I told them that they had 24 hours to pay me and acknowledge my work, or I'd put porn on their landing page. 24.5 hours later I got paid.
The amount of stress that has gone from my life was totally worth the 10% discount.
Additionally, rush rates are critical. The first time I gave up a weekend with the kids for something a client "had to have by Monday" and then we monitored to see it wasn't even looked at for 3 weeks was the last. If something has to be done outside of your normal scheduling, charge a rush rate of double. When there is a cost higher than asking, it's shocking how much stuff isn't really needed by Monday.
All I found was "Inspirational Quotes about Spectrum" or some consulting companies with "spectrum" in their name.
When the client asks for a quote, just try adding in one extra option from your usual. They want a WordPress site? Do some research on their business and offer, for example, one quote for a WordPress site, along with another quote for standard WordPress plus a custom mobile product library for their sales team to reference when pitching products.
The client then has a choice between two really nice alternatives. You thought through their needs and they'll notice that, too.
I've found that even if the client doesn't go for the extras, they'll usually say, "let's definitely talk about this when we work on our sales budget next month. I want the team to tell me what they want." Then at that time, when they give you some bullet points for desired features and ask questions about what's possible, you reply with e.g. three options, including one that is the base price you quoted originally and covers a reasonable amount of features but is just good, plus another price point that's better because it adds another really nice-to-have feature, and then the "best" price point, where every single one of their bullet points is covered and the thing is just really slick. For example, maybe it lets them edit the product prices and save them to different lists for each sales pitch.
The point here is that you are getting a sense for what is important to the client. If you don't have many clients, the bullet points you got from that sales team are gold because you now know much more about their needs and can pitch more while working on the project.
And finally, watch for scope changes and bill for them. There are guys with yachts that were paid for by scope changes, and in fact their businesses count on those changes in order to keep the client relationship in top shape. A scope change is easy money because the client is pitching you rather than the other way around.
I remember reading about someone who would bill daily. If there were problems with $$ they just wouldn't work the next few days.
1. they have money; 2. they have enough money that this amount won't break them; 3. they have the ability, approval & mechanism for sending me money. 4. they also believe in me and truly value me and want me and (most likely) have no plan to get free work out of me without paying on the backend.
In general, the would-be clients who balk at that are either shady, or, have such small/unstable budgets that it's not the best use of my time to help them. Of course, is chance they just don't trust me. The problem is that I trust me, and I have only so many work hours in my life, and only one life to live, and I can't know for sure whether I'll ever get paid, or, how much, until and unless they truly do it. Proof is in the pudding.
If I had a nickel for every would-be client who wanted the world for $800 -- or balked at that because "all they have is X" where X is ludricrously small, well, I'd have a lot of nickels. Heck that's literally all you'll get from them. Assuming they don't stiff you totally.
The clients that do pay, and well, and upfront -- those are gold. Such gold I'd argue it's best to keep them secret. Very close to the vest. (If one is smart anyway.)
A friend of mine, a freelance journalist, was never paid by the New York Times. Pretty much the last organization I would have expected to engage in such behavior.
Wikileaks tells us otherwise.
It showed that reporters, as professional courtesy to sources and subjects, give a heads up when stories are running.
This is not new, and applied to Trump and past GOP presidential campaigns.
I mean - we've come to expect media outlets to 'take sides'.
But non payment for services rendered is definitely criminal, and even though I don't like a lot of what the NYT does ... I would still assume they'd be the kind of org to actually pay people for their work. That's not a kind of ethical line we'd expect them to cross.
Maybe I don't expect enough of journalists, but I'm not really seeing the scandal there. Buttering up a source by talking positively about their candidate seems... sensible?
When you are professedly a journalist, you are to report the facts unbiased, not get friendly and in bed with campaign insiders, running your pieces by them to get their opinion. There are many more heinous emails than the ones linked by parent, specifically some that are exchanges making sure the narrative that was going to be published "sounded good" to the Hillary camp.
That's not journalism. It's propaganda.
My own observation: the fact that we have to get apologetic about this behavior further proves the point.
What is interesting is that you chose to make a false criticism of the post, and not investigate the myriad links supporting his assertion.
Whether it's pedantically true is open for discussion, but it's certainly supported with more than hearsay as you suggest.
