Freelancer’s Union Declares War on Deadbeat Clients

How come no one has thought of this sooner?

As a freelancer, it comes at the worst time. You’ve been working your tail off on this seemingly great project. There’s an end in sight — a great deliverable and that momentous occasion where you hand off your project and receive payment for all of your hard work.

Except what happens when that payment never comes?

Sometimes there’s legal backlash, small claims court, unanswered emails and phone calls. Sometimes the freelancers write it off as a business loss. Even so, they never forget.

I remember having to call and email some of these deadbeat clients when I was incredibly ill with bronchitis and laryngitis. I needed money to go see the doctor. I could barely get out of bed. In between the four deadbeat clients I think I wrangled together about $50, barely enough to fill a tank of gas to head over to the clinic. Despicable. This isn’t tolerated anywhere else.

So enter the World’s Longest Invoice…for all deadbeat clients. I’m sad to say that I contributed to roughly $7,150 to that invoice for various clients I’ve had that have ran off with my work, only to have benefited from it while leaving their loyal designer in the dust. Perhaps it was partially my fault for not being as aggressive or threatening legal action, but I’d really prefer to just spend my time working on projects for clients who understand my value and respect my profession. Oh, and don’t think you’ll skate with my work for too long. Karma, baby. That’s all I have to say.

One thought on “Freelancer’s Union Declares War on Deadbeat Clients

  1. I’ll ad $18,265.00 to that invoice.

    I was on a smallish monthly retainer with this client — a Dayton-based work apparel retailer w/a dozen stores across five states — for three years. Started out with a couple of TV spots (many were ADDY winners) and mailers per month. In the third year he added newspaper (a dozen rags, twice a week), email blasts, web banners, and in-store signage — effectively tripling the scope of work. Midway through 2011 I brought the imbalance (over $15K in total excess hours year to date) to his attention and submitted a compensation proposal that stated a reasonable retainer increase and offered up three very fair options for satisfying the deficit.

    He acknowledged the increased workload and met me a little more than halfway on the retainer going forward. But his response to the deficit was, “Well, that’s in the past and you already did the work, so I don’t see that as my problem.” WTF?!

    I swallowed hard, accepted the new comp agreement, and decided it was better to have the business for less money than not have it at all.

    By years end, even with the increase, the deficit had grown another $3K. I requested an early January meeting to discuss his 2012 ad budget and assumed scope of work. In that meeting he informed me that he had overbought and undersold 100s of $1,000s in merch and had to all but eliminate his ad budget. No new creative. No more retainer, and maybe refresh a few ads/spots now and then paid for hourly. I raised the issue of the 2011 deficit again and received virtually the same response. And he added that he would probably have to close a few stores and even file for Ch 13 if things didn’t turn around.

    Bottom line for me: Good-bye Raven Rock and good-bye $18K.
    Bottom line for Raven Rock Workwear: Most of his storefront windows are still displaying huge “Inventory Elimination!” signs. Happy tanking, Schmuck.

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