Money: What it feels like for a freelance.

So here’s you. You’re very lucky because you love your job. Because you love your job you try to be good at it. You turn up every day, sometimes you turn up when you’re poorly. Often you work late or at weekends, sometimes you sacrifice family time to get your work done.

Sometimes you agree to take on more work when you already have a lot on, and then you battle with fears and emotions and stress and you get up early and you work into the night and you do everything you can to get the job done. On time. And you incur the wrath of your loved ones who get pissed off because doing that means everything at home slips. And you miss putting the kids to bed.

But you love your job and you know that makes you very lucky. And because you’re hard-working and dedicated and you like to think that you have a good reputation for that, you keep doing it; you keep putting in the hours, and you’re thorough and you produce stuff you can mostly be pretty proud of. Even if it isn’t always the most exciting of work, you’re happy to put your name to it because you know you were meticulous and you did the best job that you could.

And your bosses seem to like what you do. They say nice things about your work, and they use it to entertain or inform their readers, and to attract advertisers to the magazines that they publish. They often come back with more work or ask you to try different jobs in some of their other magazines. They recommend you to their colleagues. Sometimes they even nominate you for awards.

So it’s good. They’re happy. It makes you happy. You’re all happy. And you know you’re very lucky because you love your job.

But then, come pay day, it all goes a bit wrong. Somehow your bosses have forgotten to pay you. The post comes round with the payslips and yours is missing. Everyone else is going off for a pint or treating themselves to a curry and you’re staring into a big overdraft. It’s quite worrying actually because there’s always an endless supply of bills to pay every month. Gas and electricity and phones and mortgage and car and stuff; the same as everyone else.

So you talk to your bosses and they say they’re not sure what went wrong. They ask you to send your details in again, they refer you to accounts, or they say it’s up to their bosses, they’re sure you will get paid soon, it will definitely be in the next payment cycle… And you believe them, and you try to move some money around to cover the bills until you do get paid, or you rely on your other half to pay the urgent ones. And another week goes by and still the money doesn’t appear. You’re starting to panic now so you call accounts again, and speak to your bosses again and they issue the same reassurances and sometimes the money does turn up and sometimes it takes another two, three, four weeks before it comes in. And direct debits get returned and standing orders go unpaid and bank charges pile in…

And then it happens again next month, and the next month too. In fact it happens every month. It’s got to the point where you’re starting to dread pay day because you know that when everyone else – including your bosses – are getting those payslips you’re going to be left staring at a big fat hole of nothing. And you’re going to have to spend time that you’d rather spend doing great work on calling people up and sending more emails and asking them for the money they owe you, and trying to sort out the bank.

And sometimes you tell your friends and your family about how this happens every month and they’re outraged on your behalf. They say you should get mad, you should go in swinging. Get cross with your bosses, tell them it’s not good enough; they’ve had the work and they’re happy with it and they owe you the money. They tell you to get tough; to threaten your bosses with late payment fees and interest added on to your pay because it’s so unfair. It is totally unreasonable.

And you know that they’re right. You know you should do that, but you love your job and you don’t want to piss your bosses off. You don’t want them to sack you. That would be even worse. You need the job even if you do have to fight for the money every month.

So here’s you. And you’re stuck. You’re doing good work. Your bosses like your work. But they won’t pay you.

But you love your job. And you know you’re very lucky.

Yeah, you’re very lucky.

You love your job.


About Siobh

I am a freelance journalist and copywriter. My website will tell you everything you need to know.
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2 Responses to Money: What it feels like for a freelance.

  1. You are right. While freelancers enjoy many perks, such as flexible schedules and the ability to work from home, there are some inherent disadvantages to working freelance jobs. If you are a freelance writer, web developer or artist, you are self-employed, which means you must obtain assignments to work. And even if you’re an independent contractor with preassigned duties, you must still pay more in certain taxes than employed workers.

    • Siobh says:

      Hi Lianne,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. You’re right. I love freelancing. I would say I love the freedom it gives me, but it doesn’t feel like I get to spend much time away from my desk! On the other hand it has allowed me to stay home with both my girls which is invaluable and I will be forever grateful for that. I found struggling with office work (and office politics) whilst also managing children getting poorly or doing the daily school runs was virtually impossible without relying on the goodwill of my employer which made me feel guilty which resulted in me staying late to make up for it. I didn’t enjoy it at all, even though I did really enjoy where I was working. Working from home has afforded me much more flexibility and taken my career in a direction I would never have gone if I’d stayed as an employee. So yes, I love it, but the not getting paid is so tedious and frustrating and soul sapping. And so unfair! When MPs like ‘entrepreneurs’ and people setting up their own businesses because it gets them off the benefits system, you would think they would do more to support them. Why not make HMRC a payment collection service? I think my clients would be more likely to pay them on time than they are currently (not) paying me, and I would have no problem being taxed at source effectively if it meant I got my money on time.

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