Pay Me Please: Writers Publicly Shame Media That Owe Them Money

by | Nov 7, 2013 | Freelancing | 2 comments

It’s the bane of every freelance writer’s existence: chasing payment.

Nothing brings on the urge to throw your laptop out the window like hammering out an assignment — often rushing or working odd hours to meet a tight deadline — sending an invoice, following up on the invoice, following up again on the invoice…and getting nothing. Media outlets are notoriously bad.

Why is this okay? Why do these organizations feel justified in delaying (or completely ignoring the obligation of) payment? Wouldn’t it be great if there were some big list out there of all the repeat offenders — the media that seem to always drag their feet on processing invoices?

And wouldn’t it be nice to know which outlets other freelancers are currently having trouble with, so you’d know not to work for them?

Fellow writers, this now exists.

Enter: Pay Me Please

The site is appropriately named Pay Me Please. It all started when Iona Craig, a freelance journalist based in Sana’a, Yemen, tweeted in frustration over an unacceptable fourteen outstanding payments from various BBC outlets. The founders of Beacon — a recently-launched platform built to support freelance journalists, of which Craig was already a part — saw the tweet, consulted the writer and offered to help.

“Iona’s been really successful and has written some amazing stories for her readers on Beacon, but in talking with her, we learned that non-payment from other media outlets is a constant frustration in freelance life. So we worked together to launch Pay Me Please to help,” explained Dan Fletcher, Beacon co-founder.

The concept is simple: a public list of unpaid assignments, submitted by freelance writers, with a mission “…to help freelancers get paid, raise awareness of the problem, name and shame outlets who are failing to pay journalists and thereby create a tool for journalists to refer to before they agree to work for a publisher or broadcaster,” said Craig.

The entries include the offending media outlet, the author’s name, a description of the work, the total owed and the number of days payment is late. Freelancers can submit new non-payment issues to the list by clicking the “Add a Job” button at the bottom of the page and filling out a quick form.

“The response has been extremely positive,” Craig said. “To the point that some who’ve been owed money for months just sent the media outlet the link to the Pay Me Please page, threatening to add them to the list, and that was enough to get them paid, which is great news.”

More tips for getting paid

In addition to checking the Pay Me Please page, the journalist recommends that writers considering accepting an assignment from an unfamiliar organization make sure they negotiate a price before beginning work and reach out to other journalists who’ve written for the outlet to find out what the going rate is. “That way you know if they’re trying to pull a fast one on you because you’re either new to the game or aren’t aware of how much they usually offer,” Craig said.

What do you think? Would you contribute to this site if you hadn’t gotten paid? Or would you worry the finger-pointing could come back to bite you?