Freelancers report delayed payments from Venture Publishing

** Update Dec 17/13: Chris Turner has reported that he received his overdue cheque from Venture Publishing this week. Some of the other freelancers that Story Board contacted are still waiting for payment. **


Venture Publishing has told at least one freelancer that it is behind in payments to its contributors, blaming poor summer ad sales for delayed invoice payments.

Freelance writer Chris Turner is waiting for payment for a story that was published in September in Alberta Venture magazine. The contract that he signed specified that payment was due 45 days after publication. The Canadian Writers Group, which negotiated on Turner’s behalf, made several changes to Venture’s standard agreement, including adding a clause stating that rights to the piece would revert back to the writer in the case of late payment. Because of this clause, Alberta Venture removed Turner’s story from their website last month at the request of the CWG.

Story Board contacted several other current and former Venture freelancers, all of whom said they’ve been experiencing lengthy delays in payment from the publisher for at least two years. Drew Anderson, now the editor and publisher of Calgary’s FFWD Weekly, said he was told by Venture back in 2011 that he would have to wait for payment until six months after the publication of his story.

“I thought it was weird. But I had a full time job, so I wasn’t really panicked. I figured ‘I’ll get paid eventually, it doesn’t really matter.’ But then when six months came and went I started asking questions,” he told Story Board via phone from Calgary this week.

Anderson said he emailed the accounting department several times.

“I didn’t even get a response from anybody. And then finally I sent an email from my work account, basically saying I was going to be harassing them to no end unless I saw my money. And finally I got a response and a cheque. No excuse. No apology, no nothing, just a cheque in the mail,” he said.

Anderson’s cheque arrived almost a year after his story was published. He hasn’t written for them since this experience, but said that Venture is an important part of the Alberta publishing industry.

“I’m sad to hear that they’re going through financial difficulties and I do hope they get their house in order because I think it’s important to have that magazine running here,” he said.

Three other Venture freelancers confirmed that since at least 2011 contributors have been warned that they won’t be paid until six months after publication. All also report having to contact the publisher repeatedly for payment, even after six months have passed. Recent emails from freelancers to Alberta Venture’s accounting department have been going unanswered.

Another Venture contributor, who asked not to be named, suggested that freelancers have been reluctant to speak up about the ongoing problems they’ve experienced.

“I’ve been too timid to say anything because Venture Publishing does make up a significant chunk of my income (when that income arrives). I think part of the reason for the silence is that some, like me, are afraid further financial pressure will dissolve the company, which isn’t good for the local industry,” the freelancer told Story Board via email.

“I want Venture to succeed. Magazine writers here need it as much as it needs us.”

Freelancer Chris Turner expressed his frustration over his unpaid invoice in an email to Venture Publishing Vice President and Associate Publisher Joyce Byrne last month.

“I’m presuming here that Alberta Venture’s full-time employees, yourself included, are still being paid regularly and on time, and if so I’d welcome any explanation you might have as to why the same courtesy should not be extended to your contractors,” he said in the email.

“I’m hoping you’ll recognize that Alberta Venture’s business-cycle ups and downs are as irrelevant to my situation as my credit card debts are to the magazine’s.”

In response, Byrne said she would pass Turner’s email, as well as one from the CWG, on to Venture Publishing CEO Ruth Kelly. Neither Turner nor the agency has had had any response from Kelly.

CWG’s Derek Finkle says he’s not unsympathetic to publishers that are struggling financially.

“But the bottom line is that freelancers should not be subsidizing their business,” he said.

“And there’s a certain onus on publishers to communicate with freelancers and keep them abreast of the situation.”

Story Board emailed Venture Publishing CEO Ruth Kelly to ask for comment but received no response.


Have you had problems lately with a publisher paying later than the terms on their freelance agreement? Please let us know about any chronically late-paying publishers that you think freelancers should be warned about.



Posted on December 13, 2013 at 9:05 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , ,

40 Responses

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  1. Written by Another Alta. freelancer
    on December 13, 2013 at 9:35 am
    Reply · Permalink

    It’s about time that somebody goes public with this nonsense. Had the same experience with AV and it’s completely indefensible – but it keeps happening, over and over, to multiple freelancers, over a period of years. There’s no excuse for it. I’m glad Chris Turner and Drew Anderson have gone public to try and improve the situation for other freelancers.

