How can I get paid for freelance work?

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How can I get paid for freelance work?

I wrote 2 articles for a publication that I had interned for a few years ago. The magazine is owned/run by a lady, who called me up and asked me to write 2articles 5 months ago. She told me she would pay me $125 per article. Both were written and submitted well before the deadline, and both ran in the publication. I am now back at college and have emailed her, sent invoices, had my parents call her, and have left multiple messages for her – all of which she has ignored. She is apparently notorious for not paying people. What recourse do I have? The amount total isn’t huge ($250) but I do need it.

Asked on November 1, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Legally, if you performed work pursuant to an agreement to be paid--including as a freelancer, and even if it was a verbal agreement--you have a right to be paid. As a practical matter, it may be very difficult or not worth while to be paid: there is no mechanism for enforcing  payment on contracts--which is what this is; you'd be suing for breach of contract--other than by bringing a lawsuit, which has its own costs. If she is local, you might wish to consider suing her in small claims court; for a variety of reasons, if she's not local, it's very difficult to sue on a cost-effective basis, in small claims court or otherwise.  Even small claims court will have some costs, such as a small filing fee (usually around $25 - $35), plus, of course, your time in pursuing the matter.

Without rending an opinion on the legality, strength, or merits of your case, which I cannot, I would suggest to anyone that they think carefully about whether $250 is worth the cost and effort of a lawsuit, especially since even if you have a very strong case, court is never certain--i.e. there's always a chance you'll lose.


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