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World's Longest Invoice Unlikely to Be Paid

World's Longest Invoice Unlikely to Be Paid
Photograph by Everett Collection

Freelancers who don’t get paid until after their work is done always risk getting burned by clients. Brooke Dixon, a Long Island Web developer who is no longer holding his breath on the $45,000 he’s owed from four years of freelancing, now knows what to look for. “There are very consistent signs,” he says. “Phone calls are returned less frequently. E-mails don’t get returned. I can kind of see what’s going to happen.”

Writers, designers, and programmers can’t exactly repossess their projects if a check never arrives. Solo business owners have little bargaining power when working with bigger companies. Going to court to enforce a contract may cost more than the payment is worth, and suing can scare off potential future clients. Business owners have little recourse, then, besides sputtering rage.