Online only, so far

Yet another way to rip off freelances!

"HERE IS your FastFunds payment breakdown for the assignment 'Brooklyn's Northside Media is Stiffing its Workers (HuffPost)': payment $700; transaction fee -$52.50; total payment to you $647.50."

Screenshot

All definitions of "irony" are satisfied by this screenshot

That was the message that greeted US freelance Luke O'Neil when he tried to pick up payment for a piece about an illustrator going unpaid for two years (top tip: stop doing the work long before that). That hefty cut to get paid immediately made Luke think: "am I being pushed into taking a payday loan?"

It turns out the Huffington Post outsourced its freelance payments admin to an outfit called WorkMarket, catchline "the smartest way to organize, manage and pay your freelance contractors". It's now owned by payroll software corporation ADP. Luke found WorkMarket Vice-President Mousa Ackall announcing the service in January 2017: "Now for the first time, thanks to Fast Funds Mobile, freelancers can gain instant access to their funds via the WorkMarket mobile app - offering the level of flexibility and effortless mobility that modern workers crave."

"Ah, finally," Luke sigs: "the level of flexibility and effortless mobility I deserve."

It turns out that the deduction wasn't strictly interest on a payday loan. It was a fee for "factoring". This can be a legitimate business practice. If you've sold a lot of kit to a double-glazing installer, and you're not sure about their creditworthiness, you can sell your invoice to a "factor". The factor pays you less than face value, gives you some cash now, and takes on the risk and the debt-chasing.

Givem this tradition, a company actively offering factoring to its suppliers might seem to indicate some confusion about its own creditworthiness.

Factoring remains legitimate - if you make a freely and fully informed choice to make use of it. Luke reports that options to be paid the boring old-fashioned way - in full - were less than obvious. So he blogged about it. He found video of a 2017 interview with the Chief Technology Office of the New York Times, Nick Rockwell, explaining how they use WorkMarket to manage the 5000 freelances he said they have at any one time and up to 30,000 in the course of a year.

Straight away the Huffington Post responded that it'd disabled FastFunds. A little later ADP issued a statement that they'd "decided to temporarily suspend WorkMarket's FastFunds offer until we can review the practice more carefully." Then the New York Times clarified that it had not in fact contracted with WorkMarket: the video had been posted prematurely and it had been taken down.

Blogger 3: factor 0.

The Freelance would be very interested to hear from journalists who encounter similar schemes: email Xfactor@londonfreelance.org.