Wednesday, 15 January 2020

The Joy of Freelancing - Non-payment

I've been full-time Freelance now for 6 years. I do all sorts of nonsense, I work as a writer, artist, poet, comic colourist and letterer. I also give talks, readings and workshops at comic & literary conventions. I've written, illustrated and edited novels, comics, children's books, poetry, screenplays, book & album covers, wedding vows and eulogies.

It has many benefits, I have easily the best boss in the world, he's just a fantastic human being. Not only is he generous, warm hearted, kind, witty, handsome and the very picture of sartorial elegance, he let's me have days off whenever I want for the most frivolous of reasons. On the downside, the pay is sometimes appalling, the working conditions are cramped and my boss, for all his wonderful qualities, can also be a bit of an idiot, he lacks the material drive to really make money, often taking on low paid jobs because they "look like fun".

Like anything though, Freelancing has pros and cons, and on balance I enjoy a lot of the freedoms, both personally and artistically, that it affords me. I work longer hours and a lot harder than I ever did in more conventional jobs, but I'm happier, and you can't put a price on happiness, although it turns out the going rate for my happiness is often less than minimum wage.

I've got a lot better over the six years. I invoice people now, instead of just expecting them to remember to pay me. I get everything clearly in writing and agreed before starting any gig. I keep everything. I'm much more professional and only occasionally use words  like "dude" and "matey" when addressing new clients. All these things make my life as a Freelancer easier.

The one thing that contributes most significantly to the difficulties of being Freelance is simple -

People. Don't. Always. Pay. You.

You agree a price, you do the work, they don't pay you. Not because of the quality of the work, they just disappear, avoid contact, never explain, never pay. It's more frustrating than trying to explain WhatsApp to a pensioner.

I'm not talking about one or twice a year, I have a spreadsheet now with over 50 unpaid jobs. And it's not just me, speaking to other Freelancers, many who are well known and successful, it's terrifyingly common to spend your time, blood, sweat and tears on a job, complete it, and then never get paid. It's slightly less common when working for larger clients and established companies, but it still happens with alarming regularity. Sometimes it's for work that the client never sees, sometimes they take the work and run, but it's common, it's regular and it's wrong.

So my spreadsheet of shame. It actually has 46 names on it, for 50 unpaid jobs, a few of them I actually did more work for before they paid me for the first jobs. I don't do that anymore. Should I name and shame? If it was a faceless company or corporation, I would, but these are people, and I worry they could have had technical problems, personal tragedy, or financial ruin, or worse. For all I know, some of them died while I was working for them, for many clients all I have is an email. So every 6 months I email everyone on the list, and I remind them what they owe me. Sometimes it works, so I keep at it.

Friends and fellow freelancers advise me to name and shame.

The oldest entry on my list is a job I did for a man I'm going to call James White, because that's his name, and his email that I've been sending 6 monthly reminders to since march 2016 is If anyone else fancies reminding James that he owes me money, please feel free. If you know James, show him this blog entry.

James, if you're reading this, I apologise if you’re dead, but otherwise, can you please pay me?

If you're reading this and you haven't paid me for work. I'm declaring an amnesty. Get in touch, either to pay me or to at least tell me what happened? I'd consider accepting a token payment if you have a genuine reason, actually I've already considered it, I'd definitely accept it, I'd bite your hand off. I have bills to pay and my daughter is getting married in 3 weeks. Talk to me.

If you're too shy, too ashamed or just too scared, then you can get me off your conscience by paying me here, now, think how much better you'll feel and I'll stop sending you those 6 monthly emails.

You can send me money at -

Communication, open and honest, it's the best way to resolve these things. I'm a pretty reasonable guy, gullible even, just get in touch and talk to me.

And I should add, the majority of my clients are great, they pay me, some I consider my friends. So it's not all bad, but overall non-payment is a blight on the Freelance industry in general. Get everything in writing, agree amounts and get proper contact details before you do anything.

