Freelancing Nightmare, part 1
I didn’t want to start the month with a post like this. However, these past days, I’d been trying to write something else but I always ended up not finishing what I started. It seems that this post was screaming to be written. I originally wanted to tell this story a month ago but I was prevailed upon by good friends not to do so. I relented, but only because at that time, I was still very angry so I feared I would write something that I will regret later. But now, I can tell you this story in a somewhat detached, objective manner. I can stick to the facts and avoid speculation and conjecture.
I’d been doing freelance work since 2004 and I like to think that I have chalked up a lot of things to experience. Freelancing is a great career choice for me because it allows me to pursue my other interests, which wouldn’t be manageable if I had a full-time job. Through the years I have dealt with clients of varying likeability, worked in the best (and worst) of conditions, and coped with other difficulties while trying to maintain a good track record. At this point, I like to think that I have learned to trust my intuition and avoid working with people who don’t share my work ethic. But, as it turns out, there’s still room for a few mistakes.
The mistake I’m talking about is someone I met back in the 90s, while I volunteered for an AIDS NGO. Let’s call him SJ. When I got recruited by this NGO to work on a project with overseas Filipino workers, SJ and I became colleagues. We didn’t become close friends but we were at least on friendly terms. We also have many mutual friends. A few years ago we reconnected through Facebook but never really saw each other personally. Since last year he would chat me up over at Facebook, asking questions on random subjects. I learned that he was connected with a public relations company that prides itself as a “smorgasbord” of ideas. I gladly answered these questions, because I didn’t see it as a nuisance.
Last August 20, SJ chatted me up and asked for my number. He sounded frantic on the phone, telling me about this urgent writing task that he needed to have done. He asked if I can recommend someone who can help him. I told him if it was just a quick writing task, I could squeeze him in the project I was working on that time. He said he can only pay a certain amount and I told him not to worry about it. I didn’t mind helping him out because of our history. So I did the job and submitted the output the next day, during which he said he’d be able to pay me a week later. I said no problem. His text messages are pictured below.
In the next 7 days, we exchanged the drafts of the document because the scope of the writing task changed. To be specific, I was initially asked to write a “criteria” for judging a contest. I ended up writing the mechanics of the whole event, not just the contest. I didn’t complain because it was a good break from the technical nature of my main project that time. Compared to the monograph I was writing, this was a no-brainer. One week passed and I didn’t hear anything from SJ. On September 8 I chatted him up at Facebook and he gave me a somewhat unbelievable excuse. I let it pass. We exchanged messages again on September 9 and again he gave me a different but still hard-to-believe excuse. See these excuses below. On September 11 SJ didn’t respond to my message at all.
I was gradually becoming alarmed but still continued to believe that SJ will pay me accordingly. I didn’t think that SJ is that kind of person, basing it from how I knew him before: civic-minded, educated, from a well-off Chinese family, etc. But I was getting frustrated and I reflected this in my Facebook status.
I also started asking our mutual friends about SJ. And I was taken aback at what I discovered about SJ.
*to be continued*