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On Treating Freelancers With Decency

As much as I would like to address this to those publishers that are a problem, such things fall on deaf ears. So instead I want to address this to a certain subset of freelancers: those who don’t need the money.

I know quite a few freelancers who just enjoy doing work in a field, and have a great day job or spouse or both, and don’t care about the money they’re getting from some project they’re on. As a result, they don’t put effort into making sure things like contracts are delivered or payment is even relatively prompt.

But from the perspective of publishers who are forming how they’re doing business, what you’re doing hurts your colleagues who do depend on this for money, as there’s no difference to them between freelancers who need the money and freelancers who don’t. Those who do, those who have to struggle to invoke Fuck You, Pay Me, we looks like chumps because we’re sitting alongside you, who isn’t asking for that.

So if you want to help your fellow freelancers, chase after contracts and payment. Help us out by being a constant reminder of that, and of helping us being a unified force — one that doesn’t create incentives to continue hiring people who don’t need the money, and force unscrupulous publishers to shape up or dry up.

– Ryan

(There’s a related post somewhere in me about those freelancers who need the money but are timid about it.)

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6 Responses to On Treating Freelancers With Decency

  1. Ed Wedig says:

    Hear, hear! I have a full-time job, but I also freelance in the gaming industry (graphic design/layout). After many, many years, I now have a contract and process in place to get a deposit and signature before beginning work on a project. Luckily, I haven’t had to chase any gaming companies for payment, although I have had to pester a few non-gaming companies…

    The point is, freelancers need to treat their work like a business, not a hobby. The more professional, and reliable that the freelancers appear, the more respect they will get from their clients, and the easier the road will be down the line ( getting paid, getting new projects, etc).

    -Ed

  2. Unpaid says:

    I’m at the point now where I’m holding files hostage for two industry clients who won’t respond to my biweekly “what’s up” emails, which I think is utter bullshit. And these are jobs I did the right thing on. I have contracts. It’s in writing, though this was before I made sure to make a non-paying client responsible for attorney fees. It should never get to that point, but I’m starting to think it’s common practice. I want to do more industry work but this experience has made me so jaded that I’m hesitant. It’s getting so exhausting and disheartening chasing down payment, but I won’t stop.

  3. I completely understand and agree.

    I while back ago, a publisher was in arrears to me for about $5,000. A number of freelancers were also behind on what was due, but they were in the “we don’t need the money” camp, so they burned bridges as hardcore as possible. They leaked proprietary information. They stole drafts and posted them all over the internet. They caused no end of problems.

    I didn’t. I continued to pursue my options, both social and legal, to encourage said publisher to pay. But those freelancers started a smear campaign against me, because I wasn’t fighting the publisher vehemently. The reason being, I knew that if the publisher failed with future products, there would be no chance in hell of my seeing payment for my past work. They said I should have fought out of principle, and forgotten about the money. I said I needed that money, because I need to put a roof over my family’s head and feed my kids. These neanderthals said my children would be better off homeless with a father with principles than to have a “sell out” for a father.

    This is clearly an extreme example of what you’re discussing. But I must say, I feel you. People that don’t care about payment can do some great things in creative projects. But they can cause unintended problems for other workers.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Yeah. It’s reprehensible when publishers withhold payment. I’ve seen money go toward license fees & production costs for new projects when many freelancers were owed that money. That’s effectively a forced interest-free loan.

      Honestly, if the publishers that owe me paid even remotely when they’re supposed to, I would be in Seattle right now instead of Denver.

      – Ryan

  4. At least consider that those who quietly defer paychecks may be doing so with the knowledge that there’s finite money and that others on the team need it more.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      That is a far different situation than the people I’m talking about. I’m talking about those freelancers I hear about from time to time who say “Yeah, but I’m not worried. I don’t need the money.”

      – Ryan