Writer Is A Flake

Hi Angela,

Once again I turn to you for advice, but this time it’s about a writer I hired to help me with a big project. This is the third year I have done this big project for a client and the third time this guy has helped me. No written contract, but I thought he knew the drill. But no. I wanted him to make phone calls, do interviews and then write up a two to three page case study (from a template I gave him). I gave him 11 to get started and he agreed he could make the deadline of the third week of Oct.

Then he disappears from radar (he lives in Canada) and stops responding to phone messages, e-mail messages bounce back because his mailbox is full. Finally I reach him and tell him I have to have something. Then the excuses start: thought I’d sent that, I’ll send it right away and a week later something comes, etc.

Long story short: the work he did turn in at long last I could not use and had to re-do each one. One he didn’t turn in at all and swears he e-mailed it. It was poorly written, full of grammar and spelling errors, etc. No quotes so I am guessing he didn’t do any interviews. Just worked off the preliminary info I gave him.

Yesterday I got an invoice from him. He has billed five hours per case study–2 hours writing, 2 hours “research” and 1 hour “finalizing.” He wants to know what I haven’t paid yet because he sent the invoice a month ago. The creation date on the file is yesterday.

The end result is the 11 case studies are not the same level of quality as the others because I didn’t have time to do the interviews myself. And I was more than a month late and had to put aside the work for two other clients to get this phase of the project done.

My question: should I pay him anything? I’ve asked around and one writer pointed out that if he turns in bad copy he’d never get paid a dime. I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.


Unfortunately, yes, you must pay him. You had an unwritten contract and the terms are based on your discussions and also based on assumptions on your past work with him. The assumption, I assume, was that he turns in the copy and you edit. He did do the work and, while he did disappoint, he did do it. If you had a kill fee in your contract, that would be one thing. Also, if you used any portion of his work, even rewriting it, you did use his work. So, yes, you must pay him. But, you’ll know to never hire him again and to not give him a good reference, of course.