I Was Fired for Refusing to Work for Free

As you may already know, I have been a staff writer for quite a few sites over the last year.  I have moved on amicably from some positions and have found new ones that fit.  It seems pretty natural.  But then I started staff writing for a big site and it was a complete disaster.

The Staff Writing Job

The deal was that I would write 4 posts a week at a set amount per post.  I was then told to send in an invoice to the blog manager every 2 weeks and he would forward it on to the company that actually owned the blog.  I started writing in mid-July.  Well, I received a paycheck for my first couple of weeks, but then I didn’t receive anything after that.  When I asked about it when I was a month in, the blog manager started asking for updates.  It took another 2 weeks to track down the problem!

Staff Writing Payment Problems

Apparently, the emails from the blog manager with my invoices in them had been going to the company’s spam folder.  No problem, right?  They could just send me a check?  Nope.  Despite the fact that they made the mistake, they said it would take the usual Net 30 for me to receive my back pay for 20 posts!  That means that it was going to take another month to receive a whole month’s worth of money!

When I hit that 20th post and still hadn’t received any checks, I let the blog manager know that I was pausing my writing until everything was straightened out.  It has taken them 4 weeks to send me half of my owed money.  I am still waiting for the other half.  But here’s the real kicker…

Getting Fired

Yesterday I received a letter terminating my employment from the blog manager!  He hired another freelance writer.  He apologized that it was all due to red tape, but how does that make it any better?  It’s their own red tape!  I didn’t personally decide to spam my own invoices or wait another month to pay me!  They actually expected me to keep working for free on just their word when they hadn’t ever shown me that their word was worth squat!

So yesterday I was fired from a big staff writing position for refusing to work for free.  That was fun.  The blog manager tried to be very polite and even said he’d keep me in mind for any future positions if they opened up…I have to think he was smoking crack if he ever thinks I’d work for that company again.  I don’t even want to work with him again (he manages several projects).  I think the entire situation completely sucks and what was pulled on me is just plain wrong.  And I am still waiting for my last couple of hundred dollars!!!

Lesson Learned

I’d love to point out the moral of the story, but I don’t think there is one.  I cannot think of how I could have handled the situation better.  I communicated very well and frequently, sent all the documentation they needed (over and over), and had given them 20 posts worth of a benefit of a doubt.  I guess I learned that I will stick to staff writing for regular bloggers only.  If a big company owns a site, it’s more beauracracy than I want to deal with.  I wish I had known that the blog manager wasn’t actually the owner in advance…

Have you ever been completed messed over like this?  Want to vent?

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26 comments to I Was Fired for Refusing to Work for Free

  • Hope you get the other half of the pay. I wouldn’t want to work for free either!

  • MD

    I’ve had a similar experience as well. Luckily it wasn’t with writing. It was with text links. You figure it’s a simple process. I put the link up and share my paypal details. The advertiser provides the link and pays me. Not for this company.

    Mint bought a bunch of text links on blogs about a year ago. The payment process was a disaster for almost everyone involved.

    My personal issue was trying to get a simple response. My emails were never responded to. I believe they owed me a few hundred dollars before I gave up. The lack of professionalism can be pretty sad sometimes.

  • Wow. That is pretty sad that the company can’t get itself together any better than that. Good luck getting the rest of your money. Sounds like you made a good decision to get out.

  • Which blog is it, so that perhaps others don’t make the same mistake!

  • Now that you have no relationship with them, I would send them a final bill detailing everything that they are owed you plus interest. It’s perfectly legal and you’re ore than entitled to penalize them for not paying you on time, especially if it through their own IT screw-up.

  • Ridiculous! :( That always worries me when I send stuff to a new “employer”.

  • You are being very diplomatic but I’m with FS- who is it so we can avoid the same thing happening.

  • With big companies, you’re pretty much at their mercy. I mean, you hear about Fortune 100 companies that get an invoice from a supplier (even one that might be a Fortune 500 company) and pay a lesser amount, figuring what is the supplier going to do? In most cases, the supplier can and does nothing about it. Independent contractors (which is what I would classify your relationship as) certainly fall way down the ladder in how they get treated.

