Top ten excuses for not paying up

One of the benefits of a conventional employer / employee relationship - apart from the free pens - is the certainty of a regular salary. However, when you step off that merry-go-round and join the freelance dodgems, all manner of hurdles can get in the way.

Here's my countdown of the inexcusable, the incomprehensible and the downright laughable. I hope they amuse you - they were hard won - and that you enjoy the comments in brackets. I would also love to hear the pleas of poverty you've had to put up with, and what you did about them.

Here we go...

10. I've had a lot of outgoings this month (paying other writers, maybe?).

9. I went on holiday for a week (although the payment deadline was actually before you vacated).

8. I wanted feedback from friends first (and maybe a whip-round).

7. I was too busy making money to pay you. (A work of genius.)

6. Crowdsourcing hasn't come through yet (now you tell me...).

5. I was in an accident. (Sorry to hear that. However, you only need one finger for Paypal.)

4. I didn't like what you produced, although I've never told you before - and I can now specify my requirements fully.  (Better late than never...)

3. I kinda thought, despite our agreement, that you'd work these two hours for free, as an opportunity (to starve).

2. I'm broke (and it's your responsibility now).

And the number one spotª - which also genuinely happened to me...after chasing the client for weeks.

1. Sorry, I've been really busy - I've got a new puppy. (She gladly showed me the picture when I asked. ºIt was a cute Dalmatian. However, despite assurances that she would now pay the invoice, ten days went by with nada contact. I lost patience, fired her and kept the work she hadn't paid for. She being the client, not the puppy.)

Going forward

Setting clear expectations at the outset can help, as can getting references from a client (it may seem a disproportionate response for a single piece of work though). The best approach is to have standard terms and conditions that you both sign off against, which effectively becomes a contract. Most importantly, treat your business with the same consideration that you would a client's. 

Looking sharp

You don't have to be smart these days to recognise a SMART goal when you see one. Sing it with me, people:

SMART goals are really useful, both personally and professionally, giving shape and definition to abstract aspirations. Those five filters are also a great way of applying a little objectivity.


Not so long ago I was on the member's forum for Sophie Lizards' and the community was discussing blog post ideas. I got to thinking then that maybe it was time for a new acronym for goals (I'm also a fan of new proverbs, as any reader of The Little Book of Cynics or As Above So Below magazine can attest).

Hence, SHARP goals!

Singular - A defined objective that can be a subset of something larger.
Holistic - All implications and impacts on environment and people have been considered, as well as how achieving this fits in with the bigger picture. (If you achieve 'X', then what?)
Ambitious - This  goal stretches you and demonstrably furthers your ambitions.  In other words, this goal matters and takes you forward.
Reasoned - You've thought this through and determined that, all things considered, this makes sense for you to do right now.
Practical - You understand the steps necessary to achieve the goal.

How do you decide which goals are the right ones for you?

The Silenced Hills

Image by kind permission of
Kelly Shorten and Musa Publishing
All writers love stories, and some say that the best comedians are really storytellers - with a bit of tragedy thrown in for good measure. I'm not really sure where this tale fits, but I've been itching to share it with you.

Back in the mists of time I was travelling from Cornwall to London by train and a story began to unfold. It was the tale of a man on the run, perhaps even from himself. It unfolded over the course of the five hour journey and, from the beginning, was known as The Silent Hills. Many writers have that experience of a story arriving, fully formed, and this was one such gift.

In August 2011 I was fortunate to come across Musa Publishing. To my surprise and delight they enjoyed The Silent Hills and wanted to publish it as a standalone story. There swiftly followed some mid-Atlantic editing and a cover design, before TSH was duly published in October of that year. 

The whole process has been an education and a joy, but - and not for want of trying - TSH never soared to great heights. As a standalone story, frankly, it stood alone. I was encouraged by the publisher to write a follow-up, which made perfect sense when you read the story. However, the 'voice' wasn't there for part two and I knew I'd have to create the plot and narrative this time, which risked ending up with a contrived piece of writing. (Yes, I know that all writing is contrived, but there's often an added inspiration or intent that breathes life into the endeavour. Not so this time.)

I don't know what constitutes good sales, as I have nothing to compare TSH with. It received some good reviews and the feedback suggested that people appreciated the same things about it that I did.

Well, folks, time moved on and I wrote something completely different for Musa - the mid-grade story Superhero Club. Elsewhere, when I wrote the first of my Brit thrillers, Standpoint, I like to think that some of TSH's DNA was also present. One great thing about having Musa publish The Silent Hills was that one of my fellow authors there suggested I join the International Thriller Writers to get regular updates connected with the genre. 

At that time the newsletter covered novels, but not short stories. However, three years is a long time in writing and politics. ITW started listing new short stories and I thought it might be good to get a line in for The Silent Hills, as part of its third anniversary as an ebook. All of which was fine. However...two mini events coincided.

1. The ITW kindly gave The Silent Hills a mention and included Musa's book link.
2. Musa wrote to me on the three year anniversary to remind me that rights would be reverted to me, unless I wanted them to continue publishing The Silent Hills. I, of course, understood that rights reverted to me automatically, so when I received a contract requiring an electronic signature, I assumed it was to re-contract TSH for another three years. Not so. It didn't help that I'd checked out the email and e-contract using an iPad, which is not blessed with a giant screen. 

The upshot is that TSH's rights were returned to me and, quite rightly, Musa removed all versions of The Silent Hills available for sale online. Of course, this occurred at the very same time that the ITW came out that included TSH and a sales link. This is why, if you happened to receive the ITW newsletter, and you liked the title, The Silent Hills, you might have been perplexed why it was impossible to get hold of a copy.

As the young John Connor said in T2: Are we learning yet?

We are now!
Today's lessons are:
1. Always take copies of book reviews.
2. Always read the contract carefully!
3. Always have a Plan B.

Realistically, I now have two choices:
a) Republish The Silent Hills myself, as a standalone story.
b) Incorporate it into a collection of short stories.

Whichever route I take, or even if I decide to retire TSH, I'd like to thank the good people at Musa Publishing for getting my story to a wider audience. It's been quite a ride!