What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor, indexer, and proofreader. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Money money money followup

First day after the long Christmas weekend, and I got some answers and some feedback on the late-payments issue.

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."

From publisher one: "I'm very sad to hear that you haven't received the checks. This new accounting system is giving everyone in our organization, and beyond, a heap of trouble!"

From publisher two: "I apologize for our extreme delay in getting payment to you. I just spoke with the accounting department, and the [project 1] check is cut and awaiting signature. I, however, have to confess that my own human error delayed the [project 2] check. I must have overlooked it in early November and did not submit it in a timely fashion. This check will be cut early in the new year. I apologize for our tardiness and will make a point to get payment through to you as quick as possible on future projects in 2009."

I feel bad (sorta) for the editor for publisher two, because I enjoy working with per, have met per personally, and know that per just made an honest mistake. Per also followed up with a copyediting job about an hour after our exchange, so that's good.

Unfortunately, late payments on their end means late payments for me on an outgoing basis, which has consequences that last way longer than the temporary inconveniences. And the question I always want to ask these folks is, "How would you feel if your accounting department said, 'Oh, by the way, the payroll check for the last two weeks you were expecting this Friday? Nope. And we don't know when you'll be getting it either. And your boss has some more work for you to do."

Arrrgh.

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.

5 comments:

moi said...

You and I have had this discussion before, so you know how I feel about this subject. It is beyond frustrating to me that so many freelancers are continually put in the position to pretty please with sugar on top BEG for money that belongs to us, for work that we have completed in a timely manner, and which is currently being USED by our clients. AND we can't do what every other business justifiably does in situations like this – that is, charge interest – makes me realize once again how low on the totem pole writers and editors squat.

czar said...

(To other readers, I apologize for the following tidbit of inside baseball):

Moi: As I am reading your comment, UPS just delivered St. Pete, for which I have been paid to date exactly $107. Isn't that a kick in the rear?

Don said...

Yeah, I hate this too. I don't know that there's much that can be done about it, except trying to maximize the jobs from the guys who pay relatively regularly.

My two biggest clients had major layoffs this month, which is tragic in itself but also increases the pool of freelancers going after a shrinking number of projects. Tough times.

czar said...

Don:

In regard to your second point, yikes and double yikes. I guess the potential is there that the people still on staff will throw work to their now-unemployed friends, thus displacing the established freelancers. I suppose if I paid more attention to the news or dropped a few hundred bucks a year on Publisher's Weekly, I'd know what companies you're talking about. Maybe it's best I don't know. And the news doesn't travel down here to the border country that much . . . especially since I discontinued the local rag as a cost-cutting measure about a month ago.

I have maintained for 20-something years that a bad economy benefits established freelancers. Might be time to change my thinking. I hope not. At least we have our individual foots in the doors. Maybe we can use the other foots to kick back the competition, although I don't like thinking that way. But, metaphorically, baby needs shoes.

Another point from my perspective is that in scholarly and religious publishing, the demand for high sales is not always there, but as another (older and wiser) freelancer told me, if the money going into the collection plates is down and endowments are down . . .

So far, I've heard from none of my publishers that they are publishing fewer books because of the economy, but more just the up-and-down cycle of some seasons are busier than others. I've actually had one publisher say that I'm going to be very busy in the coming months. Of course, the work they send me sometimes drives me crazy, but being too choosy isn't part of the game plan right now.

moi said...

Here in Nuevo Mexico, unless you work for the University, the Gooberment, or the Labs, you got more than one job, anyway. So I'm used to doing fifty bazillion things for a buck at one time.

In other words: "Underground Economy R Us!"