28 July 2015 | 42 Comments
Yesterday I was running late for my weekly pick-up soccer game. I was dashing around my condo grabbing cleats, water, shorts, etc. Right before I was poised to leave, I checked my e-mail one last time and saw an invoice from a freelancer who has been helping on one of our upcoming products.
I paused, checked the clock. Can it wait? I thought. Can I play soccer, then pay the invoice later tonight?
My answer: What does it say about the value I place on this freelancer if I don’t make this a priority?
So I sat down, paid the invoice via PayPal, and then left for soccer. It took about 2 minutes, max.
Before I talk more about what this means, I want to be clear that this is my philosophy, and I’m not forcing it on you or judging you for doing things differently. I’m just going to share some thoughts here, start a conversation, and we’ll see where it takes us.
6 years ago, I wrote a short story that got accepted by an online literary magazine. They paid $50 for the story, which was awesome, as I had never been paid anything to write before. The magazine agreed to pay me within 60 days of publishing the story (their standard terms), and while I didn’t really think about what that meant, I agreed to them.
The story was published, and 57 days passed without a word from the editor. This was a seminal moment for me as a future game publisher, because I felt something I had never felt before: Against all rationale, I felt like I was never going to get paid, and for some reason–despite the fact that $50 was a drop in the bucket–it mattered.
I wrote to the magazine to check in, and they said I would be paid within the terms of the agreement. They paid me on the 60th day. I kind of wish I had waited for the 60th day to pass before saying anything, because I suspect they actually had no plans to pay me or the other authors–it’s a situation where the author doesn’t want to offend the publisher, and more than likely they’ll just forget they’re owed anything. It’s not like I had a calendar alert set for the 60th day: “Make sure the magazine pays you today!”
I learned something that day about how a freelancer might feel when a publisher doesn’t prioritize their payment. It was a hopeless, sinking feeling. I don’t want to ever make a freelancer feel that way.
Could I have waited a few hours to pay the invoice? Absolutely. In fact, based on the terms of most invoices, I could have waited 29 days if I wanted to.
But I want to show our freelancers that they don’t ever have to wonder for a second if we’re going to pay them or not. I want them to understand how much I value what they’ve spent the last few weeks or months working on. I want to show them that they are just as high of a priority as a backer or a customer.
Because without my graphic designer, artists, sculptors, fulfillment companies, lawyers–anyone to whom I outsource important tasks and talent–without them, there is no Stonemaier Games. There’s just a dude with a pile of sketches and two cats.
I can’t always pay invoices right away, usually because I’m sleeping when I receive them. Or, back when I was preparing for the Euphoria Kickstarter campaign, I simply ran out of money and needed to wait to pay until after we received the backer funds. Or, more recently, I didn’t see that an invoice was included in a zip file with some other illustrations.
But here’s the thing: When you set a precedent for paying immediately after receiving an invoice, freelancers can work with you when things go wrong. On the recent example, the freelancer didn’t think I was trying to skip out on the bill because I had always paid so promptly. It was obvious to her that I had overlooked it, and her e-mail exuded understanding, not anger.
These are the perks of paying immediately, though they’re not my primary motivator. I really just want to show freelancers that I care about them. They are a priority, and I value their work, even if it sometimes means being a few minutes late for soccer.
If you’re an entrepreneur, what’s your philosophy on paying freelancers? If you’re a freelancer, what do you think?