The World’s Longest Invoice

I came across The World’s Longest Invoice website today from the Freelancers Union. It’s tallying up the dollar amount that is being “held hostage by deadbeat clients.”

While I think the Freelancers Union site has some great resources & goals, I can’t get on board with the attitude of the longest invoice page. Since being in business, I’ve had 2 unpaid invoices. Sure, I’m disappointed in the clients, but I’m more disappointed in myself. I run a small business and like the fact that the buck stops at my desk, but I also realize it’s my responsibility (through things like contracts, legal advice, and payment schedules) to be sure that the buck gets there in the first place.

11 Responses

Leave a comment or contact me via Twitter @TrentWalton

  • Craig Dennis

    I agree. While I like the idea of tallying the total amount of unpaid invoices in the design community in a fun and amusing way; “If we’d been paid, by now we would could have bought ...” etc. But to use it in this way, with it apparently being submitted to ‘lawmakers’ gives it a very negative tone. Nobody likes being stiffed by clients, but it happens. Learn from it and don’t let it happen again.

  • Josh Green

    I agree with you Trent although it must be said when I started out free lancing I unfortunately did have a few clients who, failed to pay for work completed and being a young freelancer I had to learn the hard way about contracts and upfront payments but even though I use those now I have no way to hire and employ legal protection should a client choose to stiff me on an invoice. I think this site is just merely an attempt for people to somewhat vent some frustration without naming and shaming.

  • aaron

    It also keeps playing out this negative “Clients are jerks” attitude. I have been burned as well but only in situations where I didn’t have a contract or when I forgot the shame on you, shame on me rule.

  • Trent

    @Josh Green:

    being a young freelancer I had to learn the hard way about contracts and upfront payments but even though I use those now I have no way to hire and employ legal protection should a client choose to stiff me on an invoice

    I think that’s where the opportunity is... spreading awareness, resources, and tips. It’s less about blame and more about making business relationships better.

  • Mike Myshko

    I agree it’s hard to defend a ‘name & shame’ tactic, especially when the language used is quite sharp. I feel it will do more to dissuade clients from hiring freelancers, than encourage.

    Sure, I’ve been on the short end of the stick at times, but I’ve always had the class to keep it professional. That’s important to remember, it just looks cheap.

    However, situations involving non-payment are perhaps too often swept under the rug. At the very least, it’s got us all thinking, and more importantly, talking about it. Ultimately, I hope it will lead to people refining their process, and sharing it, so more people avoid non payment.

  • David Airey

    Well put, Trent.

    The invoice reminded me of the times when I never received the full project fee, and in hindsight I could’ve avoided those situations by handling things differently.

    Expensive lessons, but valuable ones.

  • Kaitlyn

    Hey Trent --
    We’ve found that using a contract is the best possible way for freelancers to ensure they get paid. That’s why we created the Contract Creator to help people protect themselves before they run into trouble.

    But still so many freelancers don’t get paid – 42% in NY State alone according to an independent report (find it here: http://fu-res.org/pdfs/advocacy/2010-unpaid-wages-report.pdf) -- that we’d be remiss if we didn’t raise it as an issue. I’m glad you figured it out after not getting paid twice, but what about freelancers who are just starting out? What about people that need to take a job to pay rent even if it feels a bit sketchy? We’ve talked to many veteran freelancers who – despite diligently following up with their clients – still face huge amounts in unpaid wages.

    Freelancing is here to stay. Our job at Freelancers Union is to make sure that freelancing is fair.

    Thanks for the post!
    Kaitlyn
    @organizerkait

  • Miranda Spencer

    Listen, people stiff freelancers even when we do our due diligence, have contracts, invoice them in a timely manner, you name it. You can be a fantastic businessperson and STILL get stiffed for tens of thousands of dollars, even. Deadbeats are real and they are breaking the law. Don’t blame the victims.

  • Miranda Spencer

    I just want to clarify that most of us are very businesslike, polite and so on but some people are scofflaws who refuse to be professional themselves. Making nice after a certain point is pointless. Since most who signed the World’s Longest Invoice had what some would call the class not to name those who owe money, I think it’s perfectly appropriate to call BS on these people.

  • Daniel Wiseman

    In a time full of cynicism and negative energy, I just wanted to say thank you for still having a positive outlook...and recognizing that it’s not always the “stupid client’s” fault for every problem we have.

  • Jordan Koschei

    Right there with you.

    A freelancer not getting paid is unfortunate, but those of us who have chosen the freelancing route have to accept responsibility for the clients we accept. If we didn’t vet a client well enough and they turn out to be a deadbeat, complaining about it without taking legal action is just whining.

    And clients are awesome. Without clients, our profession wouldn’t exist. They don’t cramp our style, they enable it!

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