Take this rate and STFU?
June 1, 2012 4:16 AM   Subscribe

Started a new freelance gig and got my first paycheck. It's lower than I expected. Should I ask about this or would it make me look greedy?

I'm in a new (to me) field and still learning the ropes - juggling multiple projects, working with multiple project managers, etc. I'm grateful to be working at all considering my level of experience, so that's why I'm hesitant to ask about why my rate is lower than the one I submitted. I asked for the rate I did because I'm incurring greater costs in regards to commute (gas, tolls) and since I'm working in another state I'm getting taxes taken out for both states on a W2.

How should I go about this? Keep in mind I've only been at this gig for less than a month, and I don't want to rub people the wrong way.
posted by Anima Mundi to Work & Money (17 answers total)
You asked for a specific rate . . . was that rate agreed to? I'm assuming yes. If so, then it should be no problem to discuss with the person you spoke to when setting up the gig. If you took the job without having an established rate, then you don't have much room to complain. Also, are you sure your rate is actually lower? Could it just be that you're surprised by the amount of taxes that are being taken out of each paycheck?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:22 AM on June 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

Should I ask about this or would it make me look greedy?

Greedy hell. This is business. Everyone is greedy. That's how it works.

You should absolutely take this up as it is the first paycheck and it seems to be inconsistent with whatever you discussed.

"Can you explain for me why the rate you are paying me seems lower than the one I submitted to you?" is a fair question. Listen fairly to the answer and then decide what you need to do.
posted by three blind mice at 4:25 AM on June 1, 2012 [9 favorites]

Freelancers don't usually have taxes deducted at source. Normally you'd know that was happening because they'd need your social insurance number (or equivalent), so if you haven't given them a number on the understanding you were quasi-hired, they may have made an honest error, they may be diving up your hours in a way convenient to their bookkeeping, or they may be short-sheeting you.

There's nothing shameful in going to your contact person and checking what's going on.
posted by zadcat at 4:40 AM on June 1, 2012

There's nothing greedy about enforcing a contract. But, others are mentioning paychecks and taxes withheld (which is an employee thing, not a contractor thing), so it might make sense for you to clarify exactly what your work relationship is. Are you an independent contractor, a W2 employee of a contracting agency, or an employee?
posted by Houstonian at 4:53 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Freelancers" normally don't get any deductions taken out as you are really submitting a bill for services. You are what is called a W2 employee. Check the rate and compare to your asking price. What may be at issue is if the feds and the FICA are double dipping because of your two state deductions.
posted by Gungho at 4:53 AM on June 1, 2012

Absolutely. You need to make it clear between you and this client. Everything will be clouded by this issue until its understood/resolved. It could be (and probably is) totally innocent. You dont have to be a jerk about it, I would begin by soft-peddling it "Im not sure I understand how this rate, works, could you explain it to me." and go from there.
posted by njk at 4:58 AM on June 1, 2012

If you filled out a W4, you are en employee.
posted by gjc at 6:08 AM on June 1, 2012

It could be something very simple, like maybe what you just got paid only covered the dates through the 20th of the month, or something like that. You won't know unless you talk to them, and that is what you need to do. It would look very unprofessional if you didn't approach anyone until several months later about something you realized right away.
posted by markblasco at 7:22 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Asking for the money you have earned is not greedy. It's professional! Not negotiating and not trying to resolve problems with money is a mark of someone who doesn't know what they are doing. The people you are working for will respect you more if you are firm (but always polite, of course) about payment.

So yes, three blind mice's approach is good, or you could say, "I expected my paycheck to be $___ based on our agreed-upon rate of $___, can you explain why it is lower?"

But mostly I am writing to say: stand up for yourself and don't discount your value. As a freelancer, this is essential.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:23 AM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you filled out a W4, you are en employee.

Not necessarily. I've filled out plenty of W-4s in my day on freelance gigs of one sort or another.
posted by slkinsey at 7:28 AM on June 1, 2012

If you fill out a W-4 you are an employee for tax purposes.

In a world where everyone followed the law to the letter, your employment status for tax purposes would always match the actual conditions you were working under. In the real world, it's common to find people who are working like employees but paid and taxed like contractors, or vice versa.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:53 AM on June 1, 2012

The problem is the words the poster used.
"I asked for the rate I did" sounds like maybe an independent contractor.
"taxes taken out for both states on a W2" sounds like an employee.
"paycheck" definitely sounds like an employee.
"freelance", if you like the Wikipedia definition, is someone who is self-employed or is represented by a company who resells labor. Sometimes it means someone who sells a product after creating it without a commission. I've heard people use this term to mean a second job (moonlighting).

It's pretty unclear what happened. I can guess that it's one of three scenarios:
1. Poster applied for a W2 job either directly with a company or with an agency (sometimes called a recruiting agency, basically what used to be called a temp agency), and asked for $x. They then got a paycheck that showed less than that amount. Poster should review their employment package and signed offer letter to confirm the amount agreed, and then talk with HR to resolve the difference.
2. Poster negotiated a contract as an independent contractor. They submitted an invoice and it was not paid in full. Poster should speak with their customer about the past-due amount.
3. Poster is working in some sort of commission job that has possibly a draw and reimbursement for expenses. Poster should confirm the draw and how it works, and how to submit expenses, and then speak to the person who cuts the checks or their manager for assistance.

In any situation, there is a signed paper that states pay and that's the most important thing, because it is the agreement both sides made -- an agreement both sides must uphold. Look at that paper to make sure it's as you remembered, and then go to the person who represents the payment process and speak with them. If they have not held up their side of the agreement (and please do make sure you understand it correctly beforehand), then there is nothing greedy about following up. You did your half of the agreement, and so they should do their half.
posted by Houstonian at 8:14 AM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you are a freelancer, you invoice them and they are supposed to pay what you invoiced. Sometimes if you are a contractor this might be happening through an intermediary, but at bottom it's the same thing.

Is your situation somehow different to this?
posted by philipy at 8:59 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mike Monteiro has the last word on this as far as I'm concerned. Watch and enjoy: 2011/03 Mike Monteiro | F*ck You. Pay Me. - Vimeo
posted by halatukit at 9:36 AM on June 1, 2012

if you have a W2 with this company, you aren't freelance. you are most likely contract. regardless, i'm not sure how there is any question. what was your agreed rate, as stated on a contract that you must have signed? and whether freelance or contract or full-time, you should always have some sort of contract/document that clearly states what you will be paid. look into that.
posted by violetk at 10:19 AM on June 1, 2012

Nebulawindphone explains my situation perfectly.

I'll be talking to the account manager using three blind mice's approach on Monday (he was out of the office today.) Thanks for the responses!
posted by Anima Mundi at 3:03 PM on June 1, 2012

Okay, turns out it was a paperwork error and will be corrected. But thank you all for the advice. Still learning to stand up for myself as a freelancer. :)
posted by Anima Mundi at 8:12 AM on June 4, 2012

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