When members come to us with grievances for nonpayment against reputable publishers or corporate clients, we can usually help them get their money.
Yet more and more of our grievances are against lone wolves: scam artists who hide, change identities, or just plain ignore writers’ claims. A lot of them run blogs, which they start and fold faster than you can say, “Where’s my money?” Some are ghostwriting clients. Then there’s the flip side. A writer pays for a service such as publicity or editing, as a member did recently, and the service provider takes the money and runs.
The main characteristic of these scam artists—even if they call themselves Blogright LLC—is that they’re usually individuals. And it’s close to impossible to collect from an individual.
The best way to avoid these people is not to get involved with them in the first place. Before you take an assignment, do a thorough online search and write to firstname.lastname@example.org to see if we have anything on them in our database.
If you do business with a lone wolf, get a contract and ask us to review it. But even if the proprietor breaches the agreement, it’s expensive to go to court to enforce it. So if the contract is for work to be done over a period of time, get at least some money up front. If it’s for a series of articles, for instance, make sure you’re paid within two weeks of submitting each one. You don’t need to be that strict with entities such as Forbes or Redbook because you know where to find them. But the lone-wolf blogger can quickly vanish.
Above all, if the publisher or client doesn’t meet the milestones, stop working. Never continue writing for someone who’s delinquent in paying you. A journalist just told us he hadn’t been paid for his October and December blog entries. December shouldn’t have happened.
You can’t be too careful. To quote Joseph Heller’s Catch-22: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
Barbara Mende is the coordinator of the Grievance and Contract Division.