The lonely crusade of freelancer payment issues

Why I only invoice once a week

When I first started freelancing, I did my invoicing as and when it came up. I finished a piece, I raised an invoice. Rinse and repeat. 

This was an ok system for maybe about a month. It didn't take long for every other day to be spent either sending an invoice (boring) or chasing one (soul crushing). 

Last week, I wrote about how I protect my time by make sure to schedule in the things that I need to do to look myself. It got me thinking about how I've also put up boundaries when it comes to my financial admin. I now only deal with invoices – and the chasing of them – once a week.

In fact, I have a regular slot in my diary on Monday afternoons to take care of everything money-related. I do it on Mondays because I subscribe to the eat-the-frog philosophy of dealing with the worst/hardest thing first so that everything else seems a lot easier in comparison. 

I've tried invoicing on a Friday, but I found I was in too good a mood by the end of the week to be in the fighting frame of mind. Which is exactly what it feels like when you're dealing with money issues, like putting on battle gear and going to war. Worse still, I feel like I'm on a lonely crusade against the financial injustices I face as a freelancer; my keyboard a flimsy plastic sword. 

This week alone I've had to write two emails about money issues. One was to a company that had contacted me (unsolicited) to ask if I could take a look at their new product then take a call with them to give my feedback because my expertise as a prominent voice in the freelance community would be really useful as they continued to develop their offering. There's a term for what they were asking me to do, it's called consulting and people charge for it. I also had to deal with a publication that contacting me two months after I'd filed a piece to ask for extensive edits and that, btw, the publication date has now been moved (they, of course, pay on publication).

In both of those cases, I wrote detailed emails explaining why those situations weren't quite right and proposed solutions I felt to be fairer. We reached amicable solutions but that was because it takes time and energy to get the tone of those emails right. You have to be polite, but firm; assertive but not aggressive.

I have to will myself into a certain headspace to deal with these situations – I actually do visualise myself putting on emotional armour before writing those emails. But I just can't do that every time a payment issue comes up; now when I see an email like that come in, it gets filed away to be dealt with during Monday's battle hour.  

There are two big issues with freelancer pay – one is the mechanics of getting paid fairly and on time. I believe that part of the issue is beyond the control and influence of individual freelancers. That's the part that I'm trying to address with my #FairPayForFreelancers campaign and needs support and institutional cooperation to see change happen. 

But there's another issue with pay, the emotional side. All the messy, uncomfortable hangups that make talking about and dealing with money issues so personal. That's the part that makes the day-to-day of dealing with your invoices so stressful. That's what causes a latent sense of insecurity, mistrust and nervousness. 

It really is a battle that won't truly be won until we see a fundamental shift in how freelancers' pay issues are handled at an institutional level, but until then, I'll keep protecting myself in the small ways I can.  

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Dolly can’t even deal when it comes to getting her invoices paid on time

Calls for pitches

The reading list

  • I have a piece in this month's issue of Wired (the UK edition) about extreme productivity. It's only in the print issue, but if you cba to buy a copy, you can look at this picture I posted of the piece on Insta

  • Sian Meades, compiler of the brilliant Freelance Writing Jobs newsletter, wrote this great deep dive about unpaid writing tests. She quoted me in it and unpicked all the reasons why we need more transparency from companies who recruit freelancers.

  • In a similar vein, I wanted to print out this story and pin it to my wall about how the rest of the economy needs to start treating non-permanent workers properly. This line is my new mantra: "The reality is we either pretend that the freelance economy isn't going to take off despite overwhelming data that it is, or we wake up from treating these individuals like they aren’t an integral part of our workforce and start putting structures in place to support them". 

  • Vicky Spratt on how being the first person in her family to go to university showed her that social mobility is a myth is a sobering read on how entrenched inequality is in Britain. 

  • Book editor and past FJ&Co panellist, Anna Steadman, shared this fascinating piece with me from the FT about the catch-22 of making a living as an author. Advances are dwindling and unless you have a second source of income, or score the TV rights to your book, many authors struggle.

  • And lastly, Ben Whitelaw from the European Journalism Center got in touch to get the word out about a competition/awards that he's working on for the British Journalism Review. They are looking for the best writers under 30 and are asking for submissions on this topic: We’ve never been better informed. Shortlisted entries will be published in the journal and there's a cash prize for the winner. 


Kate Leaver: Dolly is LOOKING GOOD today

The Professional Freelancer is written by Anna Codrea-Rado, illustrations are by Léo Hamelin. It’s a production of FJ&Co, a platform that gives freelance journalists the tools, resources and community support they need to make a sustainable self-employed living
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