Incompetent motherfucker

I’m freelancing these days. Not my preference – I actually like having a nice 9 to 5 job with a predictable income and benefits – but you play the hand you’re dealt.

I have a regular client, a print publication, which is a relationship that goes back several years. (I, in fact, worked there in a nice full-time job with a salary and benefits for about a year, but that’s a completely different rant.) The local editor there – this is a multi-city publication – is a super nice guy, but man I want to kill the incompetent motherfucker right now.

I have a thing I do for them on a once-a-month basis. Fine. The thing is, if I submit material and they don’t use it, I don’t get paid – no kill fee. So last week I sent him an email saying “how much do you really need, there’s still X amount from the previous month that didn’t get used.”

He calls me on Wednesday and says “I need X Y and Z. X and Y is is for more than one city (i.e., gets paid at a higher rate), Z is Philly only.” (This, BTW, is after he’d told me in January that stuff would be at the higher rate in 2012 – which he then reneged on without telling me, it ran Philly only.)

Me: Are you sure? Really sure? Because I will do it if you need it, but I don’t want to do work that I don’t get paid for.

Incompetent motherfucker: Yes, I need it, I just talked to [this other person whose efforts are the basis of the page count], and yes, that’s what I need.

Me: Okey doke, I can give you this if I do [blah blah], would that work?

IMF: That would be excellent, thanks.

Me: Okay, I have to change around what I’d planned to do, but I can get this to you by noon Sunday {start of his workweek}.

IMF: Great, thanks.

So, I submit X, Y and Z on Saturday afternoon, and think, great, I will be able to invoice $500 for this.

Yesterday: Tax Day. It was ugly. Very, very ugly. I was not making quarterly payments, because I need my not-exactly-huge income for boring shit like food and shelter.

Last night: checked to see if the material I submitted was online. It wasn’t. It sometimes isn’t, because there’s a whole 'nother set of incompetent motherfuckers up in New York, so I figured, fine, whatever. Well, not fine, but not exactly surprising.

This morning: checked the print edition. Not a single fucking sign of this $500 worth of material that was supposed to run here today. Not supposed to run in NYC till next Tues., so I don’t know how far this sodomy extends. IMF doesn’t get in till 1, so I can’t call him up and bitch him out.

Dear incompetent motherfuckers of the universe: if you’re dealing with freelancers, please do not ask them to do work that you will not actually use, because then they are wasting their fucking time doing things they will not be paid for, which means they are not spending their time – a finite resource, even for people who don’t follow a 9 to 5, 7 day schedule – doing things they will be paid for.

Motherfucker.

I’m sympathetic to your plight, but I don’t understand why you agreed to a arrangement whereby you do not get paid at least something if they do not use the material you provided to them. Is that negotiable?

We pay a kill fee for material that we don’t use. I would suggest that you negotiate a kill fee if your stuff isn’t used. You’ve done the work that was commissioned, you deserve to get paid. It’s not your fault they didn’t use it. Unless the reason for not using it was because it wasn’t up to the standard of the publication, in which case they should have written back to you with that feedback.

Yeah, I’m not getting why they’re not paying you. They commissioned you to do work. You’ve done the work. You have a contract (you do…don’t you?). Who the hell cares if they wipe their bum with the finished product? You get paid for the work you were hired to do, not on the whim the editors on whether it gets published!

Having a kill-fee policy would indicate a level of professionalism higher up in the food chain beyond what there is any evidence of.

I’ll work something out, either with the IMF or with the other person who regularly uses my stuff (feature material for a newspaper, thus the uncertainty about what’s going to run when) – but I was just so fucking pissed this morning when I went through the paper page by page and there was *nothing *there – no sign of the whole section this was supposed to be part of. Grr.

Meh. Negotiate for a kill fee if you want to get paid whether they use it or not. You have set up your business so this outcome is entirely possible, and then you rant about it when the outcome occurs. That is weird to me.

I’m actually curious about the answer to this question.

Kill fees are getting harder and harder to come by, and even if they exist, they’re laughably tiny. Like, fifty bucks for a $500 job.

Publishers get away with this because a) print media hasn’t exactly been raking in the dough over the last few years, and b) the industry isn’t exactly suffering an excess of writing talent at the moment. Universities are still cranking out armies of English and Journalism grads every year who are more than eager to fight over an increasingly shrinking pile of scraps, without the benefit of a safety net like kill fees.

It’s a shitty situation, which is why my wife is trying to break in to branding/naming/marketing, which generally pays better and faster.

The kind of “nice guy” who thinks that being nice is telling you what you want to hear, even if it’s a complete lie? Maybe it’s (lack of) honesty, rather than competence, that’s the core issue here.

This thread needs more motherfuckers.

But only if they fuck their mothers competently.

Christ, that sucks. I remember kill fees being in the 25%-50% range + expenses back in the early 2000s for reasonable publications. I agree with your analysis for why this is happening.

And let’s not forget about the depressed pricing and stupidly extended net terms. What used to be a $750 1000-word feature now pays $500, and instead of getting the money in 30 days, you get it (maybe) in 45. And by 45 days, I mean Accounts Payable won’t even look at your invoice for a month and a half, and maybe cut the check after 60. Assuming the editor actually remembers to send the invoice to AP, of course.

Fuck the lot of 'em.

Jesus, what a dick thing to say.

twickster: is anything you write for this publication usable anywhere else? Can you shop it around if they don’t publish it?

I rarely write stuff that doesn’t get used (due to dealing with just a couple people going on years now), but if it’s already written, I would definitely try to find a buyer for it, even at a hugely discounted price.

I came from the photojournalism side of the industry, but that’s a good reason why I left. Sick of chasing checks, having to threaten to sue to get payment (which did happen and, luckily, worked), having a client hire me for a couple thousand dollars worth of work, only to declare bankruptcy a few months later and never pay me. (Got collections after them, but there was nothing I could do.) There were a number of wonderful, well-run publications that treated and paid you fairly (Business Week and Car & Driver among them.) But the smaller publications that I resold to and were necessary to keep a steady income were usually a total pain in the ass.

I’m so glad I was able to leave.

Do you understand that sometimes people are in a weak bargaining position and can’t avoid situations like this? Of course Twickster would have asked for a kill fee if she could have gotten one.

Do you not understand how business works in the real world? Sometimes people don’t want to give you what you want them to give you.

I can’t believe J. Jonah Jameson is treating you like this. I used to respect the guy.

Well, he’s being his usual abrasive self, but I understand what he’s trying to say. At least I think I do. Basically, it’s either don’t work with these people if you can’t negotiate the terms you want, or accept the fact that sometimes you’re just going to get screwed and chalk it up to part of doing business. It’s hard to do when you’re living on a tight budget (I have been there), but that is the basic fact of the matter.

And this is another one of the pointless comments that gets made on the SDMB. She just wants to complain about her job and the people she works with. That doesn’t require a reminder that she has to “accept the fact” etc. She is dealing with it the best she can.

That’s fine. I’m just explaining what I believe the gist of the comment is. I understand her frustration.