Re: A sticky contractor situation: no pay yet

Subject: Re: A sticky contractor situation: no pay yet
From: Andrew Plato <gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 14 Jul 2003 00:17:06 -0700 (PDT)

"Chuck Martin" wrote

> I realize that technically and legally, he has until the end of the day
> Monday. I am concerned whether or not it will actually happen, and I am
> wondering what my options are. What bothers me too, is that I don't think it
> creates a solid, trusting relationship to wait until the last day to pay,
> especially when you're promising (verbally) that pay is coming sooner.

No it doesn't create a trusting relationship, but its unfortunately how things
work. I've been in business for 8 years and had 100+ customers. A very small
fraction of those customers (like 2 or 3) paid early. Most pay on-time, many
are late, and some don't pay at all. Its the nature of the game. Sorry.

Furthermore, keep in mind that you're an account to them, not a person. They
don't see your mortgage bill or telephone bill. They see an invoice with a due
date. And why pay that 1 second sooner than its due? If a bill is due on
Monday, they'll wait to pay it Monday. They have that right.

Moreover, every company has a different tangle of how they pay bills. Most
companies have some kind of internal process to handle bill paying. Figure out
that process and manipulate it to your benefit. I have my AR person call late
accounts every single day until they pay. Its amazing what persistence can do.

> So I have a number of questions. First, what options do I have if I don't
> get a check by the end of the day Monday? Can I claim that this company
> doesn't have the right to use the work I've created until they pay for it?
> And what are the potential consequences if I can and do?

You can stop work and claim they can use your work, but it won't help your
situation. It will probably just worsen it. They could claim you did something
wrong or downloaded porn all day. If you wind up in a war with them, you'll
probably lose. Even if you win the war, you'll lose many battles along the way.
And they probably have more resources than you.

Therefore, you have to find a way to get what you want ($$$) without having a
battle. Diplomacy!

You need to resolve the situation diplomatically. 1 day late paying is not a
criminal offense. Start small - find out who cuts the checks. Talk to this
person. Find out where your invoices are in the pile. Ask them if they can
please get this account settled. If the check has been cut, what's the check
number. When was it dated? When was it mailed? Where was it mailed? When it
doesn't show up, confront them with their own answers:

"You said this would be mailed Friday. Its Thursday. It really shouldn't take
that long for it to get to me. Is there a problem? Did it get misplaced? How
can we get this resolved? This invoice is past due."

Don't assume they are out to get you. Work the problem.

> One scenario I also envision is to call the client, who believes,
> essentially, that I am more of an employee of this company. The thought has
> crossed my mind to call him, explain that I was hired on a contract basis to
> replace a previous writer, that I have not yet been paid for the work I've
> done (now nearly 4 weeks worth), and that they don't have the rights to use
> the work until I get paid for it. I would think that having the client call
> the company owner with such an issue might light a much bigger fire, but
> might also light unwanted fires as well.

Its probably not a good idea to make this a war until the customer is in
gregarious violation. Again, you're making this personal. Its not. Its

Furthermore, if carrying customers 30-45 days is too hard, consider partnering
with an employment agency. They will pay you regularly and handle the
collections for you. Naturally, you will have to give them a percentage of
your rate, but you'll get paid more reliably.

> In all of this, I have to wonder also if there is a cultural issue that I
> may be missing. The owner and founder of this particular company is from
> India.

What you will probably find is that many cultures find "emotional pleas" to be
extremely unprofessional. You're best bet is to handle the situation
diplomatically and rationally. This is the best way to avoid cultural clashes.

> The whole issue is compounded by the fact that, quite bluntly, I can't
> afford to not get paid, and if I raise any sort of stink, I could very well
> create additional delays that would create huge problems.

Yes, you could anger them and then they could nitpick your work to death, delay
your payments even further, and if they really didn't like you - not pay you at
all. While all of this may be dreadfully illegal and awful, it won't change the
fact that you don't have a check. So, think pragmatically, you need the money,
they have it, now how can you get that money without angering them?

Every mistake you made, they'll dock from what they owe you. This is why you
need to approach the issue diplomatically and rationally. Negotiate with them,
don't threaten them. Just because you might have rights to sue them or prevent
them from using the information, doesn't mean its a smart idea to exercise
those rights the instant they become applicable. Even mentioning such things
could piss them off. Leave your big guns covered until you're really ready to
use them.

> I'm also kinda pissed off--again bluntly--because they wanted someone to
> come in and work some long hours to meet a short deadline, and I did
> that--willingly, at the low rate--just because that's what I do. Is it so
> wrong to be feeling slightly dumped on, even used, because I worked so hard
> and am now seeing my reward delayed?

You're looking at this problem as an individual looks at their employment. When
you contract directly, you're in a business relationship. And that is not the
same as an individual's relationship. You're also infusing emotions into the
issue ("feeling slightly dumped on"). That's not a good idea.

As I said, this is how the game is played. I don't like it any more than you,
but its how things work. Sorry.

Andrew Plato

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