How the bank holiday bonanza has affected freelancers

The cheque's in the postLast Tuesday, I finally returned to work after a relaxing, 11-day break, but spare a thought for the freelance community after the recent bank holiday bonanza.

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one taking an extended hiatus from the office – in the UK, the combination of a late Easter, the extra public holiday for the Royal Wedding and May Day, meant that by taking just three days holiday, you could get almost two weeks off work. Bargain!

But for many freelancers who rely on getting money out of big (and small) organisations, the last two weeks has resulted in – and continues to be – a complete nightmare.

You see, according to the straw poll I’ve taken among some freelance friends, they’ve been royally screwed over by many organisations who are paying late, or who have not signed off whole swathes of invoices.

It all comes down to the number of processes that exist in many companies now. Even if an invoice has been supplied and it tallies with an already-raised PO number (ugh, the dreaded purchase order), this still needs to be signed off by someone in the organisation, before the payment can be processed.

And the most frustrating thing is that there seems to be only ONE person in many companies who can carry out this authorisation. ONE! It baffles me that organisations can pay their staff on time every month, but can’t manage to process a bunch of invoices for services without which they also could not function.

Typical exchange related to me:
Freelancer: ‘Can you let me know when I’ll be paid for the work I did x months ago?’
Accounts: ‘Sorry, the Finance Director is on holiday. I need to wait till they’re back.’

What would happen if the Finance Director was knocked down by a bus tomorrow? Would the company then wait until they returned from hospital after 6 weeks in traction before carrying out any core money-related actions? Of course they wouldn’t.

So why must the poor freelancers suffer? Ironically, the work that small businesses or freelancers carry out is often the most crucial, filling the gaps that larger organisations can’t plug for budget- or skills-related reasons, and yet when it comes to fulfilling their end of the bargain, the commissioning company fails dismally.

Sadly, there’s very little a lone freelancer can do. Stories abound of people holding out on payment and, yes, the old ‘cheque is in the post’ excuse really does still exist.

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