    Glad you were able to get out before things got too bad, but it sounds like you still invested a whole lot of time and effort into nothing.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • FMF

    I’d like to know who as well…

  • What BS. Total BS. I’d love to know which site it was as well.

  • Sorry you had to deal with such a situation. Doesn’t sound like you were treated well at all. I too am interested in knowing who this is.

  • wow, that’s really terrible, reminds me of when Tony from Mint would pull the same silliness of ignoring emails, paying a little bit every few months to keep people happy. I’m glad I stopped letting him advertise (though I still love the company) and got paid my money in the end!

  • I don’t know that I’d “out” the site. You never know how things will change later on and our niche isn’t that big (everyone is a couple degrees from knowing everyone else).

    That said, it sounds like you did the right thing. If the situation was their fault they should do what they can to rectify it in good faith. No need to deal with it if you can use your time better elsewhere.

  • Wow, that is terrible! Their loss for letting you go!

  • I would write a letter to the top of whatever company owns them and threaten reporting them to the BBB if they don’t pay you.

  • Hey Crystal, you make your living on the net so….now would be a great time to name this company on your site and write a review on Yelp ;)
    Sounds like it couldn’t happen to a nicer company!

  • Hey everybody! I think I’ve emailed everybody back that asked for more details. :-)

    Thank you for all the words of support – it is nice to have people sympathize…I feel way less crappy than I did Thursday afternoon. :-) Thank you!

    @Everyone who mentioned the pay, don’t worry, I will get my last couple of hundred dollars. I guarantee it. I will nag and nag and nag some more until I get it. You can ask my husband, lol, I can be persistent…

    @MD and Daniel, I’m still owed $45 by Dana and Tony at Mint.com because of all of their silliness over a year ago. I will never remove that line from my pay sheet and still send emails once a month or so just to make me smile. :-)

    @Glen, I’m not publicly naming them, but I have let anyone who has asked know. I will also be letting the rest of my blogging buddies know over the next week since a bunch of them are staff writers that need to know people to avoid. In short, I will tell anyone anything privately, lol.

    @Eric, I like the idea of charging interest, but the .075% on $200 isn’t probably worth the hassle, lol.

  • This is terrible – especially because you know that they have the resources to make this right ASAP! The fact that they are hiding behind “red tape”, shows their lack of integrity!

  • That’s awful! You have better things to do than deal with ridiculous people who can’t keep their word. Here’s to getting your money (I’d like to know who it is too since I’m branching out).

  • What an awful experience! What a headache! Ugghh, it makes me mad when people have to waste their time dealing with bureaucracy …. you could spend that time getting actual productive things done, but instead you’re forced to deal with red tape.

    Please email me and let me know what site it was, so that I won’t write for them!

  • That is terrible Crystal! It is their loss.

  • Crystal, I am sorry that has happened to you. If you decide you want to collect your money. I would send them a monthly bill with interest every month. Cover all areas email, fax and the good old U.S. postal service.

  • Crystal, sorry to hear about all the confusion. I know it is frustrating. It has happened to me before and trying to balance civility and your growing frustration can be very difficult. I think you’ve handled it well and I hope you get the rest of your money.

  • Their loss Crystal, don’t let them get away with the rest of your money. If they don’t pay the rest, maybe you can expand on this company publicly in a polite way to avoid other writers the same fate.

  • I’ve had similar experiences in my professional life, too. In fact, I’m more than a little tired of haggling with clients about payment and having to be polite when they make the mistakes and — for some reason — think I’m the one who should suck up the expenses. From all I’ve heard, you definitely did the right things. It’s a shame, but it freed up your time to move on to greener pastures.

  • Your experience reminds me of a few of my own. I guess what I have taken away from this is to make sure I honor my word and commitments. Your decision to stay away from syndicates is probably a good one. Many of them were hit really hard by the Google Panda update and saw significant drops in their revenue. Thanks for your transparency. I can relate.

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