Conversation-starter: How long should a freelancer have to wait to get paid?

Veteran journalist David Ogul tweeted the above on Thursday, then sent me an e-mail about his attempt to get paid by the Post.

A photographer (Nick Morris) and I went on a story safari on Oct. 31 looking for the mother of Justin Bieber’s alleged love child. We were promised to be paid the day rate of $200. We spent a full day trying to track her down and sent over some material that was used in the Post story the next day. After making several phone calls and sending numerous emails, we still haven’t gotten paid. Mr. Morris had told me some horror stories of photographers who were stiffed by the Post, but only after we were nearly done with the assignment. To not be paid by a company owned by a gazillionaire nearly three months after rendering services – especially after those services cost but a measly $200 – is ridiculous.

I was told it would take about a month [to get paid]. I was an assistant metro editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune for 11 years, and I authorized dozens of freelance payments. The longest anyone had to wait was three or four weeks. It’s not the money here that is important. It’s the principle. This is the Post we’re talking about, not some struggling weekly.

Ogul made another attempt to get paid after sending his email. He reported back:

I just talked to the administrative editor in charge of payments, Anne Aquilina. She said she would get right on it. Said she didn’t know what happened. Asked me to resend everything and she would walk it over to where it needed to go. I had sent emails and left messages in the past. Been hearing from others that’s how they work

I emailed Aquilina this morning and asked her how long it usually takes the tabloid to pay freelancers. I’ll post her response when it comes in.




  1. Dave said:

    He’s upset about three months? I’ve known some publications to take up to a year.

  2. Susan said:

    Surprising from the Post, but not in general. I’ve been waiting for payment for a story I wrote for a quarterly magazine since October, but ironically my husband, who photographed the same piece, has been paid. But only because he sent a nasty letter and doesn’t care if he works for them again. I’m almost at that point.

  3. Ed Murrieta said:

    When are advertisers expected to pay?

    That’s when freelancers should be paid.

  4. Too many freelancers have poor business practices and simply submit to this sort of abuse by editorial clients. I’ve been writing about this topic for nearly 10 years and require my corporate clients to pay 50% up-front and 50% plus expenses upon delivery.

  5. Rich said:

    I worked in newspapers for 15 years and switched to editing a monthly trade pub.

    I send in payment information to accounting when the mag goes to press and payment is received a week later. There’s never more than 20 days in between receipt of a story and sending out the check.

    I previously worked for a newspaper that not only stiffed freelancers, but their own employees, often letting business expenses ride on employees’ own credit cards for up to eight months.

    I never want anyone to go through that. It’s a crappy way to do business and bad karma.

  6. I was a freelance photographer for The Post for three years and they were always an amazing client. They were never stingy about giving me work or overtime, and the check was always in the mailbox on Friday. It was the closest thing to a steady paycheck/job I’ve ever had.

    I did wait over six months for a check from Sports Illustrated once. And when the check finally arrived it was for less than half of what I billed for.

  7. Pamstar said:

    Many freelancers were stiffed while the Tribune Co. was organizing its bankruptcy in 2008. The company still owes me $900.

  8. Billy Budd said:

    I had previously complained about this on Romenesko’s blog at Poynter.

    I did three freelance assignments for the NY Post in 2004. Like Ogul, I was promised the day rate of $200 per story. Frankly it was a sleazy escapade, but all three stories ran in the paper under my byline. Yet I never got paid for my work. I bothered the editors numerous times, and sent multiple invoices. I was left with one choice: Filing in small claims court. In the end I moved out of town. Checking my voicemail at a later date, I couldn’t believe who called with a new assignment. Any guesses? That’s right.

    Stop blaming the freelancers. This is about a publication that is often cavalier about the truth — why should we be surprised when they’re cavalier about paying people?

  9. NY Post paid in less than 30 days for a total of 11 days on-asignment, all invoiced together, in 2011.

  10. TLN said:

    I was promised to be paid on November 2011; but I still haven’t received the payment for my service rendered more than eight months ago. Also, I haven’t got a response my e-mails and phone-messages regarding the payment. The company still owes me more than $3,000. One of the company owners is a friend of mine. I worked for them based on oral agreement and trust. Can anyone tell me what I should do now?

  11. TLN said:

    I really appreciate if anyone can give me some advice about this issue.!