So, this stint of working for myself, I started in the Feb of 2015. As I write this, I complete three years of being on my own. And its been one helluva ride. There have been one or two ups and a lot of downs. Its definitely been a great learning experience. Truth be told, I am not really doing that great (compared to how Id be doing if I were working for someone else) but as I think back, I dont think theres anything else that I would have done. There are no regrets, if I may.
However, if I had an option to go back, I would undo a lot of things. Things like never working for someone without taking an advance.
And thats what the rant is about. Stay with me.
In the last three years I must have worked on 20 large projects and about 10 clients (both big and small). And out of those there are 3 clients and 3 large projects that I did NOT get paid for. And I am talking about serious money. About 11 lakhs. In sunk cost and opportunity cost. It may not look like a lot of money to you guys, but to me, its big. Big as in B I G.
The point of this post is to tell myself that I ought to write those off. And write an open letter of sorts to people who get work done and do not pay.
So, here I am. Officially and finally, writing the payment off. I dont really want to name the companies (or the people). Neither do I want to talk about the circumstances which lead to me not getting paid. But there is this thing that I do want to put forth.
Thing is, I am someone who doesnt really have an easily monetizable skill. I am NOT a designer, coder, photographer, fashion blogger, singer, drummer, rich heiress, son of businessman, baker, chef, make-up artiste or anything like that. These people are blessed in the sense that they can make a living whenever they choose and wherever they choose.
Neither am I a career professional who's spent years in a certain industry (or a discipline) with large companies and thus has a CV that can get a super cushy job. Most of my friends from MDI fall in this category.
What I am is a hustler. What is a hustler? You dont know? Stop reading right now. Close the browser. Leave.
People like me, the hustlers, are often the Jacks of all trades. We are aggregators have no marketable skill and often have to fake what we do. We rely on services of others, often working with make-shift teams and arrangements, trying to deliver a great product (or a service) that makes the customer choose us over other more "established" businesses. If I may use a better word, people like me have to hustle and hustle hard to make the ends meet.
And why? For ofcourse the independence. And to make ends meet while hoping that things we do, work on, they add up. Add up bit is important. What do I mean by adding up? That someday all the work we've done, all that we've been through gives us enough name, clout, attention, contacts, relationships, ideas that we can go make that dent in the universe.
So yeah. As long as you get work that adds up, work that continues to pay you and keep the engine going, all is well.
Till the time a client fucks up on the money that is promised to you.
After all, every rupee earned is a tiny step towards that dent. And every rupee lost is a roadblock. When a client decides to not pay, for whatever reasons, they put a roadblock on the path to my progress. In fact I'd say I am dragged back 10 steps - after all, to take up a project I had to let go of other opportunities. No? The other opportunities could mean working on a different project. Could mean that that book I've always wanted to write will have to take the back seat. Why? To earn bread!
In fact, by not paying you dont just put a dent in an individuals meticulous plan for life. But you are an impediment to the whole notion of Karma itself. When you dont pay, you stop, you pull back people like me from realizing their life goals.
You know, the most important commodity is time. And when I invest time... Wait. I dont "invest" time. I "exchange" my time with a client's money. And in this implicit contract, once I have done my part of the deal, I expect and its probably fair for them to hold up their part. And pay up.
But often, they dont. And when that happen that sucks. You are way too small to fight and argue and you'd rather move on. Its just sad.
What makes it worse is that people like me do not belong to the entitled class. We are not big corporations for sure. Neither do we have bankers or VCs on our side to look out for what we work on. More often than not, its an individual like me, trying to hustle hard. To do things, add up and make that dent in the universe.
The simple act of momentarily selfishness by a client stops the wheel of life. And thats not a cool thing to do. No?
P.S.: Here's a pledge. I WILL always pay once I have agreed on a number. Even if you take me for a ride, you dont deliver, you do shoddy work, you dont meet expectations, I am willing to understand and give you that extra chance. After all if people like me will not pay it forward, who will?