In the first  link, the article calls out a fact based comparison of a title change with links to the source:
First, The New York Times changed the article’s headline, from: “Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years Via Legislative Side Doors,” to: Via Legislative Side Doors, Bernie Sanders Won Modest Victories.” The article also added two paragraphs criticizing Sanders, portraying him as unrealistic, a commonly-used Clinton campaign argument—especially as Sanders continues to be much more progressive than Clinton on a number of important issues.
Also in :
In the latest WikiLeaks release of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s emails, several Times journalists are implicated in abandoning any semblance of objectivity to fulfill the agenda of the Clinton campaign. In July 2015, correspondent Mark Leibovich emailed the Clinton campaign a transcript of an interview he conducted with Clinton for them to proofread and edit as they saw fit.
Which includes links to the actual emails, as well as a discussion of how the NYT is owned by Slim who donates a lot to the Clinton Foundation:
The New York Times’ majority shareholder, billionaire Carlos Slim, has donated between one and five million dollars to the Clinton Foundation. The Times’ staff, especially on politics, may not be directly influenced by their wealthy owners, but the hiring practices and editorial board’s decisions reflect the desire to maintain, preserve, and perpetuate the status quo—not issue challenges to this establishment.
In the next article  Mr. Starkweather provides sources showing that the NYT modified their coverage of HRC based on the request of the campaign:
The New York Times political correspondent made the omissions at the request of Hillary Clinton’s campaign lawyer, Marc E. Elias, and DNC officials. The emails, published by Wikileaks, also appear to show that Confessore made other edits to the article at the request of former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz.
The provided information directly links to source material, esp. wrt Wikileaks, and your accusation is baseless.
To the best of my knowledge, there are no known instance of Wikileaks publishing fraudulent or altered information.
What they hold back, what they publish and when they publish it can potentially be abused - for instance to present or enhance one narrative, and obscure another.
And Wikileaks itself could be used as a tool by other actors ( e.g. for political gain) via strategic leaks or somesuch…
The only newsworthy item I have seen was this: http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN12Y2WY
Of course nothing has come of this speculation, so it may end up being nothing.
My last $.02, given the sensitive nature of some of the information that Wikileaks releases, there is probably no avenue for corroborating the materials other than, maybe, how the source received said materials.
Not ruling it out, but if they get caught one time it calls into question everything they've ever released.
We pay particular attention in forums such as this one, where bringing politics into random discussions is encouraged and welcomed.
And when we are inevitably voted down, lets pretend it is a big conspiracy.
Edit: parent comment was updated to remove partisanship. Thanks!
You'd think word would get around, but they've been doing it for years.
They grind every single contractor for every cent and come out far ahead. Very combative way to live.
Unfortunately, as I am not supposed to know, there could be both legal and social impacts to people I care about if I divulged such information.
There are other people in much better positions to do something about it.
Your question forced me to understand this.
Does some sort of repository for bad clients & companies exist? Could it? This isn't exactly what Yelp and BBB is for.
I'll probably let all the domains expire, except for "shit.business", that one is gold.
Have you researched what currently exists? On a cursory search nothing came up for me. Must consider legal challenges and lack of demand as possible causes.
The bad actors in the system will fight anything that would negatively impact them. Would need more aggregate support from good actors in total to make it viable.
What about some kind of info protocol so there's no single head to chop off. Maybe it piggybacks the bitcoin blockchain for verification, and uses ipfs.
Lack of community though... is hard to combat. It's also a chicken-egg problem. Build it and they will come? :)
The website wasn't actually live at this point but obviously they wanted it live because they paid up fairly promptly.
But ignoring all of that: hot water is dangerous and can cause full thickness burns in seconds.
At 60 C you'd have full thickness burns in 5 seconds.
Don't actually do this, you'll likely end up with serious disfiguring injuries such as:
>Liebeck was taken to the hospital, where it was determined that she had suffered third-degree burns on six percent of her skin and lesser burns over sixteen percent. She remained in the hospital for eight days while she underwent skin grafting. During this period, Liebeck lost 20 pounds (9 kg, nearly 20% of her body weight), reducing her to 83 pounds (38 kg). After the hospital stay, Liebeck needed care for 3 weeks, provided by her daughter. Liebeck suffered permanent disfigurement after the incident and was partially disabled for two years.
Basically very hot water is dangerous and it's much easier to get a serious injury from it than you'd think.
As someone who used to process accident claims for a large insurance company, I will suggest that if you spill hot water in your lap in a public place, you are probably not going to whip the clothing off right then and there to protect yourself from the burns. She is also elderly and elderly people have slower reflexes and can be more vulnerable to all kinds of health issues.
