A writer’s career can be uncertain – especially the case if you are an independent freelancer. To an outsider the task may seem simple. After all, it is just a few typed words. Yet to write an article that is more than an opinion piece, requires some skill. It takes imagination to come up with an idea. It takes time to research it. It takes contacts to gain time with the relevant professionals. It may require distant travel. Then there is the physical act of writing and editing, and increasingly these days, picture sourcing. It is a skilled profession and it should receive a certain degree of respect, at least from publishers – the employers of writers. Alas this is not always the case… as I was to discover.
Two years ago someone claiming to be an editor of a new magazine on design contacted me. He spoke passionately on the phone about his new venture Future Space. He said he was planning on creating a niche within the design world with a digital publication that was more serious than its rivals. He seemed sincere. So he commissioned me, a fee was discussed – he even bartered a little – and an email confirmed the commission and deadline. And I travelled, interviewed, wrote, edited, sourced images and delivered.
He liked the article, and promptly published it online on the Future Space Journal. It remains there at the time of writing (see screen grab). I pitched further ideas. He agreed to almost all. The next article was sent over and published – yet not a penny came my way. This is when alarm bells began to ring and I wrote him a polite email. He replied that he was waiting on some payments from advertisers after which he will surely pay for my work. I sent my final article with a warning that no others would follow until my invoices are settled. His tone changed. He replied that he didn’t like my last piece and will not publish it. From then on numerous emails went backwards and forwards. We took soft legal action – yet he didn’t appear concerned. Following a tweet linking to this post, several other Future Space freelancers got in touch with similar tales.
It is two years since my first article was published on Future Space, and yet I am still waiting for payment. Would this man posing as a professional walk into a supermarket, pick up an item and walk out without paying? I doubt it. Yet what happened here is exactly that: my work was stolen. I have kept the emails. One day they will contribute to a story – a sad and sorry story. For now they are a stark reminder to be mindful of who we trust in this crazy world!