Friday, December 11, 2009

Ups and Downs of Being Free

Most of the time I like the freelance work I do. It's interesting, I get to learn about all sorts of topics I otherwise wouldn't - such as the Orient Express and Great Lakes lighthouses - and it's something I can of course do from home. A part of me misses having to go to the library to conduct research, though I suppose if I wanted to I could still go and do that. I just don't see the point of being on my computer in the library when I could just stay at home. Unless it's for the ambiance.

Mind you, if something required a lot of research I'd probably still head to the library, but so far I've not had an assignment large enough to require it. Some of that is that I mostly do small articles, and the other part of it is that the last few major assignments I had were for textbook publishers and came with their own books to use. Which was made much easier via the internet, otherwise I'd have several volumes of books I'd never ever use again and a postal carrier who would hate me.

I can't claim to make a living at it just yet, as mostly my freelance work has been supplemental to other jobs. Even that in this current economy - despite the news insisting we're out of the recession - has been rather slim pickings. However, there are times when having that extra paycheck is not only nice but somewhat required. The holidays are, for obvious reasons, a time when extra cash on hand is a good thing.

This is one of the perils of freelancing: getting paid. I've been burned once before by non-paying clients. I made the mistake early on of working without a contract, and needless to say have not been paid. I did get a published credit out of it, and have made attempts to get the money I am owed, but it's become one of those things where it would cost me more to pursue my legal options than it would net me if I was finally paid. I do take satisfaction in ignoring requests from the client to help her publicize the book. (I'm a writer, I think being petty comes with the territory. To some extent.)

That one has continued to vex me for a couple of years, but it was for a small non-profit group essentially run by one person, so I tend to write it off as a failing on the part of that person. At the moment, however, I'm dealing with another client who seems to have difficulty paying me. This one is a university, and despite having billed them back in September I am still waiting. It's been an endless stream of red tape and bureaucratic hoops, all of which I've patiently endured.

Only to be told earlier this week that, in fact, they can't pay me without my fulfilling some sort of banking Catch-22.

I was not amused.

I'm exploring options on this one still, starting with contacting the department I worked for instead of the department that is handling the payment. (I mentioned the bureaucratic nonsense, right?) I know that eventually I should get paid, if only because in this case they are a university and I can't see them flat-out not paying me, no matter what the paper-pusher I've been dealing with is now saying. Also, I think the person I worked for on the project is not the kind of person to let something like that happen, which is why I've turned the matter back over to them.

Still, it's frustrating, and there isn't a whole lot I can do about it other than patiently try and solve it. (And make several phone calls to my bank and send emails to various people.) And I know, having grown up in a self-employed household, that these kind of things happen anytime you work for yourself. I presume it happens even to big corporations, but they at least have lawyers that can be sicced on the offending parties.

It does, however, make me further appreciate the consistency that comes from having a steady paycheck, and not having to file invoices that are, at best, only the first step in the process of getting paid.

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