Social media trolling is one of the worst forms of bullying. The perpetrator can be anonymous and for the victim, there’s no escape. Public humiliation from an account with thousands of followers can be horrific. It’s an abuse of power, using your influence for all the wrong reasons. But what if the same technique could be used for good? What if it could redress the power balance between a multinational company and an individual?
A few months ago, I agreed a big contract with a lovely apartment company. It wasn’t blog work, but freelance writing. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been taking on much freelance writing work lately because the clients can be really, really flakey. But this was different. The work was just the sort of thing I enjoy doing and better still, they were going to pay half up front.
Fast forward a few weeks, and they wanted one of the articles written quite quickly. I got it done for them and sent it over, along with my invoice for half of the work. Then there was the small fact that I’d never worked with them before and there were deadlines on the contract. So, I got on and did half the work I owed them, making sure it was with them by the dates they’d set.
I’d fulfilled my part of the bargain before they paid, so I was comfortably sure that they’d pay me soon. I sat back, and waited. And waited.
Here’s the thing though. This wasn’t work I was desperate for. Prior to them contacting me, I hadn’t been sat at home twiddling my thumbs. I was busy. So in order to take on the work they were offering me, I turned down other work. Putting me in a position where I was really relying on that invoice being paid on time.
As I began to realise that my invoice wasn’t going to be paid in any hurry, I sent an email to my contact there to chase it. First there was a problem with my invoice. It didn’t have all the necessary details on it because I hadn’t been given those details. So instead of letting me or my contact know, they just didn’t pay it.
I resubmitted my invoice, and waited. I emailed. It was agreed with my contact that I wouldn’t complete the other half of the work until I’d been paid for the first half. I waited some more, and was reassured I’d be paid by the end of the month. The end of the month came and went. Nothing.
I started asking for updates from my contact regularly and he stopped replying. Now don’t forget, I was owed a significant amount of money. We had reached a point where we needed to do a big supermarket shop and we couldn’t afford to. I went into panic mode.
It started with a tweet
With nobody responding to me by email, I sent a polite, understated tweet to the brand asking for them to contact me. I assumed my contact was off work because he’d previously been very responsive, so I asked to speak to somebody else. They ignored me.
Then, I had a conversation with a friend. He’d been owed money for work he’d done, but the person he’d worked for was an acquaintance. So to cut a long story short, my friend told his client’s mum that he hadn’t been paid. She clearly wasn’t happy, because it wasn’t long before he received payment.
I was walking the dog the next morning and idly wishing that I could just tell someone’s mum so I could get paid. Then it crossed my mind, I could.
It seems nobody at @staycity understands the impact on a family when a significantly large invoice isn’t paid to a freelancer. No reply by email or on Twitter. I have no doubt your mum would understand though so you’d better look out or I’ll tell her. Then you’ll be in trouble. pic.twitter.com/jEXwYMbkwG
— Natalie Ray (@PlutoniumSox) November 7, 2018
They replied within eight minutes asking me to DM them so they could sort this out. It turns out even multinational companies don’t want to upset their mum.
Well by the end of the week, they had paid me. I didn’t threaten legal action or refuse to work with them again. They seem to have a sense of humour and haven’t taken it personally and I intend to fulfil the rest of my contract.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. In fact, I fully intend to take to social media before going down the legal route in future. A humorous, yet incredibly public tweet pointing out the error of their ways seems like a reasonable debt collection technique. I wouldn’t do it to a small company with cashflow problems, but any large companies who work with me in future should expect to hear from me. I’m a Twitter troll and I’m not even sorry.