in NYC, I went ahead and started work without a contract, though I did send my salary requirements and scope of work via email for their records.
I was told the contract was in the works.
I proceeded to organize vendors, source supplies, find caterers, etc. There was some drama around whether to have the launch party in the office or at a venue nearby; they changed their minds about 6 or 7 times.
The indecisiveness was alarming, but I rolled with it and did my work.
The entire time, I kept asking for the contract.
Finally, the week of September 21, the majority of the folks from Europe came to town. I had a few meetings and eventually received the contract. The rate was correct, but the terms and conditions were way out of line.
I wasn’t about to agree to a six-month non-compete and 90-day payment terms. It just didn’t make sense for the scope of my work! So, I redlined the contract and sent it back.
They were surprised that I had issues with the T&C, but after about a week I finally got hold of someone saying my changes were approved.
At this point, I was told that I was only hired for the month of September and not October. They hired an office manager and I was to give her a download on everything that I had set up – which I did without complaint.
*I was now a week out of the job and still hadn’t received payment. *When I followed up, I was told there was an issue with my invoice and that the company wanted a work log.
I had never been asked to submit my hourly tasks and my rate was a day rate. Furthermore, I had a clearly stated overtime fee after an 8-hour day. One of my meetings was a dinner and one was over coffee on a Sunday.
They were surprised I charged them for that time.
Then, the people with whom I worked from Europe* claimed that I didn’t work on certain days.* So, I had send over 10 emails as proof that I worked and the work was completed.
At this point, the CEO got involved and told me they wouldn’t pay because he didn’t meet me while he was in NYC for 2 weeks.
Obviously, this wasn’t my fault. No one indicated that I needed to meet with the CEO and, because I was moving their office, I wasn’t working from an office.
Finally, I started copying a lawyer friend on emails. I didn’t need her to do anything, but just letting them know that I had a lawyer in my court made me feel better.
At this point, things started to get ugly, I was compelled to threaten a lawsuit for breach of contract and nonpayment. All of this was very embarrassing for my brother’s former boss – who was satisfied with my work and wanted to hire me for other events.
Finally, he had to tell them that they needed to speak with an NY/US-based attorney to explain the laws here and understand that they needed to pay me.
After over 6 weeks of email exchanges, I received payment confirmation that a check is in the mail.
The amount due to me is over $7000.
That is the long, short story of the last 2 months of my life. I’m happy to share it because I hope it helps others. I knew better than to work without a contract, but because I trusted my contact, I let it slide.
When it came to fighting to get paid,* I’m glad I didn’t give up or accept less. *I was ready to take further action if necessary, but I’m glad it didn’t come to that.
I know the work I did was good. I know my invoice was in order. I know the law is on my side.
Trust that you'll be paid for the work you've done shouldn't be unfounded.
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