Employer: Captur3 LTD, Birmingham (UK)
: design agency, co-founded by Wahed Zarif and Ayaz Uddin
You may be reading this because you’re in a similar situation and we might help each other, or maybe you are on your lunch break and simply scrolling through your newsfeed; either way, thank you for your time.
It took me almost 4 months to write my “not so nice” freelancing story down and make it public. I’ve been continuously told that this will damage my career, that it will scare potential employers away, and overall make me look bad. Today I’ve also received a phone call from a former employee at Captur3 LTD, who told me his story and of a few other people’s. He said no one ever said anything about what was going on behind closed doors, everyone just moved on, so Captur3 got away with it each time. Not anymore.
How it started
Just a few days into January I I received a phone call from Ayaz Uddin, asking me to come in for a trial at their agency. I found it a bit strange because I’ve applied for this position in 2016 (October?) and I’ve been told back then that the position has been filled. I didn’t ask myself what happened to the person before me, or why they’ve decided to call me only now. I really needed this job.
First alarm sign
I’ve started working straight away- some days overtime for which I was never paid- just to prove myself worthy of being there. My first week was considered a TRIAL, so I didn’t get any compensation for the work I’ve done (branding and identity mostly). Throughout the following months of work, I had to bring my own laptop, pay for my own transport (I live in a different city) and for my lunch every day, with money that I didn’t even have. A few months went by without them mentioning anything about a contract, so I start asking questions. Here comes the fun part: the role was advertised as a Graphic Design position, but they were offering me a Freelancing contract so they can avoid paying any fees or health insurance.
Contract and Salary
I told them from the beginning how much I usually charge for other freelancing projects, and they said that £10/hour shouldn’t be a problem. I remember asking them every week about my contract and if they’ve decided on a fixed number for a full-time freelancing contract. They mentioned that they can’t afford to pay me more than £1000. I’ve let that one go because I was enjoying the work I was doing, and that for me was more important. So I compromised and asked for £850 – enough for me to cover travel costs, rent, bills etc. They said they’ll come back to me, but reassured me that everything is ok. In the meantime, I was working for air. A week later, after having to ask again, they told me that they can’t afford to pay me more than £600. What I didn’t know back then was, that they couldn’t afford to pay any of their employees. Or maybe they didn’t want to? After giving them work that was worth much more than my salary, they decided that their budget is tight. My mistake was signing the contract. I felt manipulated into thinking I will not find something better, and they kept saying how lucky we were to have a job at all… A few days later they both came in the office when no one was there but me, and persuaded me into signing a piece of paper where I agree to a salary of only £300, for 8 days of work/month, making it seem like they are going through some rough times, where they need to cut some work hours, but that they really need me there, seeing as everyone else left. I felt bad for them, and as I said before, as stupid as I was, I really loved the work that I was doing.
Cherry on top
My health was deteriorating. I was getting home late. I had to borrow money in order to get to work because I wasn’t getting paid on time. I kept hearing about how other co-workers were in similar situations. Slowly they stopped showing up to work at all. They warned me about Captur3’s owners “don’t give them any more work, they won’t pay you”, but I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. I mean, who would do such a thing, right? My mistake again. When I finally woke up, it was too late.
I told Ayaz and Wahed the truth, that I can’t afford to come in anymore and that I am depressed, and I’m struggling to keep up with things due to the lack of money. That was it. I haven’t seen them since. No money for my work – no explanation.
I’ve called them so many times and sent them emails, sent invoices, sent solicitors after them, left messages basically begging for my hard earned money… No result. I’ve sent an email to their clients letting them know that any work that I’ve created while working for Captur3 should not be used without my consent. I immediately received an angry phone call back from Ayaz where I’m being put against the wall for doing so, being told to be grateful that Wahed is not calling me – considering how angry he is. Still no money. The cherry on top was a message I received a few days after from Ayaz: “Can you stop calling me as I will report it as harassment.” I was crying. How is this fair? How can they take advantage of so many people and not feel remorse? They’ve put me in situations where I had to borrow money from friends so I can eat!
I was left in debt, full of anxiety and feeling down overall. I felt stupid because I’ve let myself be manipulated, and I’ve been blaming myself for so long. They used to say to us how lucky we were to work for them, when in fact our skills and experience were way above the paycheck, and we were good enough to work anywhere else. It took me a while to gather the courage to write this article because I felt alone in this fight, I’ve been put down by the same people who assured me they are honest.
My mother worked so hard to help me while I was struggling these few months. She didn’t raise a coward, and by keeping quiet I felt like I was disappointing not only myself but her. I can’t afford to sue them, and they know this… As freelancers, we don’t get much support, regardless of the endless calls I’ve made. The little people are being pushed around. But today I’m making my own justice by speaking out, and I’m proud.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. This is a reminder that you shouldn’t give your clients any work without taking some safety measurements first. Good luck!