I swore I wouldn’t go down that road again.

Back in April, I was hired by a financial consulting firm to edit brochures, then a proposal, and then to contribute content to a high profile strategic plan which was finished and submitted in early May. I still haven’t been paid. I sent messages to all three partners, followed by printed letters. Since the two remaining partners are overseas, my options are pretty limited.

In June, the firm’s partner who hired me stated that he’d left the firm and would attempt to pay outstanding subcontractor invoices from his own pocket. To date, I’ve received about a third of what I’m owed. But, I forgave him because he appeared to be making an honest effort to live up to the obligations incurred by his former firm.

In August, he hired me to do a bit of editing for another company. A small project. I reluctantly agreed and he paid promptly for the work. He ordered a second small project, for which service was promptly compensated. I allowed myself to be lulled into a sense of confidence.

Three projects later in quick succession, he has asked me to perform another rush job with editing. I called a stop. As much as I dislike turning down what should be a very good project, I replied that I could not accept any further work until payment for the other projects had been received.

Yes, I threw up that roadblock and stopped traffic, because I’m not going all the way down that road again. As repeated ad nauseum, I’m a freelancer, not a volunteer. I write for other people and edit their content for money, not for glory or praise.

I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. You ask me to do the work. I tell you how much it will cost. You accept the terms. I do the work and turn it in. You pay me. It’s supposed to be that simple. I’ve got to stop relying upon the basic honesty and integrity of my clients.

I’m learning as I go and one of the harsh lessons is that I’ve got to insist on a signed contract with every freelance client not acquired through a platform. Unfortunately, not even a contract is guarantee against nonpayment. I’ve had another client–with a contract–stiff me, too. I wish I could afford an attorney.

On the positive side, I sold an article to The Underemployed Life, “Underemployment: A Middle-Aged Perspective.” It’s gratifying to know that someone appreciates my writing enough to pay for it, even if the pay isn’t by any means extravagant.