Today I received an unusual e-mail from a former Folio: freelancer.
Earlier this year, we had discussed the possibility of working with him
on a semi-regular basis. We elected not to. He began working for the
competition. No problem.

Until I received this e-mail today
(nearly 9 months later) claiming we owed him $2,000 resulting from that
conversation. He’d be happy to do an article for us, he wrote, but
either way, we owed him.

I gawked at the screen. I laughed. Then I got angry.

nine months after a conversation that went nowhere, he had the brass to
contact us, demanding payment for work that never happened. We all
agree there was no printed contract, yet he claims there was a verbal
consensus (there wasn’t). He claimed we barred him from contacting our
competitors for work (we didn’t). When he started writing for the
competition shortly after our initial meeting, he never heard a peep
from us.

This freelancer then triumphantly accused us of
stealing a story idea he had submitted on editors becoming publishers.
Never mind that the story we
ran was a column submitted by a former editor who became a publisher.
Never mind that we had already done a separate story on editors
becoming publishers nearly a year before.

payment for work completed is natural. Demanding payment for something
never assigned nor agreed upon is mind-boggling. Previously, a
different freelancer had amazed me by continually asking for more work
while in the process of blowing the deadline on his current assignment.
Now that seems almost reasonable by comparison.

I respect
freelancers. A good one is a true asset and we’ve worked with many. As
staff editors, it’s our responsibility to clearly outline what we want
and provide the freelancer with contacts and additional resources to
make his or her job easier.

But, freelancers, don’t jack me
up. Deliver what I’ve asked for, not what you think is good enough. And
when I haven’t asked you to do anything, don’t try to invent your own

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