  2. Written by Steven C Threndyle
    on December 13, 2013 at 3:35 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    They haven’t even PUBLISHED a story that I filed in June. Sad to see.

  3. Written by Disgruntled Venture Freelancer #0129
    on December 14, 2013 at 10:31 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Really, Ruth Kelly, you had nothing to say? Didn’t bother to respond to questions, even given days to do it? Did you at least warn your staff of the public shaming or did you decide to blindside them too?

    I don’t need to point this out, but I will: How ironic that a business magazine celebrating business excellence is terrible at business, doesn’t pay its contractors (which includes photographers like me), breaks its contracts and handles its public image with complete disregard. Did I say ironic? I meant ENRAGING.

  4. Written by Redpoint Media is another stinker
    on December 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    It’s time to call out Redpoint Media for doing this same song & dance. 45 after publication was new a few years ago, but they immediately began giving false publication timeframes. So you’d be assigned a story that would supposedly run in September, but then they’d bump it to June the following year. Then you’d get paid, maybe, 45 days after that.

    The accountants are paid biweekly, their business space rents are due monthly, the printers accept payment prior to printing, and the advertisers pay well ahead of publication. Photographers and freelance writers are the only ones being pushed to the back of the line.

    Bravo, Chris Turner and Drew Anderson for being brave & principled in a dark time.

    • Written by Alberta writer
      on December 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      I have not had that experience with Redpoint Media at all, even when they bump up my stories. I’m always paid within of 30 days of publication, which isn’t ideal when I file stories four months ahead, but pretty standard for this industry. I write for them quite regularly too.

      Also, it is in the Redpoint contract that it pays however many days *after* publication. The problem here, with Venture, is a failure to honour contracts and communicate. I would not lump them together.

  5. Written by albert munroe
    on December 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    SHOCKING! Venture pays late? who knew…

  6. Written by freelance writer
    on December 15, 2013 at 6:02 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Venture has had a reputation for underpaying and then NOT paying their writers for a very long time.

    It has nothing to do with their struggling business; it has to do with how much they value (or not) their writers and other creatives – those who provide all the content for their publications. Shameful, really, and I’m happy this has been made public.

  7. Written by Fed up with Venture
    on December 15, 2013 at 9:14 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Years ago, when Ruth Kelly first took over Venture, the company paid relatively promptly. Gradually Venture started getting worse and worse about paying. I’ve freelanced for publications in Canada and the US and Venture is by far the worst company I’ve ever dealt with in terms of late payments — as quoted in your story, it’s not unsual to have to wait six months for pay. I loved writing for Venture publications. The assignments were always interesting and the editors professional. But I started turning down assignments a few years ago because it just wasn’t worth the frustration to have to wait so long for pay, nor did I enjoy feeling so demeaned — the pay isn’t very good and then to have to wait so long to get a check seems to add insult to injury. A few times editors there have asked me to do work — and have guaranteed that I’d get paid upon publication because they knew it was the only way I’d do the work. The first couple of times I did get paid as promised, but the most recent time I didn’t, and I had to call and hassle the payroll people. I feel bad for the editors there; they’re good people, but every time I see Ruth Kelly being lauded as a wonderful member of the Alberta publishing community my blood boils. She treats her writers like sweatshop employees.

  8. Written by Jen Gerson
    on December 15, 2013 at 9:44 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    AV has excellent editors — and a terrible reputation among Alberta’s writers for not paying in a timely manner. I don’t think there’s a credible word-slinger in this province whom the organization has not alienated. I feel bad for the talent at these magazines who are trying to make these publications work despite the apparent total indifference of the publisher.

    I, also, do not give even a tiny crap about the “business cycle.” That is not my fucking problem. Don’t be a deadbeat. Run your business like a grown up. Pay your goddamn bills — or writers who are worth a damn won’t write for you.

  9. Written by yet another voice to add
    on December 16, 2013 at 5:51 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Experienced the same. Sad story, but true. I quit working for the magazine when I was paid 12 months later…

  10. Written by Non-Albertan
    on December 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    AV’s payments are unfortunate, but similar to how I’ve been treated by other magazines — even national publications. Canadian Geographic has been the worst by far. Six, seven months. Essentially, they’re subsidizing their business by screwing freelancers.

