Ho Ho Ho…. Pay My Invoice!
Freelancers have all had those clients who seem to conveniently forget to pay their bills after the job is done. After 120 days without getting paid, I decided to take a rather… unconventional approach to getting a former clients’ attention.
This video tells the story:
The following is a copy of the letter I sent as part of my “special delivery”:
Wow, time sure flies, doesn’t it? We haven’t spoken in over 120 days now. I think that’s a crying shame. What happened to us, old chum? You used to e-mail me back within the hour – and call me at 8:30 in the morning! Ahhhh, those were the days.
Of course, the reason we haven’t spoken is not for lack of effort. I did e-mail you. Repeatedly. And I know you saw those e-mails, too – my invoicing software tells me so. Still, no responses, and ESPECIALLY no payment. You vanished like the ghost of sketchy client past.
I remember fondly the last time we met in person. You shook my hand, looked me in the eye and told me you would treat me like a professional. Then, you stopped writing back and decided never to pay me for the work you used. That’s enough to land you on my naughty list.
But the holidays are all about togetherness and good cheer – so I thought I’d look past that and send you a little something. You can consider it a thank-you gift.
Remember how you wanted me to learn the ins and outs of your business? I took that seriously. Rewriting your unfortunate attempt at a marketing guide taught me that when someone is ignoring your attempts to contact them, sending them some “3D mail” is a good idea. So I thought,
“What better way to get his attention than to send him a gift-wrapped, four-foot box?”
And so, here we are. You’ve opened my box, and now you’re holding my invoice. The system works! But that’s not all you taught me.
Thanks to you, I learned one of the most important lessons a new freelancer can learn: Always work under a contract. It’s a lesson you’ve taught some of my friends, too. Word gets around.
See, you might do “most of your business on gut feeling”, but from now on, I do mine with paperwork.
As an extra-special thanks for that lesson, I’ve included some condoms as part of your gift, just in case you want to screw some other writers.
Now, just because I got you a present doesn’t mean I want you to feel obligated to get me one – but if you do, I wouldn’t mind the money you owe me. Just a thought.
Answers for the curious:
1. Why waste all that time and money sending a package asking to get paid? That seems pretty stupid/counter-productive.
Because I thought this would be infinitely funnier than small claims court – and I saw this as a chance to turn an invoice I thought was dead into a few new projects and some laughs. It was absolutely over the top – and it worked. Still, It’s not about the money, it’s about the principle. I never believed doing this would actually get me paid; that they responded at all was a bonus.
Honestly, I mostly did this for my own entertainment. Canadian winters are cold and boring, we have to keep busy somehow.
2.You didn’t have a contract? You totally had this coming!
No argument there – I was an idiot! And if you work without a contract, you’re an idiot, too. I wasn’t joking when I said I learned valuable lessons from this experience. I was naive and agreed to the job without any paperwork because it was asked for in an urgent rush. I won’t make that mistake again.
That said, contracts aren’t magic cure-alls for getting paid on time (or at all). Choosing the right clients is a big lesson to learn, too.
3. Who is the company/person you dealt with?
I deliberately didn’t name any names and went to great lengths not to expose the business in question. To the business’ credit, they’ve offered an apology and told me they’ll pay the invoice. I believe they’ll follow through (Author’s edit: As of 2 minutes ago, I’m completely paid out!), it’s just a shame it took them so long.
I want this to be a happy ending for both parties and I don’t have any desire to damage their business or hurt their character – they’ve got a lot of happy clients of their own. We just won’t ever work together again, as they have a rather ugly history of treating writers poorly.
4. Aren’t you worried this will cost you work/give you a bad reputation?
Not really. The type of people I want to work with will find it funny and see the creativity in my approach to solving the problem. They might even relate to the crummy feeling of not being paid for months at a time.
The people I don’t want to work with will think I’m an unprofessional, immature douche-canoe with too much time on his hands – a valid opinion they’re completely entitled to. You can’t please everyone, and I’m not bothering to try.
5. I have some scathing commentary about your big ugly mug/writing ability/filming quality/how much of a stupid idiot moron you are! Care to hear it?
Nope – but I’m terribly sorry you feel that way and invite you to mail me an enormous box full of glitter in protest. It’s vindicating, believe me!