I spoke with a managing editor with whom I have a particularly frank relationship, and asked per what per thought of the idea of a late-payment surcharge. Per chuckled nervously, ultimately saying that while per is a firm believer in paying individuals promptly for work performed, such a stance on my part would be viewed unfavorably among the higher-ups. Per said without much hesitation, "Don't even try it," and the tone in per's voice was even more discouraging than per's words. "In this economy at this time, no." As to the fast-pay discount, per encouraged that, saying that 2 percent would probably be effective. And I believe this particular publisher has indeed offered this option in the far-distant past.
Three responses from late payers. Freelancers, tell me if these sound familiar:
From an individual: "Boy is my face red. You beat me to the punch. I failed to complete my bookkeeping as promised. Prior to lunch today, I wrote your check, placed it in an envelope, and have put it in the mailbox to be picked up by the postman today. If you do not have it by the end of the week, please let me know. Sorry about that."
PS: This does not even include the two companies that are 3 and 6 months behind now. On the one that's 3 months behind, and which keeps sending me work, all I can say is that they've treated me well for years, and I'm trying to hang in there. They say by mid-2009 they should be back on track with timely payments. For the one that is 6 months behind, all I can do is trust the line they are giving me . . . that they've not yet been paid either. And as I've said, what are my options?
As my profile says, quoting Allen Ginsberg, "When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks and my hard work in the garden?" But frankly, I don't work hard in the garden, and there's a reason that my czar icon is a bespectacled basset hound.