Still wait­ing for the pay­ment of sec­ond half of the deal

Daily Messenger - - National - Bikram Vohra

Free­lancers who strug­gle to make a liv­ing and are ex­cep­tion­ally vul­ner­a­ble suf­fer from this cal­lous­ness far more than oth­ers Some time back when I was in one of my free­lanc­ing pe­ri­ods I helped some­one rea­son­ably im­por­tant and un­rea­son­ably rich write his life story. We signed a con­tract and my lawyer said it was cast iron. It could well have been pa­pier mache. He gave me the first half and we en­thu­si­as­ti­cally set sail for our des­ti­na­tion, slosh­ing about in mu­tual ad­mi­ra­tion as we be­gan the work. Six months later when the as­sign­ment was over, he re­neged on the sec­ond pay­ment. I was aghast but there was a les­son or two to be learnt. One, that the sec­ond half of the pay­ment is a mas­sive prob­lem and a very com­mon one. Two, it is pred­i­cated to the world hav­ing scant re­spect for the cre­ative and be­liev­ing it is only writ­ing or draw­ing, big deal, let's get it cheap. It is amaz­ing how eas­ily it can be ra­tio­nalised that the first pay­ment is enough and the writer/de­signer/artist de­serves no more.

Sup­port­ing this at­ti­tude, the de­sire for good writ­ing or out­stand­ing il­lus­tra­tion is muted by a gen­eral ac­cep­tance of the ad­e­quate. Hence the majesty and grandeur of lan­guage gets short shrift.

The fa­mous star of MASH, Alan Alda com­ment­ing on the for­mer Times editor Sir Harold Evans state­ment of the civilised need for good writ­ing, put it suc­cinctly: "Clar­ity and wit have some­thing in com­mon, and it's Harry Evans. He clears a path through the thorny un­der­brush that stands be­tween us and mean­ing, and he does it with cut­ting hu­mour and grace­ful charm. He cer­tainly does make him­self clear, and us, too."

Free­lancers who strug­gle to make a liv­ing and are ex­cep­tion­ally vul­ner­a­ble suf­fer from this cal­lous­ness far more than oth­ers ob­vi­ously, but so do SMEs and smaller agen­cies who de­pend on their pay­ments be­ing on time so they can pay their bills.

In this syn­drome there is much suf­fer­ing. When I went to my lawyer af­ter be­ing dumped he stag­gered me with what it would cost to pur­sue the case in le­gal ways and pleaded help­less­ness. It is just not worth it. And the debtor knows that. What will you do if he does not pay? He can al­ways say your work was sub­stan­dard be­cause it is so sub­jec­tive.

Ac­cord­ing to global stats, thou­sands of small com­pa­nies fold up be­cause of such un­der­served non-pay­ment. In the UK that fig­ure hov­ers at 50,000 a year.

The word 'trust' is a loose la­bel, hang­ing off your men­tal bag­gage with no for­ward­ing ad­dress. The fact is that you are largely help­less and can only hope bet­ter sense will pre­vail.

You can ap­peal pa­thet­i­cally into good sense, send a threat­en­ing let­ter, send re­minders, sit by pa­tiently and wait for a mes­sage that will not be com­ing. Ac­tu­ally, pre­cious lit­tle.

The sense of be­ing cheated is hurt­ful. You could be just a wee bit more care­ful next time. Vet your client. Check him out in the mar­ket. If he has cheated you, he has cheated oth­ers. Check out the com­pany's record. Don't be­lieve you will be the ex­cep­tion be­cause ev­ery­one is so nice to you.they will be at the start be­cause they need you. Only af­ter the work is done will your tal­ent be dis­counted.

Put down your pay­ment terms clearly. Don't be so re­lieved by the ini­tial pay­ment that your grat­i­tude is sniv­el­ling.

Don't wait for the runaround to gather speed.

The signs are clear you are go­ing to be jibed when:

You are asked to re­work your in­voice. Asked to send it again be­cause the orig­i­nal is lost.

Told your cal­cu­la­tions are wrong and a query has been raised.

It is the sec­ond month and Ac­counts is avoid­ing your calls.

The sig­na­tory is trav­el­ling.

Truth be told a very close Bri­tish friend once told me if I gave her 30 per cent of what is owed she would just go sit there in that of­fice and wait and wait and read a book and not say a word un­til the sum was paid up. You know the sad­dest worked.

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