We need to encourage them to rethink working for free
or underbidding fellow freelancers. By undervaluing their services they do a huge amount of harm to their career, their reputation, but also the wider industry. Then we need to educate the clients. Sometimes bad practice is quite calculated and exploitative, at other times not. We want to encourage companies to make sure they’re treating freelancers with respect from start to finish, that includes paying them a fair wage, paying them on time and involving them in the company, so they’re not treated just as a blow-in. But we recognise that it’s not enough for it just to be the right thing to do morally. We want to go in and prove to companies that it’s better for their bottom line, too.
We’re also trying to change the legislation to give freelancers a lot more legal protection when it comes to late payments. We’re looking at double damages, whereby if a company is found wanting in small claims court, they’ll need to pay double the amount of the contract. And we’d like to make contracts mandatory above a certain amount of value, around £200. There was a very successful bill that was passed in New York, and the group that pushed that over the line contributed to a round table and offered us advice on putting a UK version together. Brexit isn’t helping, but we’re still very determined.
How does it benefit companies to pay freelancers on time?
Freelancers talk to each other. It’s not as big a community as one might think – there are close to five million self- employed individuals in the UK, and each of those sectors has little tribes. If you start to build up a bad reputation, it becomes more and more difficult to hire the best talent. Also you can maximise a freelance hire if you pay on time, as you’ll get to use them again. Most of the freelancers that we support are multi-skilled and, if you integrate them into your set-up, can often bring a lot of value to a company. Freelancers are quite vocal and have influence, they can be ambassadors for your company. They’ll often post work to social media, if it’s allowed in the contract. Again, that can either be a positive or a negative post.