I am, of course, also open for any and all new work offers, convention appearances, weddings and bar mitzvahs. See examples below. Just not if you're still on the spreadsheet of shame.

Further reading-
John Watson's blog on "When collectors don't pay for commissions"
Writing Doozy's "12 Steps to Take If Your Freelance Client Doesn’t Pay You"

Russell Payne Work Examples-
Comic colouring
Comic lettering
Public speaking
Convention guest

Thursday, 21 November 2019


I make a brief cameo appearance in Dutch Magazine StripGlossy recently, drawn by the lovely and talented Duth comics laureate Margreet de Heer....

 See original tweet-

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

NICE 2019

Just back from NICE 2019. I say just back, I got back yesterday, but I had an astonishing number of emails congratulating me on an excellent Jack Kirby talk and had to read those firstIt was a last minute decision to go to NICE. I'd expected to be down in London seeing my new Grandson, but he very kindly arrived a few weeks early and John Watson, who never learned to drive, needed a lift.

I had tried, over a period of many years, to write a book with John. That's another story though, for another time. Suffice to say, I was looking forward to spending a bit of time with John not talking about writing books, just chatting about music and comics, maybe eighties TV shows. I was optimistic. I'd been asked to give a talk on Jack Kirby, but other than that I could just hang out, chat about comics, maybe sell a few prints, and I had a bunch of old comics to sell. It would be a relaxing weekend. Great.

John asked me to pick him up at 14:00. No problem. I arrived at 14:01. John complained that I was on time, he wasn't ready yet. The next day when he realised he'd forgotten some things, this was my fault because I arrived early. There's a common storytelling device in modern comics - retconning - "introducing a piece of new information that imposes a different interpretation on previously described events". John does this a lot.

At least we could chat about comics on the way down. John started off by telling me about his hatred of Reggae music, then launched into a 4 hour breakdown of the plot of his next novel. It was like having an audio book CD jammed in your car stereo that you can't turn off. To be fair, the plot was pretty good, but I'd have rather listened to some Reggae. Spurred on by John's incessant plotting, I made the journey in record time, we arrived early. Jeff was at reception, he'd lost weight, but gained some new swear words, he hurled a few at me and told me one of the guys doing the panels had cancelled and could I stand in for him. I didn't mind, I understood that there aren't many people as knowledgeable as me about comics.

The door to the hotel room was open when we got to it, but refused to open with our keycards once we closed it. You could see the lock was faulty, it was at an odd angle and you could move it by breathing on it. I reported it to the nice man at reception, telling him the lock was faulty.  He checked the keycard on his reception scanner, smiled knowingly and offered to "show me how to open" the door. I followed him up to the room and enjoyed watching him try and open the door for five minutes before admitting the lock was faulty. We got in eventually, but every time we left the room, the door was mysteriously open again when we returned, it's a good job there was nothing valuable in the room, just John's art.

Then we went to the bar and John made more money selling art in five minutes than I made all weekend. After chatting at the bar for a bit, we went for a meal at Wetherspoons with Mick, Rich, Nige, Alex and Michael. Nige, Alex and Michael took advantage of the "3 plates for £10" offer and ordered enough food to feed about 200 people. It was OK though, we talked about comics.

Back at the bar, we talked about comics, also great. Went up to our room at about 1am, I prised the twin beds apart to minimise the volume of John's snoring and tried to sleep. John kept me up until 4am talking about the plot for his second novel. Again.

Chatted with Mick, Rich and legendary inker Mark Farmer at breakfast. The NICE hotel breakfast buffet was adrift with comic talent. At one point we watched Mark Buckingham help a little boy (who was part of a wedding party that was also at the hotel) get his morning apple juice by physically tipping the barrel at the breakfast buffet so the tap at the bottom got to the last dregs and filled his glass. It was inspirational. We'd all sat eating eggs looking at the little boy with an empty glass, wondering why he looked so sad, not bothering to ask. Mark stepped up. A super heroic moment from a man who draws superheroes.

