Gobsmacked – Scammed Again

I consider myself an intelligent person, so whenever someone manages to trick me I feel utterly gobsmacked. A couple of months back, I was contacted by an internet marketing company to which I’d submitted a resume. The man I spoke to was charming, funny and you got a sense right off that he was regular folk. Someone you could be friends with. Good, right?

After we hung up, he immediately sent a contract and some tax forms, which I filled out and sent back the next day. Then I didn’t hear from the fellow for over a week – just when I was about to give him up for lost. Again, he was charming and offered reasonable excuses which I accepted. After all, I wanted the work and he complimented me quite a bit on my blog which he said he had been reading.

Then a couple more weeks went by and again, as I was about to give him up for lost, the phone rang. He had work for me. And wasn’t I delighted to hear about that? He offered me a price, which I accepted and told him to send the info and it turned out to be a pretty healthy chunk of work, which I finished in about three days. They were press releases, not the main type of work he had called me about but some ‘extra’ work that he thought he’d throw my way. He also told me there would be no delay on the pay and that I had only to send him and invoice and as soon as he got it, he would write me a check and send it off. Okay, this is the part that gets dicey. A few days go by and no check. He is only two states over from me and 5 days certainly should have been enough time, since I emailed him the invoice with the last press release. Oh, and he’d already assured me that the client loved the work. So, what was the problem?

The client was out of town and they hadn’t paid him yet – but oh the other work was going to be a go in a few days and again being the anxious writer I was, I let the fact slip that our agreement was that he would pay the invoice on delivery, not when his client paid him. Stupidly, I began the other work and worked on it flat out for four days and go it to him 4 days ahead of schedule. No acknowledgement, no thank you for the work, nothing. When I finally called him he said he hadn’t had time to look at it – which was odd since the deadline he’d given me had passed. If that was the deadline wouldn’t it have made sense for him to have looked at it/edited it? I started to get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach but I’d invested time and work (all of which he had) and I had to continue to believe this was all going to work out fine.

The next day he sent me the pages with his edits, but he also sent me the pages of the other writer on the project and I saw that our pages were vastly different. It worried me that he hadn’t mentioned it – he hadn’t given me any guidelines, though I’d asked for them. But since he seemed okay with the pages I let it pass. He told me that once the client approved, he’d send out a check (which was the agreement). I also asked him about the check for the previous work and he said he was still waiting for his client to pay me.

Then I got a somewhat hysterical call from him two days later, saying the pages were wrong and claiming I’d lifted copy off another dentist’s website – which not only shocked me but made me feel sick to my stomach, as I didn’t lift anything from anywhere. I assured him that wasn’t the case and I offered to rewrite the pages more to the style of the other writer and he said okay. I rewrote the pages (50 of them) in about 36 hours. Just as I was ten pages from completion he called again and apologized for being so worked up and claimed he’d quit smoking and that’s why he’d been so anxious. I told him not to worry about it and finished the pages. I sent them the next day.

The day after that I recieved a cc of a mass email sent to all the writers saying payment had been scheduled and would be sent out Monday. Well, as it turned out it took 10 days for the payment to reach me and it was only for the previous ‘extra’ work – not for the pages.

When I called him again, he said the client was paying on the 15th (of May) and he would cut the checks the next day. The 15th was only few days away so I agreed, even though he’d had the pages for three weeks and they were already on his client’s website.

Well, and the rest of the story is this, after continually calling and emailing and getting false assurances that the check is on the way time and again, there is no check and I’m pretty sure there won’t ever be a check and that he never intended to pay me in the first place. Quite possibly the only reason he paid me the first check was in order to get me to do the work on the bigger project, realizing he couldnt’ stall me any longer and I wouldn’t deliver on the bigger job if he didn’t pay me the small check.

After reading this, you’re probably thinking, duh. And you’d be right to think so. You’d think that all the signs were pointing in the wrong direction and I should have seen them. And I did, sort of…but the guy was just so darn likeable and I just didn’t want to believe he was a shit. I just didn’t want to believe that somebody I liked would do something so shitty – that I’d been so naive and easy to take in.

So, what I’ve learned from this experience as well as a few others is this: Writers are often treated poorly, especially those who are striking out on their own newly and needy for work, the pay offered is close to being an insult and then not getting the small amount offered is even worse. From here on out, I don’t care if the person is charming or not, in fact, I may just shy away from charming perspective clients, I may just look for the just the facts, kind of client who sticks to business and keeps his word. And I will never ever work again on spec – if that means I get less offers than I guess it does. If that means I get no offers, that’s fine too because I can always go get a conventional job if I have to. But from here on out, a deposit is required for my services.

My advice to any writers out there, looking for work, don’t fall for this type of scam – they treat you nice and act like your friend but all they really want is work for free – even if he does utlimately end up paying me, it’s now been seven weeks since I completed the work and turned it in to him, yet he was paid by his client over a month ago. Is this the kind of client you want? I don’t think so.

As a writer you have to value your own work before someone else will. This writer has just begun doing that, as of now. I hope you do too.