And they'd likely win with that argument under the CFAA. Even if they just handed you login credentials, they did so in the context of you fulfilling a specific task. From a technical perspective, those credentials might give you root access that lets you do anything. From a legal perspective, that's not the same as giving you authorization to do anything. For the CFAA, this would likely constitute "exceed[ing] authorized access." Not to mention that taking down a site (or just defacing it) is, on its face, clearly against a client's interests.
In any case, you're using the threat of damage to force payment. Even if the client owes you a valid debt, those threats can likely be considered extortion. The sort of jerks who will gleefully screw over a freelancer because, as they so kindly informed you, "no one will listen to you" are often the sort who have no problems with screwing you another way.
Or if you do work as a freelance contractor, you can pay a business lawyer 4 to 6 hours of their time to draft up a services agreement that you will use as a template for every client going forward.
Client doesn't pay me (after some nudges that they should)? Well according to the services agreement there was no IP transfer, because I wasn't paid. They continue to use the IP? Well the contract they signed says I can sue the hell out of them (and win) as recourse. Client wants something changed after delivery and payment? I'm not obligated to do squat, as the service agreement says that since they signed off on the delivery receipt, they supposedly were fine with it. The services agreement makes sure I get paid, the client doesn't try to put me over a barrel, and makes sure I'm making good by my client. That's what you have them.
Seriously. Always have a contract.
Anyway, while I'm sure you-are-not-a-lawyer, if you have any advice regarding what to put in a contract I'd be keen to hear it.
The bit I'm most concerned about is the fact that it's a pretty legacy codebase, and there are almost certainly vulnerabilities I'm not aware of. At the moment I have a loosely worded (and accepted) email where I basically say "you put everything into production once you've tested it, as it's a legacy system without decent test coverage". However, I'm paranoid I'll make a mistake / it'll get hacked and then I'll get sued. Admittedly I live in a different country from the client & I am doing things through an LLC so perhaps its safe enough.
Still, if you have any advice/pointers from the trenches, I'd be keen to hear it. I honestly don't care too much about loosing a months salary, so much as loosing the shirt off my back!
But I would never ever hire a contractor on such terms.
No company in their right mind would put their IP at risk due to some fuzzy contractual language - and it's always fuzzy, subject to interpretation.
The contract could conceivably be 'interpreted' as 'all the companies IP' and all it takes is an angry contractor who is pissed and thinks he can make zillions $ to make your life hell.
Personally - I've only had good experiences, but I take a different approach. I just withold milestone delivery until I get paid, until I sense the credibility of the institution.
There have been a few comments such as 'I will take down your site if you don't pay' etc. - this is a reflection of the power that the contractor has, and it implies something more than legal leverage, really.
Also - the moment I whiffed there was going to be a 'non payment scenario' - I'm out.
If you're getting paid often enough, at least your losses are limited.
But usually I send in an invoice as the first milestone is done (usually there is enough conversation/back-forth for them to know the milestone effectively done - or like a web-demo or something), and softly hint that I'll send in the deliverable (i.e. code and assets) when it's paid.
There's no way a company can take you to task for code what you have written, wherein you have not been paid. Even if they did - it would be a long, expensive process and would be a huge distraction from whatever it is they are trying to do. The pragmatic reality of 'you get the milestone for payment' trumps any kind of legal contextually - if they want to move forward they need to pay, it speaks right to the operational reality of their bottom line.
But lucky enough, I've never had a problem.
If a company is worried that the terms of an actual stated, signed contract are too fuzzy, they should be far more worried about not having one.
This obviously varies by jurisdiction, but if you're US based you can absolutely sign electronically (there's an entire Act that enables it). The easiest way is to use services like Echosign or Docusign which most people are pretty familiar with these days.
You're always better off having your attorney send a letter threatening legal action for nonpayment and breach of contract rather than trying to force them through those sorts of methods. The client might be willing to screw over a solo freelancer because there's limited risk to them; worst case, they pay up after all and you go away. But if their other suppliers hear about such actions, there's always the possibility that those suppliers might change their payment terms in response to the perceived risk of bad behavior on the part of the client. Those changes could cause a lot of problems with cashflow operations, and most companies will go out of their way to avoid that sort of reputation loss.
"You're always better off having your attorney send a letter..."
If you think most freelancers have an attorney to send letters on their behalf, you have only seen a very small, very privileged minority of freelancers. Many don't even have health insurance, let alone an attorney to help with non-paying clients.