Green Goblin reference photo

My Kirby talk was tomorrow at 3pm, but I had two new panels to do today. I posed as Green Goblin for John's first con sketch of the day, then it was off to my first panel. It got cancelled. But later on in the afternoon I enjoyed talking to Adi Granov and Greg Staples about their film work. Adi and Greg made it easy for me by having some great stories to tell and unusually for a comic-con panel, we had an actual decent sized audience.

Russell Payne, Greg Staples, Adi Granov at NICE 2019

NICE was busy this year, certainly on the Saturday morning anyway, absolutely packed and rightly so. John did well selling what was an excellent selection of original art, including a lovely painted Marvel Apes cover. Given the choice between buying one of my prints and one of John's original pieces, nearly everyone chose the latter. I can only imagine this was because I spent so much time on panels, my fanbase spent most of their time in the panel room and became disoriented, wandering around Bedford reeling from the excellence of my panel chat, unable to find my table.

That evening we went out for an Indian with Mark Farmer and two Legion fans Julian and Rob. Julian and Rob had some great stories of UKAC, an early UK comiccon, where why used to do comic book quizzes in the format of Mike Reid's Runaround. Sorry I missed those. Mark had some great industry stories too, but I'll have to wait until some people die before I can relate them. Back to the bar for more chat, it was really great actually sitting at a comic convention and talking about the nitty gritty of comics for a change. Mark recommended checking out the inking of Ralph Reece, someone I'd never even heard of, you should look him up. Man, he was good.

We retired about 1am. Back in the room we started counting the cash we'd made that day. I was done by 1:01am and fell asleep at 3am while John was still counting. In the morning we struggled to open the hotel room door again, but only because there was a stack of John's cash on the floor jamming it closed.

Sunday at NICE

Sunday was quieter, but the majority of ticket sales would have been for my Kirby talk, which got a standing ovation. The ovation was for Jack, not me really, but it was a great 40 minute talk that only overran by 45 minutes. It's possible they were just applauding because it finally ended. Had some great chats with people generally, proper comic fans. One man was a devoted Stan Lee fan and railed at my suggestion that Stan didn't really do anything that memorable after Jack left Marvel, he went away and returned an hour later with two A4 sides of issue numbers proving me wrong, I love that sort of dedication!

Aside from the excellent guest list, that was the defining vibe of NICE, the people who came were comic fans, the talk was all about comics and comic art. One kid came and bought a golden age Flash comic, not to sell it at a profit, but because he really wanted it for his collection. I met Adam Falp who was there with his own comics (the Fragment, below, thanks for the comics Adam!) and is collating a Jack Kirby 102nd birthday book with proceeds going to the Kirby Museum. I chatted to a guy who had a collection of Kirby Kamadi art, I met someone who loves Captain Victory! It was great. If you love comics, NICE is the con for you.

On the drive home, the Satnav suggested we take the M6 toll, I cleverly avoided paying the toll by turning the Satnav off and spending an extra 3 hours stuck in traffic instead of paying £8 and getting home earlier. John complained a lot about this, then started telling me about the plot to his second novel. Yet again. I was worried he was going to go over the whole thing again. A truck next to us in the jam was playing loud reggae music, I turned on the child lock to disable the electric windows on his side, and wound down his window. The sweet sound of Bob Marley drowned him out and I didn't worry about a thing.

Thanks to everyone who came to my Kirby talk. Many thanks and congratulations to Jeff, Bub, Close Encounters and the team for an excellent comiccon more in the tradition of events like UKAC or the Bristol Comics Expo than modern comiccons. A thing to be celebrated. Haven't enjoyed a con so much in ages. Not sure why you'd want to, but you can read John Watson's version of events here.

Thursday, 29 August 2019


Biggest news this month, my oldest daughter Chloe had a baby. Welcome to little Elias, congratulations to the parents, Mo and Clo. Mother and Baby are doing well. I suddenly feel about 90 years old and everyone is sarcastically shouting "Hey Grandad!" at me. Actually, local teenagers have been doing that for a while.

