The Joys of Payment

One of the hard things to do when you freelance is the whole management/accounting stuff.

Since you love your job and are your own boss, there’s no one to yell at you if you let things slip, and no one to take over the boring tasks you don’t really have time to take care of.

In my case, something I find dreadfully time-consuming is keeping track of bills and payments. I work mostly out of interest for the task, or, as one of my friends once aid, “for the intellectual masturbation”.

Therefore, money, while important, is kind of secondary in my business model. Coupled with the tendency of “big” companies to have a somewhat tiresome and long paying process, it’s a fault of mine to let things related to payment rest till it’s too late to be anything but angry at the lack of progress.

What I mean is this: I worked on a project, therefore I must have payment. I send the bill and wait. Then I send it again, with a sharper reminder a while later (depending on my financial situation and my busy schedule). Lucky me, most of my customers are people I know pretty well, and there’s rarely any need for more than that, but sometimes, the process takes a turn for the worst.

In July, I participated in a project for a somewhat big public institution. It was and extremely rushed job which required me to gnaw on my vacation time, but promised to pay rather well.

By October, the beta was in production, and finalized, at which point I requested payment. After multiple emails, mid-november, I get an agreement, and a promise to be paid “very shortly”.

Mid-december, and several pleas and stern reminders, a few back and forth on the true sense of “finished”, a partial payment was made, the reminder being promised for very shortly.

All of january and a piece of february was used to ask and ask away to something resembling a black hole. That usually means “legal action”, but it’s so tiresome and emotionally difficult to go through, that it takes a while further.

March resulted in a stand off and some rather ugly business, but also a promise to be paid. I even got a bank wire receipt.

April, and still nothing (a “bank error”, obviously). I finally got my money on May 1st.

Now, for a company with a lot of people and a lot of projects, it’s easier to manage that kind of hole, and the process of going back and forth between customer, lawyer and bank, but for a freelancer, it takes time away from more important things, like working to earn a living. Which, if I were cynical, would be the whole point of trying to “drown the fish” as we say here: at what point does it stop being a major issue compared to making some real money otherwise?

For me, there could only be one answer: Never. It’s a question of principles. I work in a job that I love. Therefore if you don’t pay for it, or try to wriggle with paying it, you’re not only bad business, you are also insulting my livelihood (and my intelligence).

Yes I’m cheap. Yes I’m nice, extending delays and open to discussing stuff. And yes, I’m highly stubborn.


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