One of my favorite sites out there is Clients From Hell. If you’ve not been there, you really need to go have a look. Be prepared to laugh your fanny off. Oh, also be prepared to shake your head in horror, wonder and amazement.
Here is the snippet that inspired me to write this post:
“After sending two invoices for payment, I sent another and called the client when the receipt that they had received it came back.
CLIENT: Why are you calling me?
ME: You haven’t paid and this is the third invoice I’ve sent.
CLIENT: It’s even more than the last one!
ME: Yes. The contract you signed stated that I would add a late fee for payment.
CLIENT: You mean I have to actually pay you? I thought you were joking!
ME: What on earth made you think that?
CLIENT: You’re a freelancer!
CLIENT: Well, you work for free! If you were supposed to be paid, you’d be called a paidlancer or something!”
Wow. Pretty certain I’d be speechless at that point.
I did a bit of research to try and find the origin of the term and what I found pretty much matches what my common sense had told me.
“The term was first used by Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) in Ivanhoe to describe a “medieval mercenary warrior” or “free-lance” (indicating that the lance is not sworn to any lord’s services, not that the lance is available free of charge). It changed to a figurative noun around the 1860s and was recognized as a verb in 1903 by authorities in etymology such as the Oxford English Dictionary. Only in modern times has the term morphed from a noun (a freelance) into an adjective (a freelance journalist), a verb (a journalist who freelances) and an adverb (she worked freelance), as well as into the noun “freelancer”.”
Well, there are certainly times when I feel like a “medieval mercenary warrior.” Who would have thought that a perfectly developed term from the 1800s would come back to bite some poor schmuck in the 21st century?
I guess we might need to start a movement, a revolt, an uprising. Decry the use of the “freelance” term and insist on being “paidlance writers.” somehow I doubt it would catch on.
The thing is, it sounds like the freelancer in this case did everything correctly. They had the client sign a contract, they invoiced and followed up correctly. I can’t imagine anything else they should have done and now it is likely they will never be paid for their hard work. That is a bummer. I have to admit that I’m having a little difficulty believing a client could be so dense, especially after signing a contract. It may just be a ruse to try and get out of paying a bill, but I bet it wouldn’t stand up in court.
I’ve never had anything quite so bizarre happen with a client. I’m wondering if any of my fellow freelance writers have ever had something like this happen.