That's Eli on the left, on the right is my other Grandson, Ralph.

Had a great time at the London Film and Comiccon (LFCC) a few weeks ago. The table next to me was Rich Johnston from Bleeding Cool, who did a video interview thing with me that you can watch here. Another great year for LFCC, with a massive Comic Zone and some amazing comic artist and writers, thanks to the spectacular organisation of Tony Lee and his team. Rob Liefeld was there too.

Jim Templeton's poetry book, The Ramifications of Felix is selling well, for a poetry book. It only just hit Amazon, so looking forward to seeing what the reviews say. If you own a copy, please do review it, every review makes a difference to sales. If for some reason you don't yet own a copy, don't worry, you can buy it here now at a 25% discount!

Due to Chloe having Eli a few weeks earlier than planned, I can now give my friend John Watson a lift to the always excellent NICE comic convention in Bedford. Can't recommend NICE enough to anyone who has a love of comics and comic art, it's a proper convention with wall to wall comic artists and writers, none of this mucking about with actors and reality TV stars that you get at most 'comiccons' nowadays. Tickets are still available on the website.

** Update (4/9/19) I'm now giving a talk about Jack Kirby on the Sunday, so you can come along to NICE and learn about the King of Comics. The guest list for NICE is really quite excellent, see the flyer below, buy a ticket, come and say hi!

Thursday, 11 July 2019

The Ramifications of Felix

The Ramifications of Felix - Jim TempletonThe Ramifications of Felix - Jim Templeton back cover

The world's greatest living poet, Jim Templeton finally has a new collection out. I was privileged enough to help design the book cover and read a proof  copy of the book. It's significantly longer then the last Templeton book "Jelhead" at 160 pages of solid poetry, and covers a much longer period artistically, drawing from early public readings and more recent writings. It's also a book of levels, it's not just about the poetry, there are verses within verses, locked within the books formatting like puzzles, I don't think it spoils it too much to say - start at page 87 for the first thread. I've always been one of Jim's biggest fans and I can't recommend this book enough to anyone who loves the written word. 

It will be available at all good book stores, Amazon and Barnes & Noble soon, but right now you can buy the book (at a launch week 25% discount!) now using the link below.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Here's an excerpt-

Fourteen Hours

Nutmeg skin brushes gently,
all feeling now is elementary.
A recipe to now employ.
Competition level joy.

Forget what's next,
see what's in between.
Slip here next to me
tell me your dream.

Circles of static,
hidden pretenders,
slipping between
what you can remember.

Endorsed freedom
tender normal.
After dinner
insist informal.

Monday, 1 July 2019

July Comic Conventions

I'm a guest at Hull Comiccon on Sunday July 21st 2019 hosted by District 14 events. This year it's at a larger venue, biggest one ever for this event - The Bonus Arena. District 14 always do a great job of putting on a family friendly show with a good diverse selection of guests and things to do. Well worth a visit if you live near sunny Hull.

I'm also a guest at the London Film and Comic Con on Friday 26th to Sunday 28th July. A massive convention, it always has an amazing selection of film and TV guests, but this year the Comic Zone is the biggest I've ever seen it, with quite a few comic guests I've never seen before at a UK con, including my pal Trevor Von Eeden, so looking forward to chatting to Trev. I'll be at LFCC promoting the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Centre, bringing a few Jack Kirby rarities for people to see, and a display of hi-res scans of Kirby original art blown up large so you can really appreciate the genius of the King's lines. If you're not already a member, check out the Jack Kirby museum online.

So that's me at...

Hull Comiccon - Sunday July 21st

London Film and Comic Con (LFCC) - Friday 26th to Sunday 28th July

See you there!

Monday, 10 June 2019

Recent colouring jobs

The Facebook post below shows a recent colouring job I did, I'm not on Facebook so I generally miss things like this. Thanks to Chris for sending me this, feel free to send me links if you spot anymore! ......

(*Edit)...and someone did actually send me another!