  11. Written by frustrated
    on December 17, 2013 at 4:36 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    About time someone spoke up about this issue. It’s been going on for years and Venture’s staff/editors and publisher (who all receive a regular paycheque) seem to think it isn’t a big deal. I wonder if the companies who pay Venture to create custom publications (Alberta Health Services, Alberta Cancer Foundation, etc.) know how terrible Venture’s reputation is in Alberta. Or, the companies who make Alberta Venture’s best workplaces list every year…Seems pretty hypocritical for a magazine with such terrible business practices to be celebrating business excellence.

  12. Written by contributor
    on December 17, 2013 at 4:50 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    The whole thing makes me sick. As an Illustrator i looked upon working for AV with excitement and promise, only to find that intentions and working relationships to crumble as soon as files are handed over.

    I wish i had only come across information, prior to accepting the work. It’s shameful and dishonest Alberta Venture, it creates no positive work flow to the publication, at every turn it burns through talent that could otherwise improve their publication and make them an interesting read. Instead they feel it’s better to take a break, put their feet up and just let 3rd parties pay. What benefit is it? Skirting the issue, saying it’s not your decision..pass the blame, that’s all time wasted, yours and mine.

    At the end of the day they walk home to medium to high income bracket lifestyle…enjoying the holidays.

  13. Written by Maybe I'm just naive, but ...
    on December 19, 2013 at 6:34 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    To the person who said that Venture’s staff & editors think it’s not a big deal, I don’t think the staff/editors have anything to do with the payment delays. Maybe I’m just naive, but it’s been my impression that in most cases, editorial has nothing to do with when freelancers get paid. That’s on the publisher(s). I’ve gotten the impression that the editors aren’t exactly thrilled with the situation either …..

  14. Written by contributor
    on December 24, 2013 at 1:42 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Portions of the staff do, and it’s all interdependent. I believe Venture Publishing owns Alberta Venture and several other publications. Alberta Venture staff have budgets which need to be followed ‘properly’ like any other business.

    Either Venture Publishing is ‘at arms length’ to the whole matter or they are directly mismanaging things.

  15. Written by contributor
    on January 19, 2014 at 10:00 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Has anyone else received payment(s) in the new year? Mine is still pending.

  16. Written by contributor
    on February 20, 2014 at 4:40 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Still waiting for payment on a gig I did in the Fall of 2013 , will never work for them again . Shame really , the assignments are generally interesting to do.

  17. Written by Dawn Smith
    on March 2, 2014 at 4:39 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I have had exactly the same problem with Venture Publishing. I have not been paid for my work in the Fall edition of Leap. My daughter wrote a piece and hasn’t been paid yet for Grip. That piece was completed a year ago.
    Frustrating to say the least. Is there anything that can be done?

  18. Written by Pat Kane
    on June 5, 2014 at 9:52 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Its been over 11 months since I did some photography work for VP. Still no payment and my calls/emails go ignored. Incredibly unprofessional. I will not work for them again and intend on filing a small claims suit. I do not recommend anyone doing freelance work for VP or their magazines.

  19. Written by Amy Jo Ehman
    on June 10, 2014 at 10:31 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I have written for Alberta Venture several times, and yes, it took at least 6 months to be paid. To its credit, they paid well enough (75 cents/word) and gave full warning up front. I accepted those terms because I liked the assignments and I’m not living paycheque to paycheque. I diarized the date and started gentle nagging after six months, and the paycheque always came through, eventually.

  20. Written by Clever
    on August 8, 2014 at 11:46 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Just got payment from them, 16 months later. Never again.

    • Written by editor
      on August 9, 2014 at 9:29 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      Glad to hear you finally got what’s owing to you. Sorry to hear about the ridiculously lengthy wait.

  21. Written by Tom F
    on December 23, 2014 at 1:16 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I’m an illustrator and have done a few commissions for AV and Alberta Oil. It took about 8 months to get paid the first time (back in 2010) and as of today I have been waiting over 130 days for payment for a more recent job for them.

    Same story — no response to any of my emails.

    They shouldn’t hire contractors if they can’t afford them. It’s like me going to the Apple store and walking out with an iPhone promising them I’ll pay them in 8 months without interest.

    I would gladly speak out against AV if there were enough freelancers being exploited. Would hate to cause a stink — I’m sure they’re all nice people — but perhaps they need a dose of reality: if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.

  22. Written by Freelancer
    on January 12, 2015 at 11:02 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Upon looking into other cases of Venture not paying, I came across this article they published… Ironic.

