From boom to bust

There are lots of benefits to being your own boss – such as the joys of sitting around in your dressing gown with sticky-up hair and too many days’ beard growth – but as I’ve written before, there are negatives too. Not just the lack of holiday pay, sick pay or job security, but also late payment which, in many cases, results in a flurry of bank charges that wipe out most of your wages long before they turn up.

While late payment is bad, non-payment is worse – and when a firm goes bust owing you money, you’re stuffed. If you’re self-employed and a big client goes to the wall, your chances of getting even a fraction of what you’re owed are effectively zero (careers advice: if you want to make money, go into the liquidation business. When one of my former employers went bust last year, the firm had around £30K in assets – which went to the bank and to the liquidators. The firm’s army of freelances didn’t get a penny).

Aaaaaaanyway… on a journalist forum I frequent, various writers are comparing notes on late payment and non-payment. The winner? A writer whose biggest client has gone down the tubes.

She’s owed nearly £7,000 :-o

5 thoughts on “From boom to bust

  1. Stephen says:

    Ouch. Big ouch.

    Is there any way to use these forums to find out which firms are in trouble? Maybe if a few people started comparing notes (“You know, I’ve had a hard time getting money out of XX lately.” “Me too. And they just moved into fancy new offices.”) then you might get an early warning about which to stay away from.

  2. Gary says:

    That goes on to an extent, but it’s difficult. If a firm isn’t in trouble and you run around saying or even implying that they are, then you can end up on the wrong end of legal action. There are also some publishers for whom any attempt to rock the boat, no matter how justified, allegedly results in a blacklist. Plus there’s the traditional freelance paranoia, where you don’t discuss anything with anyone in case they steal your mojo :)

    A good example of the problem is the late payment legislation, which enables you to charge a recovery fee and interest if you don’t get paid on time. For self-employed people it’s the nuclear option: invoke it and you can be 99% sure you won’t work for that firm again.

  3. Andy Krouwel says:

    Marvellous, isn’t it? But sometimes there’s something you can do.

    When Live Publishing went bust, taking Retro Gamer and three months worth of unpaid freelance contributions with it, the writers quickly got together and made this:

    http://www.retrosurvival.co.uk

    a CD of the unprinted (but submitted) articles for the next issue. Sold online only, it has managed to recover a small but not insignificant amount of money for the freelances who lost out whilst also allowing the fans to read articles that would otherwise have vanished forever.

    Sadly, as many freelances switched to Highbury after the Live problem, only to see them enter administration as well. Yuk. Perhaps there may be an issue 2 sooner than expected.

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