Dear big company. Thank you for agreeing to pay me.

It is very exciting to work with your company. As a one-person operation, I work with other individuals, small businesses, and huge companies. When I work with big companies, there is a lot of potential for growth. I am just wondering, is there a requirement that I must go through some sort of pain before doing the work and getting paid for it?

I am pleased to get the chance to write articles and books for you, edit your thought pieces, or give workshops for your staff. The people working for your company are bright, hard-working, and open to learning. The work is very rewarding.

The steps I must follow to get paid are less rewarding.

It was fascinating to see your procurement operation in action. Negotiating with your people in Bangalore was very enlightening. After a month and a half of requests to change my price based on made up standards, we ended up in the same place. I know you wanted to work with me, so what was the purpose of that exercise?

When I received your message indicating that all vendors must take a 15% price cut, I was intrigued. When your customers ask you to offer your products for 15% less, do you simply give them a discount? What is the rationale for such a request? Does it tend to winnow out the best vendors, leaving you with only the cheap ones? I look forward to hearing how that came out.

I saw on a news site that you were conserving cash by “stretching payables.” I am not living hand-to-mouth. So sure, I can wait 120 days to get paid after performing the work. I am just wondering, do you mind if I delay 120 days in delivering the rest of the work I have promised you? Since your deadlines are important to me, are my deadlines of any interest to you?

I have enjoyed working with your overseas affiliates. It is like a virtual travelogue. I am sure there are reasons, probably associated with tax law, that you cannot pay me from the United States, even though that is where you are and where I am doing the work. But your affiliate keeps coming up with new requirements to allow me to get paid, along with new forms to fill out. I actually sent you all that information when we agreed to work together. Perhaps I could get a little consulting work with you where I help you with your internal communication?

When you asked me to sign up with your vendor management system, I spent the hour it took to work through and answer questions on all those Web pages. I looked up and entered all the information you requested. I wrote up a pretend document indicating that we had a non-discrimination policy, even though I am one person and do not hire anyone. I also certified that we have a non-corruption policy in place, and indicating that I would fire my only employee, myself, if I caught myself bribing anyone. May I charge you my hourly rate for the time spent creating these documents?

After filling out the forms in the vendor management system, I am now getting weekly email messages from the system about opportunities for vendors like me. I am terrified to unsubscribe, as I wonder if this will cause me not to get paid. Do you know that the people running your vendor management system are doing this? Does it matter to you?

By the way, I recently saw that after several months, your foreign affiliate actually paid me. I also noticed that the payment was about $70 less than the invoice. Your overseas accounting department appears to need to charge me for the privilege of paying me. And my bank charges me for receiving an international wire. Should I send you a bill for the shortfall, or just pad my future invoices by this amount? I could add a “working with Josh” fee — would you be okay with that?

When I reach these snags, the only people I can reach out to are my clients. These are typically senior managers within your organization. The senior managers then spend their time untangling your own accounting practices, sending notes to people who can go around them, asking for personal favors, or sometimes, in extreme cases, using their credit cards or PayPal to pay me, then sending an expense report to your accounting department.

Does this actually save your company money and make it more efficient? Does it enhance your ability to track and reduce expenses? Does it attract the best people to work with you, and encourage them to hire the best experts to work with, like me?

I was just wondering.

Everything in this post is true. The names have been removed since I hope to actually get paid eventually. And I really do love the work, the clients, and the freelance lifestyle.

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  1. Josh, I love all your blogs. This one just gave me an extra smile today. I’m going through a similar process at the moment. At least I now know I have company for my misery. Cheers for this one and all your other great posts!

  2. Love this. After more than 40 years working both sides of the divide – micro companies to large corporations – I know how true it is! A senior VP in a glibal corporation that I shall not name but is affectionately linked with the colour blue, tried to do me a favour once after his own accounting procedures proved hopeless, and ended up making the situation 10 times worse for both of us! Ironically, one of the greatest sinners was an organisation that represented and advised companies of all sizes: they definitely didn’t walk their own talk!

