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MY LIFE IN HIGH FINANCE (or My Love Letter to Accountants)

April 17, 2018 in General

© Rupert Besley

Rupert Besley writes:

I’m ending my career much as I began it. Not getting paid.

My first regular job in cartooning was with a local newspaper and I got £5 a week. Only I didn’t. This was more than 40 years ago. I had a full-time job and this was just a sideline, so the pay was ok by me for starters.

Before I landed this slot, I had done cartoons for magazine illustration and got occasional ones into humour publications. And from these each time, back came a nice little cheque plus remittance note, with no need from me to send in an invoice. I knew nothing about invoices and the editor of my local rag, when taking me on, never touched on any such details.

Thirteen weeks passed, my cartoons appeared and no money arrived. Slowly, dimly, I thought I’d better ask why. Before I got an answer, a letter arrived to me as creditor, telling me the paper had gone bust  (the owner ended up in prison for financial misdoings). I was told to go and swear at a solicitor, all right, commissioner of oaths, to say who I was in order to have any chance (there was none) of getting what I was owed. This cost me a further £1.

Move on 44 years and I’m back in the same kind of poop. For 30 years I’ve contributed each week to another local paper on my patch. I’ve never had to send in an invoice; they see to the paperwork. Or did. Three months have passed without payment forthcoming. At the end of last year the paper got taken over by a larger concern. Jobs have gone. I’ve spent this morning in phone-calls and emails round the country chasing up my measly dues.

Earlier this year a cartoon of mine sold in a local gallery exhibition. To get my work on show required endless form-filling plus payment of £10 admin costs. By the time the gallery took 40% plus a cut for VAT, what was left was the same as the frame cost me. So, no actual earnings, but I did wait two months for my proceeds of the sale to be passed on to me. When I pursued the matter, I was told for the first time that I needed to put in an invoice (without knowing exactly how much the division of spoils should work out at). Another two weeks passed and a ratty email from me before I finally got my money back on the frame.

It’s tough being a freelance in any field, especially cartooning. It’s depressing having to spend almost as much time chasing up what one is owed as spent on the original drawing. But please don’t let me put you off. Keep at it, cartoonists. We need you more than ever.

Rupert Besley.

1 response to MY LIFE IN HIGH FINANCE (or My Love Letter to Accountants)

  1. Amen to that, Rupert. I’ve only ever had dealings about cartoons once with my local paper [the Northwich Guardian]. I sent them a written piece with a cartoon, to do with the whole village being up in arms about southern wide boy building an unwanted crematorium. The paper jumped at it and printed both. They didn’t contact me about payment. So I contacted them. They said they couldn’t pay me because my contribution fell into the “Letters to the Editor” category. But by far the worst payers were Liverpool City Council after I did a stack of stuff for them when Liverpool was the Capital of Culture. In the end, a very brief if curt letter from my lawyer son secured payment.

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