The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story
Bankrupt British Freelancers

John Szczepaniak | 14 Nov 2006 11:02
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After this, we were made aware that a computing magazine of Live's had folded, with six people losing their jobs. Around this time, the aforementioned management made a request for further subscriptions to be taken out. They were offering a very generous deal, and many readers eagerly started signing up. This concerned us, since the combination of not being paid, another publication closing and these pleas for subscriptions all meant that a company called Live would soon be very dead. There was a general feeling in the group to warn readers that their subscriptions would never be honored. On August 18th, we revealed the situation on the company's public forum; only in polite terms, and only to warn readers against subscribing. Two minutes later, our words were censored, our accounts on that forum removed, and management accused us of being "unprofessional." Many continued to subscribe, unaware of what happened.

On August 22nd, the company went into administration and the staff was laid off. The administrators explained that freelancers were not "secured creditors" and as such would not see a penny of their owed money. This revelation encouraged some detective work. Government website Companies House provided us some much-needed answers. We discovered that many of Live Publishing's magazines were now owned by a publisher called Magnesium Media. It turned out that Magnesium had apparently been incorporated sometime during the August pre-administration period, and that it was owned, or at least part-owned, by the exact same gentleman who owned Live. We even acquired several key figures' dates of birth and housing addresses, along with the dates of when they were appointed. Magnesium was based in the same building, with the same directors and key members of staff, and now owned many of the same assets that Live had previously.

No combination of words can ever describe or explain what each of us was feeling at that point. The brain's higher functions shut down, relying on some kind of primitive reptilian instinct. Waves of uncontrollable anger wash over you, and you can do nothing but go along with them. We had worked hard and had rightfully earned the money we were owed. From our perspective, it appeared that those in charge were simply washing their hands of the debt while keeping all the valuable company assets.

Worse still, the law backed up our presumptions by stating that it was perfectly legal. I want to emphasize this. The people behind this scheme were perfectly within their legal rights to do all of this. Morally, though, I leave judgment up to you.

The website administrators eventually sent us all a thick booklet detailing exactly how far in debt Live was. I won't reveal the whole figure, but let's just say that my four figure sum was a tiny percentage.

My problems didn't end there, though.

Roughly three months later, Highbury House also went bankrupt. I was only owed a few hundred pounds, but the situation beggared belief, and I can hardly find the words to eloquently describe it. There it was again. Waves of the most indescribable and uncontrollable anger, but now also mixed with a deep sorrow. Having seen how hopeless it was pursuing my money, I chose simply not to bother and didn't fill in any of the administration forms. I instead poured myself a whiskey and got back to work.

There is no rest for a freelancer.

John Szczepaniak is a freelance contributor to The Escapist.

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