The $1250 I spent once to have a business attorney draft up a template for my services agreement is the best $1250 I ever spent in the past 7 years. That $1250 makes me money, because I never have to harass clients to get paid, because they know I have legal recourse if they don't.
Since then I've maybe paid him $1000 to deal with things clients wanted to redline in my service agreement.
That $2250 total (which is a legitimate business expense) is a pittance compared to what I would lose for a single unpaid invoice.
Meanwhile, I always hear from freelancers that don't get paid, but claim lawyers are "too expensive". You know what's really expensive? Getting $0 for the last N days you worked instead of $X. $X is a hell of a lot more money, and unless you have a contract in place, you expose yourself to that possibility every time you engage with a client.
Good for you. It's great that $2250 is a pittance compared to a single invoice you send. You sound like you're easily in the top 10% of the US in terms of your income. That's commendable. You were probably in fine shape without this law, but by any ethical measure the law still needs to protect those who can't afford to have lawyers send letters to their clients. Starting from the base assumption that everyone in a fluid economy has four figures to put down on legal when they first start freelancing in a new field just isn't a reasonable assumption... especially when the 41% of US adults have less than $500 in personal savings and millennials are also crushed by student debt.
Then they are not in a position to conduct freelancing and they risk starving
and/or getting homeless.
A freelancer usually cannot assume stable 40 hours per week for four weeks per
month. He/she has to have a money buffer that allows to live for weeks
without additional income. $1250 is not an expense too big to be covered by
Saying "they are not in a position to conduct freelancing" doesn't make the problem go away. If it did, US construction, fruit picking, home cleaning and other manual labor industries could be reorganized with a single utterance.
On the whole, freelancers are more likely to be drivers or home cleaners than tech workers.
Second, a business attorney is not doing a custom one-off for you. When you call around, you should be asking if they often work with freelance technology consultants -- that's who you want to hire, someone who is familiar with what your needs are, and what's reasonable to ask of a client. They have a baseline template that they've developed that will serve as the framework for what will be modified for your specific needs. They've likely had cases where the business relationship between the consultant and a client went south, so based on that experience (and well known cases, etc.) they're going to ensure that you -- and your client, as contracts are a two-way street -- are sufficiently protected if things were to go awry.
Here's how it worked for me on my initial (free) consultation with the attorney I ended up choosing. I showed up for the appointment. He asked about minutiae of the work I do (since a lot of his clients are freelance contractors that work in tech). He asked if there was anything that was important to me. He then gave me the template (that he developed) that he starts with as a baseline when creating a service agreement. He went over why some terms were there, and why they were worded as such. We talked about what we would add to meet my needs, we talked about what I'd like to modify (too constraining for clients, unnecessary terms, etc.). We shot the breeze for a few minutes, and that was it.
Three days later I get a draft in my inbox. We had a quick phone call, made a few tweaks because I felt a few things would never apply to my company, and that was that. The result is a straightforward six-page document that a sixth grader could understand -- something that my clients really appreciate, because their legal dept. looks it over and finds it completely reasonable.
You can write the letter yourself, and have an attorney review it and send it out from their office. Even a long letter won't take more than an hour's worth of work for the attorney (probably a lot less than that, to be honest), and a local solo practitioner is more than capable of handling it for very little money and without a retainer agreement.
Most of the time, just receiving a demand letter over something as simple as payment for services rendered is going to be enough to get them to pay you. And if there's a particular person at the company withholding payment (i.e., maybe it's some mid-level executive who was told to handle a project), a demand letter will wind up being sent straight to their legal department, counsel, or someone else such matters are assigned to. The letter, in effect, can often serve to bypass the logjam.
If you still don't have a free/cheap resource then start CCing your lawyer on emails. Eg. 'I am writing to provide notice that you are now 60 days overdue on invoice X (attached). As you have refused to pay the invoice under the terms of our contract (attached). I am copying my lawyer on this email to bring this matter to their attention.
Edit: and also make sure your contract spells out what happens for nonpayment.
In some cases, it'll even uninstall itself or its core 'premium' components. In others, it'll simply stop displaying information and ask for payment.
Obviously, you couldn't do such a thing if you're a web designer... but if you're a developer, writing a plugin for their CMS or the such, then including a security file in your codebase is a-okay.
And if they call it "work for hire" and attempt to sue you, remind everyone that if you aren't paid then you aren't hired... as per your contract.
