The 5 Most Annoying Things Freelancers Deal With

By Mason Lerner July 2nd, 2014

No matter what you do for a living, you have to deal with particular annoyances on a daily basis. It might be the guy in the cubicle next to you who never stops chewing on ice. It could be the incessant conversations about whose trip to Martha’s Vineyard was the most fabulous. Really, the list of potential annoyances in the work place is infinite.

For freelancers, however, the frustrations that come with the job tend to have a larger impact on bringing home the bucks. To make matters worse, people can just be straight-up insulting when they hear you are a writer. Here are five of my “favorite” annoyances a freelance writer is sure to face:

1. “We can’t pay you, but this will look great in your portfolio”

This is something I see regularly on Craigslist postings. I realize Craigslist isn’t necessarily legitimate when it comes to finding work, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. Freelance writers are professionals just like anyone else. We expect to get paid for our work, and it’s insulting to suggest otherwise.

If writing were so easy, the people putting up posts would do it themselves. But it’s not, so they need help from freelancers. I’m not exactly sure why they think professionals would even consider working for free. When you’re a student, it’s cool to write for student publications in order to gain experience and build your portfolio. That’s the case with all academic clubs. But by the time you hit the real world, your portfolio should help you pay rent.

Would a plumber fix your toilet for free because you’ll give his business card to everyone who flushes in the future? No customers would initiate that deal, because nobody wants a plunger upside the head. It’s too bad freelance writers don’t carry plungers. Maybe we should.

2. “We can’t pay now, but we will once our site starts generating revenue”

And I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. I’ve had a few incidents where I responded to job posts seeking freelancers only to be told companies aren’t paying… yet. This is even more annoying than the “build your portfolio” nonsense. At least those guys pretend to offer something tangible in return for your work.

Unless you were born yesterday while falling off a turnip truck, you know these offers will never make you a penny. It’s infuriating to know these people are trying to exploit a segment of the workforce they see as vulnerable.

3. People who say they really admire writers and then ask what I do for a living

I have been told I am “noble” and “admirable” for pursuing a writing career. But those same people often wonder aloud what I do to make ends meet.

Guess what? Just because a person is a freelance writer doesn’t mean he has to paint houses, park cars, or strip at bachelor parties. There is nothing wrong with a side job—and stripping at bachelor parties is probably quite lucrative—but being a freelance writer is a full-time job that takes an incredible amount of hustle, skill, and confidence. That should be respected.

4. Late payments from aloof publishers

Getting paid late is obviously unacceptable. Like any professional, a freelance writer is expected to deliver quality work in a timely fashion. In return, we expect to be paid in a timely fashion. And with today’s technology, claiming “The check’s in the mail” just doesn’t cut it.

While a company dragging its feet before cutting a check is annoying, nothing is worse than editors or publishers who won’t take your call when they owe you money. If you don’t pay me and let my calls go to voicemail, expect to incur my wrath. Granted, by wrath I mean I will go on a Twitter rant, but that doesn’t make late payments from an ambivalent client any less annoying.

5. Unscrupulous editors

This is pretty rare, but it has happened to me once. There is nothing worse than pitching a story, having it rejected, and then seeing an uncomfortably similar story published by the same publication.

There usually isn’t much you can do about this. Sure, you can take action if you can prove they used information you provided. But most times, you’re helpless.

Publications that regularly jack ideas from freelance talent probably won’t be around for very long. But that still doesn’t stop some people from doing it. Of course, even if you can’t take action, that doesn’t mean you can’t share your annoying experiences with the world. And with a well-timed Twitter rant, word can travel fast.

Image by Natacha Pisarenko
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