You Shouldn’t Have to Pay Someone To Get Your Money

A bad look.

Pay Beyoncé. Pay others. Pay everyone who is owed.

Freelancing for a living is fun because if you’re lucky, you get to make your own schedule and do things like buy groceries on a Tuesday when no one else is around or go to the post office or whatever. Like everything else in life, there are downsides, too. Chasing your money as a freelancer is part of the job. Remember to send the invoices, then follow up until you think you might die in order to get your check.

Some places pay in a timely fashion; some decidedly do not. It’s no wonder then, that this policy from Condé Nast, first reported by Fashionista, caused so much uproar.

As per a vendor contract obtained by Fashionista on Monday, freelancers who want to get paid, oh, I don’t know, in say a month or so from the date of their invoice can opt into paying for it.

“At the top of our project list is an accelerated payment option, which will allow you to get paid more quickly when a small discount taken off the invoice is accepted,” the statement reads. “There will be more news coming out on this enhancement over the next few months.”

This sounds quite bad! And it likely got enough traction for Condé Nast to clear up the confusion, saying in a statement to Fashionista on Tuesday that the fee applies to larger vendors that continually work with Condé Nast, not the freelance designers, photographers or writers under its employ.

Crisis averted. Mischief managed. But the reaction this news caused says something about the Way We Freelance Now: it doesn’t sound implausible. When I read it at first, I was angry, but then I briefly capitulated: if I really needed the money, like, right then and now, I’d consider it.

Of course, it is patently ridiculous to suggest that a person to whom you owe money pay more money in order to get paid in a timely fashion. The “acceleration” of the payment should be pretty goddamned fast in order for anyone to opt into this, and the “small discount” better be, at most, 1.9 percent. If you’re talking payment within 24 hours, then sure. On principle alone, letting the giganto corporation that owes me money for work that I did take more money from me in order for me to get what I’m owed is really, really dumb. But, if you need that money now — a bill lingers, rent is late, the cat needs food and so do you — then I can see why this option would appeal. It’s sad that it’s come to this.

In October 2016, New York City passed the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which allows for protections for freelancers who spend a lot of their time chasing their living from companies. Hopefully it will help people get their money and allow them to live their lives.

Pay people on time when you owe them money. Pay them for the work they’ve done. Pay them without finding a way to punish them for your inability to do so in a timely fashion.

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