A lot of PHP software (forum software like vBulletin, CMS's, etc.) have phone-home or license verification mechanisms. That's usually fine, unless you whip up something nasty that does something beyond just disabling the software in question.
Add opacity to the body tag and increase it every day until their site completely fades away"
Animation studios here are among the worst. Most people I know had to fight for months to get paid and many did years of work without ever getting paid. YEARS. Like they did it for the love or something.
A few years back, a whole studio was contracted for a project and mid-way to completion the client came to them and said "I spoke to God and He told me not to do this project" and walked away from it and never paid for anything. The studio didn't even have any kind of protection against this sort of thing.
You can't imagine how bad an environment this is for getting paid for creative work. Indefinite illegal internships, lowball salaries and "for the exposure" jobs abound. Folks are so desperate to come and work here that they put up with it -- I just don't know how they afford it.
It's not limited by small claims caps and is an inexpensive first step compared to hiring an attorney to send a scare letter.
Didn't end up needing to file the one I wrote up last year but it was liberating to know that there was a half-step measure.
Before doing it I called 12 attorneys in Los Angeles and everyone respectfully told me a $20k unpaid bill is not worth their time, but the last one told me about filing on my own.
I've never had a problem collecting $5,000, but people will regularly avoid paying small amounts ($500) because (I assume) they know you won't put as much effort into collecting.
Bargain-seeking consulting consumers have irrational expectations for what $500 buys them. The $500 is likely coming out of a personal pocket or a pocket which they treat as personal, not out of a Budget which gets handled like an honest-to-God business. They are disproportionately likely to have overcommitted that $500 -- it's perhaps not their last $500, but your invoice is sitting with a number of other invoices and it may not be possible to settle them all simultaneously.
Many of my consulting friends move up-market and find that up-market consists of businesses run by disproportionately mentally healthy people who disproportionately have money in the bank and disproportionately conduct themselves with professional mien like paying invoices in a fashion that suggests their company has paid an invoice before.
At the end of the day it's a matter of how much risk you can afford. I would never hold it against a freelancer if they wanted to get paid right away.
$5,000 is maybe a week of work. I'm generally not billing more than once a week.
We also have "open-ended" projects where the client can use our services on an ad-hoc (as opposed to per project) basis. For those, we bill the client once a month, on the last day of the month.
If you're dealing with a client where you feel you really need a safety deposit, that's a sign from the universe that they shouldn't be your client.
Do what you need to when you're just getting started, I get it. But try to move away from the kind of work where you get paid half up front, as soon as you can.
Of course, if what you're trying to say is that the only "serious consulting" is "high-dollar consulting" where you serve such clients, then I don't know what to tell you. But that's neither here nor there.
For the record, our projects range from $25k to $150k.
That said, for projects that size we also offer a lease option (basically a 60-month term) and a lot of clients prefer that since it becomes an operational expense at that point (and therefore easier to swallow) rather than a capital expense. In those situations, we work with a leasing company who pays us 100% of the price upfront, and the client makes their monthly payments to the leasing company.
That, and I don't see how a "project cost" makes sense anymore. The project will cost what it'll cost. If there is a budget, I'll start billing into one. Also, as a freelance, you can't work in high-dollar and be the only guy working on that project. You are just part of an organization.
> If you're dealing with a client where you feel you really need a safety deposit, that's a sign from the universe that they shouldn't be your client.
I'm not sure I agree on this. I've seen very good people change on stressful situation. I'd prefer that I have my terms secured. If you are working with big clients I guess you can make use of factoring?
> Do what you need to when you're just getting started, I get it. But try to move away from the kind of work where you get paid half up front, as soon as you can.
I can't stress this enough. I live in a third-world and moving from oDesk to high-dollars meant that I moved from working 5-6 days a week to having the ability of not working for the next 5-8 years (just a few months of work).
Gigster has also built a pretty sizable business with this payment model.
I have no doubt there is a class of client for which this isn't true, but: don't work with those clients. Good rule of thumb: if the median HN reader has heard of a company, that company cannot afford to stiff consultants.
It's also a consequence of occasionally doing work with startups who, while they have every intention of paying, don't always have rigorous financial controls in place and sometimes end up running into cashflow problems.
I'd flip your analysis on its head: if there's a consultant you're not comfortable with paying upfront, you probably don't want to hire them.
If I'm doing one week work for Capita21 in Mexico (really picked it at random); I'll ask for "full" up-front payment and divide the project into different milestones.
