“Bad Economy” as an excuse for “Bad Business”

I am an artistAs a contract employee I enjoy a lot of freedoms. I am able to choose jobs as I want to take them, have the freedom to make my own schedule (or rather, to work around the baby’s schedule), and make decisions for my business based on my personal beliefs and personality. The flip side is that I am at the mercy of the business practices of others, and as of late, I’m unimpressed.

At some point in time it became trendy to use “the bad economy” as a way to explain away being a bad person and bad business-person. Hearing statements like “things are really tight right now”, “everyone in this economy is really hurting”, or “everybody’s feeling it” are simply weak attempts to justify the fact that small business owners are not always on the level and have no problem asking for services to be completed and then whining “bad economy” for not settling up.

If you don’t have the money to pay for a service, don’t ask for it. I guess I should be thankful that I have only been burnt a handful of times. As a designer, I create the work and then send an invoice. Sometimes it takes a while to collect, but I’ve been stiffed very few times. The times I have been stiffed, however, I got the “bad economy” excuse. TWO of these clients asked for work and then stiffed me KNOWING I was pregnant. BOTH of these clients have been in touch since I have had the baby asking for more work, with no intention of paying their open invoices. I think there is a special ring of hell for anyone that stiffs a pregnant woman, but to come back months later and want to be friends?  I must really seem stupid.

Yes, I know – ask for a deposit, get money down, have a signed contract… yes, yes, yes. and in most cases I have enough paper trail to take them to court. But the reality is that I am a trustworthy person and, by default, I expect others to be trustworthy. That used to mean something in business and with the community. Screaming “bad economy” to cover lousy intentions can only go so far until these companies are exposed for what they really are. The internet makes word of mouth a truly powerful instrument, and the world is getting too small for these parasites to continue preying on contracted individuals.

I hope that someday the phrase “bad economy” becomes another way to say “rising tide lifts all boats”. That people will over tip a waitress and say “it’s a bad economy, I know she could use it”. That businesses will create profit sharing plans with their employees because “it is a bad economy, having our employees on the same page to make this business great is the only way we will survive”. Or even “it is a bad economy, now is a good time to look at what we can reuse and repurpose to make our budget go farther”…..

Eventually, karma evens the playing field and wipes all slates clean, but I have to say in the meantime there isn’t a “bad economy”. Only bad people.



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