Oh Hai, Bastard
In a nutshell: being a freelancer, I work a lot of jobs simultaneously, to prevent myself from being in a situation where one major client neglects to pay, and I lose my house. This is not always a foolproof strategy — sometimes multiple clients go AWOL at once, or something I'm running myself into the ground to keep up with so many requests — but it's the whole "eggs in one basket" thing, right? Better safe than sorry.
Well without naming names, what just happened to me has kinda smashed all the baskets at once. See, I was working on three BIG projects for the last half-year or so. Each one was pretty speculative, but when they paid off... man, I would be able to take a vacation for the first time in like ever.
The thing is, I know to look for the signs that I'm being swindled, but it was the specific way each one of them did it in slightly different ways that threw me off, I think. First it was "payment is coming soon", or "the accountant is off for 2 weeks but you're the top of her pile when she gets back" or "we just need one last review before we can sign off." Whatever the excuse, they tricked me into working past milestones I should have known better than to do without payment for the last milestone. Part of my brain was thinking "this isn't good", but I thought, not unreasonably, that there's no way I'd have three major projects stiff me at the exact same time.
Turns out there is a way, and it happened.
Things have been knocked pretty much sideways for me right now, and I'm not angry so much as stunned. I have to pull out all kinds of contingency plans that I thought I'd never have to use just to survive, and it's all because THREE distinct clients thought it would be funny to outright lie to someone in the hopes of getting products they couldn't otherwise afford.
So this is for you three, and the (likely) thousands more like you in the world: go spontaneously combust please. Slowly.
For everyone else who might be thinking of hiring a freelancer when you know you don't have the money to pay for it:
- Don't do that. If you don't have money, don't hire someone. It's that simple.
- If your financing isn't settled or a key payment is late, tell your freelancer that up front. Sometimes they can work around it, sometimes they can't. But if they put in the work and then you drop that bomb on them, you will not like the results.
- Do not, do not, DO NOT pretend you have money, work out a payment schedule, demand milestones be met and nitpick deliverables, and THEN tell your freelancer that you were using their work as a proof of concept to get financing in the first place. That is just pure scum sucking behaviour right there.
- And as an addendum to that: don't then offer the freelancer a % of profits in place of their fee. We might want to work for %, but not for liars.
I will be fine after this nightmare of a month, but I am outright done being lied to by idiots who think their Facebook/Uber/Skipthedishes rip-off is going to be so big that the rules of reality don't apply to them.
If you don't have money, YOU CAN'T HIRE A FREELANCER. If you can't figure that out, you are obviously too stupid to run a company anyway.