Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Secret Of How To Get Paid For The Work You Do

Via Lillie's blog, I read a post by Eshi about her experiences with being cheated by corporations out of the money she was owed. Update: Eshi says she was actually paid, just not given credit for her work.

The story is familiar, at least to me, you work hard producing a labor of love only to have the people who commissioned it not pay you, then treat you like a pariah. It is horrible how she was treated and this problem is not isolated to Second Life, it happens all the time in Real Life as well.

Calling for better regulation from Linden Lab won't really work either. The only solution to this happening is contracts, lawyers, and common sense.

When I worked as a consultant (both as part of a firm and as an independent), there were many people who wanted 'something for free'. They truly didn't seem to think that you were making money to live, eat, and have a life. Somehow, your time was all free.

After being on the losing end of this many times, I ended up becoming very good at negotiating deals and writing contracts out of self-preservation. It's lousy and I hate doing it. I like being Pollyanna where everything just 'works out' and the world is all rosy and full of smiles. In other words, I like being optimistic and naive. Someone would ask for my help, sell me on their vision, we'd agree on the price, and then things would all go wrong after that.

It is heart-breaking to become emotionally invested in making something, producing that 'great work', or bringing a truly great vision to reality only to have the real world of money and broken promises intrude. I've been in tears over projects that failed because the other side were lousy business people with more hope than money.

Part of the 'secret' of getting paid for your work is to negotiate a schedule of payments. You need a deposit and clear intervals of payment or clear deliverables after which incremental payment is expected. You deliver some, they deliver some money; you effectively hold the 'end product' hostage.

This is truly a rotten part of life. I'd become excited about working on some project, do a lot of preliminary thought on it, and become attached to it. Then, the deal would not happen and I'd be crushed. In the end I had to learn that there were tons of good ideas out there and that a new one would be along very soon. Sometimes, I had to take the risk of not eating for a while instead of getting involved in a project that wouldn't make certain I was making enough to live - and more importantly was willing to negotiate appropriate payment at appropriate times.

If someone is not willing to put down a deposit for your work, walk away. If they are not willing to pay you regularly or at specified milestones, walk away. If they are not willing to sign a contract, walk away. If they are not willing to provide you with a letter of reference or a case study when the project is complete, walk away.

I had to learn self-respect and self-worth. I had to learn that I didn't have to jump at every chance that came along, hoping it would work out. I had to learn to 'trust but verify.'

Why can't life be as simple as I once thought? Because some people are jerks and cheats while others are merely clueless optimists with more hope than money.


Eshi said...

Please correct your first sentence. I never said I was cheated out of the money- furthermore I was paid a nice tip. I was not given credits for my work, which is a different matter. :) Thank you.

dandellion Kimban said...

I actually believed that not paying for your work happens only on Balkan and other not-completely-civilized parts of the world. I'm not sure if I should be happy to be faced to the facts.

Tiessa said...

@eshi: corrected. I apologize for getting that point wrong. And if you'd ever like to talk about this further, I'd be happy to spend time with you, just IM me in world.

@dandellion: Most of the time it isn't because the person is actively out to cheat you, they just are more optimistic about their monetary prospects than they should be. I've lived through a few lean times because of that.

I wish it weren't so as well and I wish I was still ignorant of it too and that the world 'worked' better.

Eshi said...

@ dandellion- Very accidentally hilarious. I grew up in the Balkan, and some of it is more civilized then most of the USA I have seen.
/me rofls.

Shockwave Plasma said...

I have been I something like this position Tiessa.

Somehow I usually seem to end up working for dreamers, people who are very convincing about being "The Next Big Thing".

Low pay, long hours, and watching them suck investers in to pay for their BMWS and lifestyle.

You could say I'm on a never ending .COM ride. It's been the 8 years, and I told the last dreamer I've had enough and I'm leaving.

It's time to work somewhere I actually want to work, not somewhere I have to work to pay the mortgage.

Something to hope for at least.