As one of my freelance friends recently noted on a Facebook post, the best days in a freelancer’s life are when the checks arrive. Lately, those days have been farther and farther apart.
This is the first year in 10 years of freelancing that I’ve actually woken up in the middle of the night worried about cash flow. The money is there–I’ve done the work and billed the invoices. But one large client went into Chapter 11 just as I was completing the first third of a major project. No worries, the editor assured me. All freelancers will be paid. Well, it took several calls and threats to stop work on the project before the second check finally arrived. Thankfully, the third check arrived with no problems.
Another client, a large professional medical organization, keeps “losing” my paperwork.
But the excuse that really makes me crazy is when I’m told that since my client’s client hasn’t paid them, they can’t pay me. Um, excuse me?
My contract is with you, not your client. This is like me telling the guy currently painting my house that I can’t pay him for three months because my clients haven’t paid me. Imaging telling that to our power company, mortgage company, grocery store, etc.
The thing is, while many of us make a good living, most of us are really small potatoes in the scheme of things. We’re the vendors who can easily be offended (I guess) because there are always more medical writers out there to take a job.
I think we need a list on the American Medical Writers Association that provides information about time to payment for companies, a list that will warn freelancers which companies are having problems so we can steer clear or take other steps to protect ourselves. Having once lost $4,000 because a company went into Chapter 9 two days after I handed in a project, you can imagine how skittish I am.
Other things we can do (and I try to do) is get one-third of the project fee up front, before starting the work. This doesn’t always work, of course, because most projects are on such tight timelines you can’t always wait for the check before starting.
We can try including payment terms in the contract, but this only gets you at as far as you’re willing to hire a lawyer. Many have suggested adding a late fee. . but I honestly don’t think it would be paid.
Anyway, let me know your thoughts about getting clients to pay in a timely (read: 30-45 days) manner. Are you having similar problems this year?