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Freelancers fight to be paid

For the newbie's who find themselves doing project or consulting work, the WSJ today had a great article on freelancers and their pursuit of payment. Some of the suggestions in the article can apply to any business owner who finds themselves becoming a de facto bill collector.

Having recently spent six months trying to collect payment from a magazine, I can relate to the consultants  quoted in the article who are spending a crazy amount of hours trying to get paid. I hold out hope for others because my persistence paid off. I finally received payment after a bunch of phone calls and emails. Who knew that in the struggle for work life balance, I would have to allot so much time to the collection side of my job?

About 40% of freelancers had trouble getting paid in 2009, according to a survey released in mid-April by the New York-based Freelancers Union, a 135,000-member organization for independent contractors across the country in fields such as media, technology, and advertising. This was the first year the union asked members about this topic.

Some suggestions from the article:  Before accepting a job, freelancers can search consumer complaint Web sites like RipoffReport.com and industry discussion boards. Michelle Goodman, author of  "My So-Called Freelance Life", also suggested checking gawker.com, which often shames businesses that stiff freelancers. Michelle advises having penalties for being paid late built into a written contract. Of course, going to court is an option, too. Typically, it's a last resort. But who wants to resort to that?

Have you experienced difficultly getting paid? How long is too long to be considered reasonable? When does it no longer become worth your time to pursue an unpaid fee?