Pay me please!
July 8, 2010 11:12 AM Subscribe
I do freelance work for a company that I suspect may be in financial trouble. How do I protect myself? How best to find out what's going on?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For several years I've done editing work for a publishing company based in Bristol, UK. I live in Manchester and all my communication with the company is via email and post. The work has been regular and now accounts for a significant chunk of my income. I don't have a contract with the company: they send me work, I return it together with an invoice, and I await payment, which is by cheque. Over the years, the period between invoicing and payment has grown longer, but with some variation (I have often tried to work out the mystifying cycles that govern their payment system). Whenever payment has been especially late, however, a quick email has seen a cheque sent out within a day or two.
In recent months, payment has actually quickened somewhat. But I've got the feeling that there isn't as much work as there once was - whereas previously I was being sent a new project before I'd finished with the old, there have been gaps while they wait for something to come in.
Last week, I was still waiting payment for a job I completed in May. I emailed my contact at the company, who said he'd make sure a cheque was sent out, and sure enough it came on Saturday. Before I'd had a chance to bank it, though, I got an email on Monday asking me to hold off for a few days, because other freelancers had been reporting cheques bouncing, and he wanted to make sure that wouldn't happen with mine. OK, fair enough, I said - I'd wait until Friday. This morning (today is Thursday in anonymous-land) came another email: the company is setting up a new bank account, so could I tear up the cheque I received and they'd send me a new one next week?
Clearly, readers of this question will know less than I do about what is going on with this company. But my first question, as an ignoramus when it comes to how companies are run and freelancing finances in general, is how likely is it that these problems could be temporary glitches for what is otherwise a stable company? Or are bounced cheques always a sign of serious trouble?
Secondly, if the company does have problems, how do I go about increasing my chances of being paid for the job I finished in May, and the jobs I have done since then (for which I would normally be expecting to receive payment in a week or two)? I mean, I am reluctant to ask, "How late will I be paid?" or even "Will I be paid?" because these questions in their meekness are almost an invitation to pay me late or not at all.
Thirdly, what should I do about the hefty project that I am working on just now and that will take up the rest of my month? My contact mentioned in his email that if I wanted I could delay working on this until I'd been paid for the earlier job. What does this offer mean?
I've seen plenty of questions on Ask Metafilter about the need for freelancers to be working under a contract. I have no idea if this advice is specific to the US, or how freelancing for publishing companies normally works in the UK: as I said above, I am quite ignorant of such matters. All I know is that this is how this company operates, and it has provided me with reliable income for several years. My questions are specifically related to how I would do myself most good by acting now, under these terms.
Throwaway email: email@example.com