Wednesday, November 08, 2006


In my thirteen-odd years of doing freelance work for people, I'd have to say that by and large, most of my clients have been pretty intelligent. They listen to my suggestions, find my rates reasonable to the services I provide and, once they've given a loose guideline of what they want, allow me to run with it free of interference to do what it is that I do best.

Then there's the small percentile that not only fell out of the stupid tree and hit every effin' branch on the way down, but managed to land abruptly in the stupid pond and get soaked right down to the marrow.

Without naming names, allow me to recount the story of one such client. We'll call them Dumbass University.

Dumbass contacted me months ago to draw caricatures for a small event held in their commons today. They'd seen my work firsthand from a previous caricaturing event that they'd hired me for. During that previous event I was handed a check midway through my contracted time. Not only was the check for half the amount I was contracted for, but someone else's name was on it. I immediately brought this to the attention of my contact person, who then scrambled to cut me a new check before my contracted time was up. Fortunately, all was rectified in time.

So when I got the call to do this new gig for Dumbass, I thought to myself, "How good are the odds that something that unabashedly ignorant could happen again?" I later found out that the answer was: "Very good."

Trying to forgo any unncessary mishaps this time around, I called up Dumbass University to make sure I was all set for the event, which was an hour and fifteen away from commencement. The person I spoke with said that, while they were ready for me, they hadn't received a contract from me yet.

FYI, I informed them, I sent out a contract the very same day I was requested to perform, at least two months back, and had also received confirmation from my contact person that same day that the contract was received and that everything was set. So, I went on, it made no sense to me as to why now they were asking for a contract which I'd already sent and had approved two months prior. The woman on the other end asked me to call her back in a half hour so she could get things straightened. I agreed, and hung up.

A half hour later, the woman said she still couldn't find my contract, and requested that I e-mail her a whole new invoice, insisting that I would be getting paid at the event. I had no choice. I whipped up a new invoice, e-mailed it off to her, and headed off to the event at Dumbass University.

Upon arriving at Dumbass, I encountered my original contact person. I again asked how they not only misplaced my first invoice but also lost all memory of my having ever sent it. The woman was adamant that she never got it, until I told her that she personally sent me confirmation of her receiving it. She then said, "Now that you mention it, I think I remember seeing it when I got it..." Still, a new contract had been e-mailed anyway, so it was a moot point. My contact then told me that my check would not be given to me at the event, but mailed to me this coming Friday. I said that would have to do, and went about my business of drawing caricatures.

Midway through my first two-hour block of time (the event was broken up into two two hour blocks), an emmissary of my contact person comes up to me and asks when I'll be sending the contract to his superior.

Growing very tense, I calmly hissed, "I e-mailed it a half hour before I got here. She should already have it."

The emmissary goes back to his superior, returns and again says she doesn't have my invoice. I then asked for my original contact person's e-mail address, thinking I'd have to re-e-mail her a new invoice (making it the third). Suddenly, thinking better of it, I grabbed a marker and hastily scrawled out a new invoice on a sheet of paper, handed it to the emmissary and told him to take this to his superior, make sure it's acceptable, then get confirmation that I'll still have a check for the full amount due to me sent out this Friday. He left immediately to replay the message and deliver the third invoice.

Five minutes before my shift is up, and the emmissary hasn't returned. His air-headed little associate is holding his post at the event, yakking away on her cellphone. I interrupt, saying I need to know where the emmissary is, if he delivered the invoice, if it will work and if I will indeed be paid my full amount and have it be sent to me this Friday. With a few pauses here and there, she managed to relay my message, and confirmed that all has been handled and the check will be in the mail on Friday.

I'm now on a two hour break before I return to Dumbass University to complete the second block of my caricaturing session. If I happen to see my contact, I have no doubt that, with absolute decorum but with a very stern manner, I will question her and her associates ability to retain important information an documentation regarding my work for them. To shed the rhetoric, I'm good and pissed off. I shouldn't have to jump all these hurdles and go through all this bullshit for an event that I had set up well in advance. A university should be better run than that, and should have more effificient people in charge of such matters. Dumbass University does not impress me. I have one more gig slated with them in May, and if anything goes the slightest bit wrong between now and the arrival of my check, not only am I going to decline my involvement for the future gig, but I'm going to tell them so with no shortage of words beginning with "F".

So please, use this story as a parable should any of you care to hire me for an event or a project. Don't be like Dumbass University. File the papers, dot the i's, write the correct name and amount on the checks. And above all else, do not screw around with me.