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: Tue, 15 Jul 2003 08:36:54 -0700 (PDT)

"Chuck Martin" wrote ...

> I am wondering just what to to on Tuesday, with no check still in hand, and
> the due date officially past. I am thinking along the lines of saying that
> I'll work today, but if no check is waiting Tuesday night, that I cannot
> continue on Wednesday until I get it.

I'd give them at least a week. Especially since they have told you payment was

> I wonder about the company getting blacklisted. What happens if word gets
> out that a company is perennially late in paying its people?

I can think of at least a dozen companies with revenues of $10 billion and very
healthy profits that are perennially late in paying their contractors. Why?
Because they can. I am not defending that, just saying it like it is.

> Andrew said:
> Therefore, you have to find a way to get what you want ($$$) without having
> a battle. Diplomacy!
> Well, I find it hard to be, to put it bluntly, a bitch is such situations.
> Which may be a good or a bad thing. I have been encouraging and cajoling for
> nearly a week now.

Treat it like a problem. One that simply has to be resolved. No need to be a
bitch about it, just stern and clear. Get bitchy when they're 2 weeks late.

>> Andrew said:
>> 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
>> business.
>> 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.
> It sure feels personal--because I am a person. I'm not a business. In fact,
> I've never created an "officail" business for my contract work. I know I
> don't have the temperament or the organization to do all the things that
> need to be done in creating and running such a business.

Then you really should consider using an employment agency. You are a business
when you enter into contracts, invoice customers, and have to collect. Those
are fundamentally business operations. And if you don't like doing them, or
don't like the stupid little games business play, then don't get into that. Let
somebody else do it for you.

> Up to a year and a half ago, all of my contract work (when I did contract
> work) was through an agency, and I did W-2/4 (rather than 1099) whenever
> possible. I'd rather take a couple fewer dollars an hour, get some
> rudimentary benefits, and not have to deal with self-employment taxes. But
> that business, an agency that specialized in technical writers, went into
> hibernation when the economy went south. About a month ago, I sent my resume
> to another agency that specializes in technical writers. I never heard word
> one from them. Not an encouraging start.

Unfortunately, most of the agencies that specialize in tech writing have
collapsed. There isn't enough money in tech writing to support such companies.
A few still exist.

Rather than have them do all the leg work for you, take a contract to them. Go
out and get contract work and then bring the contract to an agency. If you call
up an agency and say "I have a contract gig and I need an agency to carry the
contract for me, would your firm do that for a 10% margin?" Some will say no,
some will be happy to handle it for you (although they might ask for more than

I have two or three writers who bring be contracts all the time. My company
carries their contract for them. They get paid regularly on W-2 and my firm
collects. Since my company doesn't actively solicit for tech writing any more,
its not a big deal to us. We just carry the contracts as a favor to people we
know are competent, but like yourself, hate dealing with the business side of

> Andrew said:
> You're also infusing emotions into the
> issue ("feeling slightly dumped on"). That's not a good idea
> I've never been the type of person who can separate my lives. Good days at
> work carry over into the evening, and vice versa. (That's where having a
> spouse can help--now if I could only find one.) And when trauma happens in
> my personal life, I cannot simply turn off the emotion when I sit down at my
> desk. (That doens't mean my work gets ignored, just sometimes productivity
> or concentration suffers--and I have to make up for it later.) I'm human,
> not a machine.

Nobody expects you to be a machine. But many people find emotional pleas in a
business setting to be unprofessional. Its considered weakness.

If people think they can take advantage of you - they will. Its a painful
business lesson to learn. People will push and take as much as they can. Even
"nice" people. Its human nature. If you give them a reason to mistrust you or
show too much weakness, they'll toss you aside. You won't be considered a
threat to them, so they won't bother paying you on time.

Think of it this way...

You sit down to pay your bills one evening. You have 3 bills. One tax bill from
the federal government, a bill from a credit card, and your water bill. You can
only pay 2 of those bills, which two do you pay?

Clearly, you pay the two that are the most "threatening." As in, if you're
late, they'll kick your butt. You pay the feds first, since they can ruin your
life and the credit card second. Both of these represent the most "dire" debts
you have. The water bill you put off because water departments are typically
very lenient with past due payments.

You have just done, what your employer is doing to you. They don't perceive
your debt as very dire. You're not a threat to them. If they perceive you as
weak, small, or timid - they will take advantage of you.

> Why can't I take back work that hasbn't been paid for?

You can - theoretically. Practically, you could get into deep trouble with the
customer. Remember, just because something is right, doesn't mean its the best
thing to do. If you take back the work, you'll piss off the company. You might
piss them off so badly, that they'll sue you. And even though you may be 100%
"right" in this situation and 50 TECHWR-L members encourage you to do it, they
have more resources than you. They could grind away on you for months. If their
lawyer is good enough, you might even lose and then you'll own the company a
lot of money.

You have to be pragmatic in these situations. This is where advice from
Internet boards can be very detrimental. A lot of people here will encourage
you to " stand up and do what's right!" "stick it do them, and get what you
deserve." That is very rousing advice from people sitting very comfortably in
a cubicle munchy wunching lumticks of toast and cashing their pretty little
paycheck every two weeks. They aren't taking the risk - you are. Its easy to
rage against the machine when its somebody else who will get hit and suffer.

This is why I am suggesting you be pragmatic. Don't make this a war until you
have no other option. Fighting with employers should always be the absolute
last resort.

Andrew Plato

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