Let me ask you a question: Was that client a local client? Was it in the USA?
That's pretty standard. But that means you don't have any $10k projects?
I'm not following how you never have $5k receivables unless your consultancy exclusively does small projects.
I wonder if instead of stiffing their contractors, customers will instead be the ones getting stiffed by unscrupulous contractors. I.e., contractors over-billing: "If you don't pay the amount I'm demanding, I'll report you." Companies might indeed pay the bill rather than risk a fine, but at the same time, they might become much more reluctant to hire contractors at all.
I worry that this kind of well-intentioned law will in fact reduce opportunities for free-lance people, in favor of consulting agencies.
It will force less boilerplate contracts.
> Any action alleging a violation of section 20-929, unlawful payment practices, would have to be brought within six years after the acts alleged to violate the proposed chapter. A plaintiff who prevails on this cause of action would be awarded double damages, injunctive relief and other such remedies as appropriate. All awards of damages would also include attorney’s fees and costs.
> Any action alleging a violation of section 20-930, retaliation, would have to be brought within six years after the acts alleged to violate the proposed chapter. A plaintiff who prevails on this cause of action would be awarded damages equal to the full value of the contract. All awards of damages would also include attorney’s fees and costs.
> Section 20-934 of the chapter would provide for a civil action for a pattern or practice of violations. Where reasonable cause exists to believe that a hiring party has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations, the Corporation Counsel may commence legal action on behalf of the City in a court of competent jurisdiction. Such an action would be commenced by filing a complaint setting forth the facts relating to the alleged pattern or practice of violations and requesting relief, which could include injunctive relief, civil penalties and any other appropriate relief. The filing of a pattern or practice complaint by the City would not prohibit any complaint or civil action by a freelance worker. Upon a finding that a hiring party has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations, the trier of fact could impose a civil penalty of up to $25,000.
> Section 20-935 would provide additional details about how the proposed chapter would apply and how it would interact with other laws. Subdivision a would provide that, except as otherwise provided by law, any provision of a contract that purports to waive the rights granted by this chapter is void as against public policy. Subdivision b would provide that the provisions of this chapter would supplement and not diminish or replace any other basis of liability or other requirement established by statute or common law. Subdivision c would provide that failure to comply with the provisions of this chapter would not void or impair a contract between a hiring party and freelance worker. Finally, subdivision d would provide that nothing in this chapter shall be construed as providing a determination about the legal classification of any individual as an employee or independent contractor.
 (warning: DOC file) http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/View.ashx?M=F&ID=4746382&GUI...
Shows the same info as Legistar including all 33 sponsors and every legislative action taken over the last year.
Requiring written contracts seems like a handout to lawyers. Alternatively, it seems like a clever way to enable folks with only a verbal contract to refuse to pay, since a verbal contract is now illegal.
Contracts are already enforceable at law, so how does this actually improve things?
Sounds like this gives the NYC labor standards folks to accept complaints and sanction bad employers. I'm imagine that requiring verbal contracts would be something that you could complain about.
Written agreements don't necessarily mean that you need lawyers involved and are always a good idea unless you're getting paid on demand. When I was in a corporate gig as a second level manager, I could sign off of statements of work under $50k with a contract framework. I'm sure an entity like freelancers union will create a base agreement for these sorts of things, if they haven't already.
Especially the section where his attorney starts talking (at about 7:20).
Usually you want a contract to specify IP rights. You own the work you author, whether you're paid for it or not, unless you specifically transfer ownership of the IP in the contract. If you're a programmer, you may assign the IP rights of the project code to the client, but only issue a non-exclusive worldwide licence to your utility code. Similarly, if you're a photographer, you still own the actual photograph, but may specify to a client how it's legally able to be reproduced. Plenty examples abound, depending on your line of work.
Mostly, I find written contracts are WAY clearer about who gets what and when, and shows the client is at least willing to "trust but verify". I wouldn't do business without them.
If you "work for hire" (see 17 U.S.C. § 101) an exception is made to the general rule that the person who actually creates a work is the legally recognized author of that work.
I see posts here that reinforce my expectation: Have a contract, and it can be enforced by law. What does this bill enable a citizen to do, that they couldn't legally do on their own before?
The problem before was that even if you had a contract, the company would basically say "we have a lot more to spend on lawyers than you, good luck".
Now they have changed that calculation with this law, where if the big company loses it's a huge cost to them. So now their calculation is that it is cheaper to pay their bill than to fight you in court.