  3. Oh how familiar this all sounds. Thank you for the insightful article.

    I hope this makes a few people look at their company processes and realise how many procurement departments are excellent at weeding out great suppliers leaving only the most persistent and patient.

  4. Heh heh heh.

    Similar crap happens when working with small businesses, too.

    What’s that? Now that your CEO has hired me, you want me to write up a statement of benefits as to why this work matters to your organization? And I can’t get the advance, agreed upon payment until I do this? Perhaps you should write up a statement explaining why you need me to write up a statement. I really need that document before I can get started.

    Wait. Let me see if I understand this. Now, after delivering the FINAL draft, you decide to send it to your partner who circles all text on the page with a single comment, “rewrite”? And when I get on the phone with your partner, she refuses to tell me what she doesn’t like or wants me to change because, “I’m not doing your job for you”? No worries; you don’t have to do my job. And I’m not going to do my job either. Just keep the final draft and use the final payment to hire a mind reader to finish the work for you.

    I see. So, even though you really want to work with me, you can’t afford me, and have two people wanting to do work for you for free? I can’t compete with free, so have at it.

    Although shite like is painful when it happens, it’s also good for laughs later on 😀

    1. Renae, Hahahahahahahaha!

      This may be the funniest thing I’ve ever read, especially ” No worries; you don’t have to do my job. And I’m not going to do my job either. Just keep the final draft and use the final payment to hire a mind reader to finish the work for you.”

  5. Hi Josh,

    Thank you for this. I thought when I left corporate America, the bullshit would end. It did not and it’s almost worse when they are a client. I mostly work with individuals now just to keep my blood pressure down.

  6. Josh, while it’s a relief to know you weren’t the only one to go through this, what a sad state the corporate world is in.

    We’re all in this together but many forget they’re dealing with humans. Why aren’t we doing better, and why do so many hide behind policy?

    The mid-sized, overseas-based company I work at is also frustratingly bad at dealing with anything compensation- and HR-related. You get the sense they wished we were all just robots who didn’t take vacation or require pay.

    Thank you for the great post. I hope they make this right for you soon.

  7. Gee, I guess I’ll stop complaining about every check being one to four weeks late and the bank then holding every check for another 7 days (even though they got their money in two) because it is from a “new source”.

  8. Since we run in similar circles, I know precisely who this is and had similar experiences — btw, 120 days is the time it takes them to negotiate a payment, not pay you — that’s more like 6-8 months, and ends up being in some weird currency that will cost you 10% to cash into dollars… at least was for me.

    good news, there is only 1 more company like them – similar size and organizational structure – in our world. the rest is pretty good — and although i had plenty of problems with others, for the most part (with one glaring exception for a client who had outsourced their entire AP world to Accenture in India with catastrophic consequences (I had, as part of my exchange for solving an issue with them, already warned them I will publicly shame them constantly for their lack of effort at being humans) they have been resolved quickly.

    I have had or have relationships with virtually everyone in our industry at one time or another – and for the most part, they are good at it (if you don’t count that more than 30-days for a solo practitioner is like a death sentence for cashflow :)) and they always try to make it work.

    just thought I’d add the 2 drachmas that validate your experience.

    my best advice for this particular vendor? just assume you will get something, someday – and do the work bc you like the people, not because of the money. I had successfully dealt with them like this until I fired them last year for pissing me off as a vendor.

    talk soon

    1. This list is not all from the same client. And I don’t think you know who it is.

      But the fact that these tactics all seem familiar explains a lot about the state of the freelancing business.

  9. Does the experience not illustrate more how enterprise applications business software are now designed for one size fits all humongous corporations. Not as a composition of businesses policies designed for different scale to foster great operations (hello smart contracts world).

  10. After only 2 years as a sole proprietor I’ve experienced almost every one of these things. Comforting that I’m not alone, I guess? I have started imposing a late fee but it remains to be seen how long that will take to be paid.