Getting burned working in Russia

I’ll start of by saying that this post won’t really be of any use to those who are officially employed by respectable companies. This, my friends, is for those who inhabit Moscow’s filthy unofficial underbelly. The main focus will be for those who are teaching or freelancing. Ill recall some of my experiences of getting fucked over to make sure you don’t repeat them.
Firstly, you should check anyone out that asks you to teach, translate or edit for them, there have been companies, like the American language Centre, that were known not to pay the money they owed, but the problem with working as a freelancer is not always about money. A lot of the time, companies don’t know how to cooperate professionally with freelancers which translates into you hounding them to be told when you’ll be getting paid. It’s not as simple as “your sum of $XX will be ready on XX”. You (and i) wish.

The first time I got screwed teaching was for a company called Native Speaker – a real small time operation that paid quite well, but that also blew a lot of smoke up its clients’ asses (the owner was actually a women who was Russian but pretended to clients that she was English. It was all about image – wearing a suit and talking the talk. On an unrelated I later learned that she had a kid and boob job).
When I started for them it was fine, but gradually my lessons would be cancelled until one day they simply stopped contacting me. Whenever I called the women who ran the thing, the guy she was screwing would answer the phone and tell me that classes would be on next week. I kept chasing until they stopped answering the phone. This was bad because rather than be straight with me, they simply chose to ignore me and I lost a lot of time that I could have been job hunting.

The second time a teaching company screwed me wasn’t so bad, but again, rather than be honest, they lied - a theme that seems to be a popular one among Russian "professionals". They had a problem with me because I was caught up sorting visas out and travelling  so they gave all my clients to someone else, but rather than tell me this, they lied. I was told that all the companies I was working in had stopped having lessons, until one day I was asked to fill in when I used to teach and the students asked me: “So we were told you had left Russia and were never coming back”. At this point I thought fine, but why was it so hard to simply say “Natasha will be taking those classes”. This company wasn’t always professional either. I personally never cancelled a class, but there was another Russian teacher who would get sick all the time. When this happened, the boss would call me up at 8pm and beg me to take the teachers morning classes, now, sometimes I did, but when I didn’t, it was as if I was to blame. People don’t remember when you go out of your way to do something because they take you for granted. Sure, they were sweet as pie when you took it in ass and carried out all their unreasonable demands, but decline and watch them take your clients away.
The lesson to take away with teaching is that you are liked when you are doing everything you are told and fucked when you aren’t. I am a reasonable person, so should I be blamed that the company didn’t have a back-up system in place?  Also, don’t expect honestly, they would rather lie and avoid any potential conflict that tells you the truth. I caught the boss out lying on many occasions so I stopped working for them, also, they never raised wages, despite increasing the cost of lessons frequently.

When freelancing communication is key. The first time I was screwed was when I wasn’t paid for a substantial piece of work I did. The thing is, a trusted person I collaborated with recommended me to a company so I trusted them. Basically, at the end of the deadline, the piece of work I was sending them was too large to fit their inbox (and the idiots didn’t provide me with another e-mail address, despite me asking). And what was the end result? They said they didn’t get the work in time and were forced to use a translation agency. Let me tell you, I reread that thing 3 times and it was 65 pages long. I was pissed but I had learnt a lesson that sometimes you need to think for others.
Another problem I had was with the people I used to work for, they would complain that they hadn’t received the work, all because it kept going to spam. It took them 3 months before they got an “IT specialist” to add my address into the company contact list. I swear I’m not making this up, i mean common, how retarded do you have to be??
The only other problem I had here was much like with the teaching. After the crisis hit, a new head editor was appointed and she simply never sent me anymore work. Countless times I wrote asking when I could expect the next lot, to which she would answer: “in about a month”, because of the Christmas holiday I ended up not getting a cent for 3 months. Alas, much like those people who get conned by Nigerian e-mail scammers, I kept holding out for that sweet translation payload.

The end lesson here is never sit on your ass waiting. The last little trick that was pulled on me caused me a lot of bad financial trouble for a very long time. Don’t be naive and think that by doing a good job you are secure. Quite often, as a freelancer, companies couldn’t care less about letting you know when your money will be ready and by asking you are seen as a problem. If you get the vibe when teaching or freelancing that things have gone suspiciously quiet, start seeking out new work right away because you won’t be afforded the luxury of being told beforehand. The reality is, you get replaced and they don’t tell you about it.
Keep your wits about you, make sure you get paid then keep an eye on companies you are working for.      

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