  23. Written by Freelancer
    on January 12, 2015 at 11:15 am
    Reply · Permalink

    It’s the paying interest thing that bothers me! Like fine you need content, but they’re bills are short, i get it (not really cause like Tom F said I sure couldn’t do that with half the things i need/want) but plan on paying an interest or something for your contractors! I did some illustrations for them and would wait four months for payment, and would even get lies about “oh well its in the mail” when three weeks would go by without receiving my cheque, I emailed them back, “Oh ya I guess I should tell them to send that.” Only when they needed the next illustration (with an extremely tight deadline) did they finally pay me because i refused to do any more work until I was paid.

    This place is a freelancer’s nightmare! Which is terrible, because, I agree, Alberta needs more of the publication industry that picks up freelancers and builds up an arts community! But I think it’s pretty pathetic that this has apparently been an issue since 2011 and nothing has changed.

    I am now waiting since October to be paid for my last job I did from them! I shouldn’t have to harass for my invoices to be paid! I sent them a contract this New Year to say I would only take work if I was paid upfront. They probably won’t even acknowledge that I sent it.

    Found this ironic article they wrote in ’02 But they were probably paying people back then.

  24. Written by Robin Brunet
    on May 22, 2015 at 1:55 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I’m Robin Brunet and have written for Venture Publishing for over a decade. As of 2015, I’m now waiting close to a YEAR on payments, and I still have to harass them to release cheques.

    Furthermore, the cheques are always for paltry sums. Yes, no apologies from Ruth Kelly and her gang: she employs terrific editors but she herself is one of the biggest frauds in the publishing field today. A complete phony.

    I am owed money on no less than 17 stories for different Venture magazines and will not work for them again until they catch up with remuneration. THIS PUBLISHER IS TO BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS.

  25. Written by Frustrated freelancer
    on September 17, 2015 at 2:20 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Right now, the company owes me many thousands of dollars (for projects more than a year old) and won’t tell me when I’ll receive it. Like Robin, the cheques I receive are paltry and no one can say when I’ll get the rest.

    At what point, do freelancers take their grievances to small claims court or hire a collection agency?? Seriously.

    I want them to succeed, too. But not on the backs of writers.

  26. Written by Anne Wentzell
    on September 23, 2015 at 10:18 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I am another disgruntled freelancer. Was not paid for an article that ran 6 months ago. (Payment was to be made in 60 days). I guess not so bad as compared with some input I’ve seen on here. The excuse? “We’re in a cash crunch.” Guess what? So am I.
    As a freelancer, I take great pride in my work. I don’t hand in just any copy. That’s not my style.
    The publication is one here in Halifax. I’m sure their staff is still getting a pay cheque. Freelancers, sometimes, not always, are treated as inferiors. That’s just not the case. We work hard at our craft and expect to be treated with some respect.
    First time this situation happened to me. Hope it’s my last. Time will tell. And yes, what can freelancers do about it? A collection agency may be the only recourse. But who wants to deal with all of that? We shouldn’t have to. Just take our craft seriously, please. That’s not too much to ask. If I pitch, just tell me outright that you don’t have the finances for a freelancer. There. Problem solved. I move on.

  27. Written by Freelance Illustrator
    on November 2, 2015 at 9:25 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Holy shit yes: Venture Publishing needs to get their books in order. Perhaps publish a few issues without photographs or illustrations to help catch the books up?

    I pester them and pester them, and finally got them to cave in a send me a cheque. Funny thing is, when they said a cheque was in the mail, they also asked if I wanted to take on a little job. Not this time. I told them I can never work with them again. Freelancers should boycott Venture.

  28. Written by Joren Cull
    on November 18, 2015 at 10:38 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Waiting on something from them from June 2014 and November 2014. Ridiculous. I would love to sue these people. After weeks of not responding to my emails they said they are “hoping to send it soon”

  29. Written by A friend
    on April 22, 2016 at 1:26 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I worked for Alberta Venture around the time their money troubles began—advertisers defaulting on their invoices. Unfortunately that trickled down to AV’s most vulnerable talent—the freelancers. I still don’t think they’re close to getting on top of this problem, but it does go back to the publisher. To get an idea of the work environment, think of the Devil Wears Prada but set in oil country where magazines are drying up and there are fewer opportunities for aspiring journalists. I had never felt more trapped in a job in my life. By the time I left, the place was so toxic, I was happy to leave with nothing. The new hires were like a pack of piranhas, chomping at the bit to tear the weakest ones down. They acted like freelancers were privileged to write for AV, and that they should accept the scraps and late payments for the honor of writing for this once interesting business mag.
    I couldn’t go to a job interview without someone telling me they knew Ruth or that they didn’t feel comfortable “stealing” one of her employees. I literally feel sick to my stomach when I hear of a young person finding work there, but I always wish them a better experience than the one I had.

