Wouldn’t you think that a company that prides itself on being sustainable, green, and all that warm and fuzzy stuff would also be able to pay the green when an invoice arrives? Well, a big freelancing lesson was learned yesterday. Read on…..
Late yesterday afternoon, I received word from my bank that my former client, an environmentally responsible company that I diligently generated oodles of press for, sent me a bounced check for several thousands of dollars. Hunh??? This was no accident either. It was a stall tactic on their part to keep me off their back for yet another week.
Oh, this charming little startup’s founder promised me the moon and the stars – particularly after I got them placement on Good Morning America and features in Billboard Magazine, NY Daily News, MacWorld, etc. I was told there would be stock options and a nice monthly retainer. …If I could just work for delayed payment until the products arrived from the factory in China. Sure, I said. I apparently have a bad habit of trusting people.
After six months and still no products arriving from the factory, warning bells began to ring in my head. I woke up in the middle of the night from nightmares where Suze Orman and Donald Trump were pointing their bony fingers at me and shouting “Get a contract, or you’re going to get screwed.” My subconscious was clearly reading the writing on the wall. I began to press the founder for a contract. But, of course, there just wasn’t time to draft one. I heard that excuse and an amazing array of others, too.
Finally, when I heard enough of their stall tactics, I sent the company an invoice for my hours worked. This was in early December. First, I received a call from their attorney to try and scare me out of my pursuit of getting paid. When that failed, I kept getting promises that the check was going to be paid “next week”. Next week, next week, next week. Finally, last week I received a check. The saga should have been over. Of course, that wouldn’t have been dramatic enough. It had to bounce.
Oh yes, my friends. From what I could estimate, I probably generated this San Leandro, California, Apple-licensed product manufacturer well in excess of 500 thousand dollars worth of media coverage if you translated it into advertising costs in the same outlets. They should have been singing the praises of Julie and writing fat checks to thank me for bringing in plenty of traffic to their site. Instead, I received empty promises, deceit, and finally a bounced check. The founder had no qualms about me spending my time on her company without pay. She never bothered to think that this was time away from my family or time that I could have spent on a company that actually could pay me.
However, the reality is that, even though this company has a great product, they also have an incredibly inept leader who clearly has no ethics. She had no qualms about lying to me, stealing my work, and writing me a check that was never going to be honored. I’m sure that I’m not her first victim.
While it still remains to be seen if I’ll ever collect on this debt. Trust me. I will do everything I can, and I’ve already called the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. I realize that this experience has taught me a very valuable lesson. Get the contract and the deposit first and then do the work, not the other way around. Contracts protect both parties. Walk away from any client who refuses to sign one. There are unethical business owners out there, and, if you freelance for any length of time, you will probably have to deal with one. The key is to identify the wolf in sheep’s clothing before they strike.
Today, I’m a little more cynical than I was yesterday, but also a little smarter. …Just another day in the world of self-employment. Now, it’s back to business with all of the wonderful clients who pay me gladly for the work that I provide them!
Here’s an appropriate little video that cracks me up every time I see this that is quite appropriate for this post. Enjoy!