Letter from a sadder and wiser freelance speechwriter

Fellow writers, betware of Johnny Richardson, and vet new clients on the Freelancers Union website

Originally posted on Cynthia Starks’ website on Sept. 17, 2013, reproduced here with her permission—but “no update, unfortunately.”

Dear Colleagues,

I’m writing to you today about a client who has de-frauded me because I want all those in our writing community to beware taking any assignments from him. His name is Johnny Richardson and his company is called KliqMobile.

In mid-August I was contacted by Richardson, the alleged CEO of KliqMobile, whose business is an app that allows users to create separate digital “Kliqs” of family members, friends, colleagues, etc. and be able to post to them no matter what platform those individuals are on  – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

Richardson’s request was for a quick-turnaround 5-minute speech for an event in Sao Paolo, Brazil, called The Next Web. He and his partner were going to use this venue to introduce KliqMobile to the South American market, he claimed.

I emailed him my terms and conditions, including my rate, which is $1000/day. I estimated the work would take 3 days, for a total of $3000.

Without blinking an eye, he agreed to my terms, which should have tipped me off. Usually smaller businesses, which from what I can tell his was – basically a start-up – might give me a little push-back on my rates. I now believe he didn’t because he never intended to pay me.

My terms and conditions state that upon contracting with me, I receive 50 percent of my fee up front before I’ll begin any work. The next 25 percent is to be paid upon the client receiving a detailed outline or first draft; final 25 percent payment is to come no more than 30 days after the final speech is delivered.  Of course, this includes several drafts based on client changes.

Richardson assured me he had put a check in the mail to cover the initial 50 percent, and because this was a short turnaround I began work on the remarks. I researched the event, the participants, background on Sao Paolo, and developed a detailed outline. The client also wanted to use images to illustrate speech points, so I did extensive Web research and pulled together a nice group of images.

The check arrived, but it was not for a full 50 percent (which would have been $1500), but only for $1000. Because I was busy with the speech, the check sat on my desk for several days.

I kept working on the speech; the client kept giving me feedback, and I completed the speech on time. In addition, because the work had taken me only two days instead of three, I told Richardson my fee would be $2000 instead of $3000.

In the meantime, I had deposited the check, which took several days to clear.

The check bounced. I called and emailed my client. He called back, very apologetic. It was a mistake; he was having some trouble with the bank; it was a mix-up, etc. However, my own bank had informed me that the check was drawn on an account that had been closed. I was charged a $35 return check fee.

Richardson promised he would issue me a cashier’s check drawn on a different bank. He would scan the check and send me the FedEx tracking info. But neither of these things happened.

More time passed. Last Thursday, after I told him I had posted a review of him on Freelancers Union, and sent him a copy of it, he sent me a scan of a cashier’s check made out to me for $1000 (although he owes me $2000). But I have not received that check or any payment of any kind. Plus I’m out the $35 return check fee. Sigh…

It is now almost a month since I took the assignment.

When I first talked to Johnny Richardson, I looked him up on LinkedIn and found nothing amiss. I also looked up KliqMobile online and although I found it odd that his website was not live (it says it’s in Beta), I found nothing remarkable there either.

However, as the saga played out, I decided to check in with the Freelancers Union. Sure enough, a lot had been said about Johnny Richardson by several other writers he had similarly de-frauded. None of it good. His rating on this site is “horrible.” And other writers who had had the bad fortune to be “hired” by him wrote of their sad experiences. I added mine. You can read them here.  And here is where you can search clients on the Freelancers Union site, see what others have said, and post your experiences with them, good or bad.

So, my friends and fellow writers, if you get a phone call out of the blue from a Johnny Richardson in Birmingham, Michigan, hang up on him. I wish I had. And before you accept any work from new clients, you might be wise to check them out on the Freelancers Union site first. I wish I had also done that.

Today, I am exploring options with the police and my attorney. If any of you have had similar experiences with not being paid for your work, I would be very interested to hear about them, as well as any recourse you took.  Thanks so much.

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