A few mounts back I was working as a freelancer (or External collaborator the legal term around here) for a architecture firm. In few words - I didn’t get paid for the work I’ve done. And it’s my mistake, as much as the firm’s.
I made every deadline, I’ve done better work than many of the other architects in the firm, I was the one that the investors were calling non-stop, I was getting Skype calls in 6am in the morning (because one of the investors was living in the UK, just to ask some stupid question, about the square footage of his kitchen), I was even IT support in the firm … in the end, I was the one that got screwed over.
The main big project failed, even though I’ve finished the work, I didn’t got paid for the time I’ve spend on the project. The other project got build, but all I’ve got, were just 100 euros. This job pretty much, took away my whole summer, not counting all the other bullshit I had to go through with.
The thing was, even though I knew all this before, the firm I was working, the summer before this last one, had payed me really nicely and because of that, I didn’t react before I accepted these jobs. I got stupid. I took their word.
Never make my mistakes, even if you are working for your own father.
Here are a few tips for architecture freelancers:
1. Make a pre-agreement
For a freelancer and an architecture student, if you can, this is the best way to go. I’d say it’s best to agree on a monthly fee on one project, till it’s finished. This is handy because, until they need you, you will get paid, no matter how much work you do. There will be months with a lot work to be done and there will be months with very little work to be done.
2. Never give out a digital file
Always present your work on a hard print. I’d go all the way, with a black and white print. Until you get paid, you don’t pass on any digital copy.
If you must give out a digital file, mark it with a digital signature on a read-only file, that cannot be removed and it will always be printed out when they try to print the plans and they can’t copy-pastе the content on another file. (Autocad, Revit, Adobe … can do this)
3. Present your work online
If you have a deal on a legal paper, always present your work online. If it comes to a cold-blooded thievery for your idea and you like to take legal actions, that will be valuable evidence in a copyright court case.
And yes, this has happened!! This is a lawyer’s advise to me.
4. Get a legal payment deal on paper
Try to do this, even if you have to pay the notary fee, if there are a lot of money in question, it will pay out for you, if the firm try’s to play you.
5. The firm is your client, not the investor
Never make the mistake and get angry with the investor, or even be that crazy and ask him for the money. If you can, don’t even be his main contact. It will drive you crazy.
If the project fails, you should still get paid, for the time you spend on that project. It’s never your fault, it’s the firm’s bad business and bad client relationship.