This week we wrote about how journalists should be paid in the digital environment. Journalists being paid is a hot issue, especially since a lot of times, we’re asked to write for free or for exposure. That, too, is a loaded issue — sometimes it might be worth it, or it never, ever is.
And sometimes, we agree to do work for payment and never receive it. This is a classic freelancer dilemma and while most of you are, hopefully, sitting in newsrooms with a salary and benefits package and paid sick days, you never know when the shoe is going to drop and you need to pick up some work. Or, as is common in the digital environment, your contract allows you to write other sites every now and again, as long as you’re not competing with yourself.
Recently, I made a rookie mistake by taking on work for a start-up magazine. The work kept coming and the pay was in line with my experience and time. I won’t disclose the name of the publication (just to say it wasn’t this one), since the affair is — almost — concluded. But I did learn some lessons. Not about how to prevent this from happening again — there were contracts and tax information and all the legalese you can dream up.
So, short of a lawyer, who wouldn’t have been worth the sort-of small change I was owed, and one step away from small claims court, here’s how I won my war.