  30. Written by Freelance Illustrator
    on May 3, 2016 at 2:34 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Well… still waiting for payment from them, I did an illustration for them more then 16 months ago… I am not sure they will ever pay me. But reading this I understand this is their modus operandi. So to every illustrator out there: AVOID at all COST!!

  31. Written by Freelance Illustrator
    on July 28, 2016 at 1:44 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Multiple payments delayed for well over a year here. Each and every person here or readying this should contact the BBB and Alberta Magazine Association and report their actions. Sponsors and other orgs. don’t want to be associated with companies that make them look bad. Avoid them no matter the offer.

  32. Written by Accounting Manager
    on August 3, 2016 at 3:30 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Venture Publishing Inc. owes approx. $30K well over 150+ days. Terrible communication. Intentionally call early in the morning to avoid actual confronting the issue. Strongly recommending cut off – we will no longer take them unless they pay upfront. Contemplating a civil suit at this point. As a fellow business woman, I would have expected more from Ruth Kelly.

  33. Written by Writer
    on August 5, 2016 at 7:18 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Sad to hear this is still going on. As a freelancer who has given a lot of time and effort to creating great content for Venture’s publications, I can’t believe it’s come to this.
    It’s sad that the one reliable thing about their payment system is that they just don’t pay – certainly not on time, and likely not ever. I know I’m not alone in this, but I’m taking action now. I’m about to send the debt to collections (for invoices over 12 months old), but I fear that even that won’t phase them. I have been debating legal action but it seems that collections will be easiest for me. I’ve had enough hassle trying to get paid up until this point. I certainly hope they’ll be around long enough to pay. But I agree with Accounting Manager above, as a fellow business woman, I’m incredibly surprised and disappointed in Ruth Kelly.

  34. Written by CookiePress
    on August 17, 2016 at 4:39 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Day 181 and counting. They published my husband’s (illustration) work in January. The accountant keeps putting him off on a daily basis saying “I can’t pay you today, maybe tomorrow, you’re at the top of our list”. It’s outrageous and disgusting. We just sent them a letter of demand threatening legal/collections action. For the record, if anyone wants Ruth Kelly’s email it’s

  35. Written by Dale Lunan
    on September 23, 2016 at 3:33 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Throughout my career as an editor at one of VP’s competitors, I frequently heard such complaints about VP, Alberta Venture and Alberta Oil from the same freelancers that Ruth Kelly had screwed over. As an editor, I always made it a policy to ensure that my freelancers were paid fairly, promptly and in full. Now, as a freelancer myself, I will not work for AV or AO under any circumstances, and am equally appalled at the praise heaped on VP and Ruth Kelly for being a “beacon” of independent publishing in Alberta and Western Canada. Complete hogwash….

  36. Written by freelance illustrator
    on January 6, 2017 at 5:07 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I am a regular illustrator of theirs and It’s been a year and still have not been paid!! I will no longer work with them.

  37. Written by Freelance Illustrator
    on March 2, 2017 at 5:42 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I am disgusted. I have also worked for them as a freelance illustrator for some time now, at first i thought it was just a glitch in their system but i’ve realized that it’s their new norm. It’s now been 18 months and counting and still no cheque even after my lawyer has contacted them. I guess this will have to be escalated. How an ‘award winning’ magazine can treat the people that wins awards for them is disgraceful and embarrassing…i have wasted enough time on this company, never ever again.

    • Written by Yvonne Dick
      on August 17, 2017 at 10:02 am
      Reply · Permalink

      I used a collection agency to get paid after being told it would be 3 months, 6 months, 8 months after acceptance. 11 months later I got some but not all of what I was owed due to the collection agency taking their cut.

      I feel sorry for anyone currently owed money as I doubt you’ll get it unless they let you go in before the furniture and office supplies auction and take items of value in lieu of cheque. (unlikely)


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