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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rick Olney, a Sad Story in Comics, Passes Away, and How To Stop Spending Money on a Lost Cause

In case you missed it, Rick Olney passed away over Christmas. Olney was well known in comics because he had a history as a convention organizer that was marked by more canceled events than successful ones, and he left a string of artists who he owed money to for commissioned art. I have no doubt that those claims are true, but he never owed me anything.
Personally, I encountered Rick only once a few years ago when I was invited to speak at a convention in upstate New York called Mighty Mini-Con, organized by Rick. It was happening just as I had a horror series coming out, so I thought, fine, I'd go up to Syracuse, do a show, and then my wife and I would go up into the Adirondacks for some hiking with a friend who had a cabin there. That's what we all did, except that a few days before the trip, the show was canceled. I didn't much care because I was excited about going up to the cabin. I literally never gave it any more thought, although in theory I could have stewed about having spent money on a ticket, and if I didn't have other plans, maybe I would have.
So I crossed paths with Olney and got off without a scratch. Others have stewed about him for years. I read a screed today by a gentleman who was angry that he hadn't received $100 in over a year it was owed.

This was actually more interesting to me than Olney himself, because it ties into a general rule that I think is very important for freelancers.
It's important to demand your payment. But I have advice for anyone still owed money after a reasonable time, something I know from freelancing for over twenty years.
Some debts just go bad. Some debts are like throwing $100 out the window. If it's a pittance like that (I'd say even up to a few hundred), stop spending money on this problem. And: you are the money you are still spending.

Jason's Rule For How Long to Worry About $100* Someone Owes You

  • figure out your minimum hourly payment (M)
  • figure out how many Aggrieved (A) hours equals that $100 ($100/M=A)
  • then make a promise to yourself that you will not spend more than that time worrying about it. (Worry<=A)
By my calculation, at "A" hours you will have passed the point where you will you will have then lost $100 and spent another $100. That's $200 in value down. Let that be the end of it. 

Your time-- your life-- is worth money. So is your pain. And it's yours to squander. You cannot spend any more value. Let it go. You will live longer, or you might, but anyway, you have to know when to walk away from someone who owes you money.
Maybe I'm missing the point, and to you powerful Olney debtors who may read this, understand I may not get it, maybe I'm not understanding how bad things got, or maybe obsessing over Rick Olney was a joy in itself, like hiking or watching old episodes of Law & Order. But spending thousands of hours obsessing over someone who owes you a pittance just seems like a bad investment.

*Substitute your own small claims amount in here, because the formula will work regardless.

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