I have tried very hard not to write ranty or whiny blog posts about the challenges I face as a freelance editor. Let me tell you, they are many and the temptation is great, but this isn’t a personal blog. But this time, I feel like there is a lesson to be learned from the whiny rant I want to post, so I’ll try to keep the annoying parts out and stick to important stuff.
I love being a manga editor. When I get work in and I’m 90 pages deep into a tankobon, I couldn’t be happier. Even when I get rush work and I’m crying because I’m so stressed out, I come out of it feeling so content that the product of my hard work will be on shelves in a matter of months.
I HATE being a freelancer. Having to invoice people, then having to chase down my clients when they don’t pay me on time, never having enough work on my plate, constantly trying to find new clients and waiting for a big break or a full-time job to put me out of my misery. If it was possible, my new year’s resolution would be to give up freelancing for 2012. But then I’d only have a job at my mom’s travel business and I only work there four days a month.
Luckily, since legit freelance manga editing jobs are hard to come by, the following story about having to fire a client is not about a manga publisher. Actually, all my manga publishing clients are really decent folks who usually pay me on time, the occasional glitches aside.
I got this client, we’ll call them Client D, after Tokyopop shut down because I needed something to start filling that gaping hole in my income. I was actually really excited to work with Client D because I really connected with my managing editor and because it wasn’t manga-related work, which would allow me to branch out into other areas of editing.
In June, the first month I worked for them, they sent me lots of work and I accidentally invoiced them too much because I was editing their articles like I edit books: over and over and over again. That was not what Client D wanted, but they kindly told me that they’d pay me the invoiced amount anyway since they were pleased with my work.
The next month, I got into the swing of things, but they sent me approximately half of the work they sent me the month before. Things still looked promising though, because Client D was telling me about other kinds of work they wanted to give me. This time, there were no problems with the amount of the invoice I sent them.
In August, I had to hassle them about paying that first invoice because it was agreed upon that Client D would pay me within 30 days of invoicing. Yup, Client D had already failed to honor our agreement on my first invoice to them. They did pay me by the end of the month, about 60 days after invoicing, but I had gotten less work from them that month too.
I inquired about more work in September, but was told they didn’t have any. Realizing I had forgotten to invoice my August work in October, I promptly invoiced them and also inquired about why I hadn’t been paid already for my July work.
Another month passed, with e-mail exchanges that promised me I would get paid for my work soon, but no actual payment coming my way and no more new work from Client D. I finally got my July invoice paid in December after harassing their poor accountant, who was probably freelance herself. (She assured me that Client D always paid, but I had to tell her that getting them to pay me was like pulling teeth.)
Now it’s January and I’m still waiting on a mere $90 from October, 2011. Because Client D is a small business, I can understand why they are keeping their copy-editing in-house right now and not sending me more work. I haven’t hassled them about that. What I don’t understand is why it’s taken Client D so long to pay me for work I’ve already done for them and why they think it’s OK to just keep forgetting.
So I fired them as politely as I could. I did like working for them when times were good, and my contacts had been as kind as possible to me when times weren’t so good, but it was clearly time to part ways.
I realized a few things as I did this, though. It’s ethically wrong to stiff freelancers out of their hard-earned money. Chances are, especially in this economy, that money is needed to put food on the table. A freelancer’s precious time is wasted if they don’t get paid.
It can be easy to feel like the clients are the masters, but they aren’t. One of the beauties of freelancing is that one can turn down clients and turn down work when one wants to. Ideally, this only happens when a freelancer has too much on their plate already. Well, ideally, clients treat freelancers like any other hard-working employee who earns their paycheck! If that’s not the case and the paycheck isn’t coming on time, it’s time to let go.