This is probably the most awkward question asked. What to do when a freelancer refuses to be paid?

Let's provide more details. I requested anyone with a video camera to record an event. I write the contract and send it to him. Days went by and he never signs the contract. Asked him so far about 10 times. The day of the event happens, and he records it.

I ask him to sign the contract and for his PayPal to pay for the service. Turns out he used no tripod so the video is all shakey. You can hear this constant mouning as if he has breathing problems, maybe asthma. 100% of all comments online about the video is about the sickening moan.

On top of that, he didn't have a video camera. He was using a photographic camera with video recording capability. So all the videos have a shutter sound because he decided to take photos while recording video.

He messed up big time and I let him know. Now he doesn't want to get paid. However, he sent me 2/4 of the videos. I already have some online. Alright, he made a terrible job, but the videos are online and he doesn't want to be paid nor sign the contract. By me, I'm fine if he refuses to be paid, but then there is the concern that I am not the owner of the videos or photos, because I have no contract and no payment receipts.

I definitely learned a sour lesson here:

  1. Search for a freelancer with plenty of time ahead of the event.
  2. If the person doesn't sign the contract within a prudent time, to search for another freelancer.
  3. Make sure the freelancer has a real video camera or cam, and not a photo camera. I really hate to deal with .MOV files too.
  • 3.Make sure the freelancer has a real video camera or cam, and not a photo camera I would not make that a golden rule. Some of the new high-end DSLRs shoot really good quality video. Have you ever heard of the Mario Warfare series on Youtube? They filmed half of it with the Canon 7D.
    – user45623
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 2:58
  • 1
    It has been from the word go - "implicit contract" - with freelancer agreeing to do work based on job description. You could very easily use that clip.
    – alpa
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 4:15

5 Answers 5


Sounds like you didn't really do your due diligence. You didn't check any references, look at past work.. nothing. So, really, this is kind of your fault.

If the freelancer refuses payment, what's the problem? He send you the videos.

If you're concerned about who owns the work, just get him to state in an email that he relinquishes all rights to the work.


If Freelancer refuses to be paid, I guess at this point it's his choice hence his decision.

As for copyright - you can always sight the contract offered + communique, emails + recorded videos shared as evidence as you being the owner. (For Freelancer never had intention to record/use those videos).

Further since contract was never explicit - no things were agreed upon deliverables - you might be at fault here. But you may have learnt things.

Feel free to discuss things telling him of your expectations (as if it really helps at this point). But key point is to get communication going and being honest and fair with your part of deal.


So he's embarrassed because he shot a crappy video, but most of the criticism is about the audio. Tell him you want to use the footage and will replace the audio.

  • Please give a reason if you choose to downvote.
    – user45623
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 0:36

This does not sound like a big issue.

Simply ask him kindly that for your records you need to have like a receipt/ purchase document.

If he does not want to get pay then thank him and he put down $0.00 for the amount paid.

This way you're covered, most important you learn from this experience.


Just FYI, Shooting video with a DSLR is perfectly professional; they're used in many films and TV series. It's certainly better than a crappy consumer 'video camera', though it's not as good as a proper cinema camera like a BMCC, C100, or Red One.

Taking stills while shooting video however, is not professional. It's possible he didn't bring a tripod because he'd not been briefed properly or had misunderstood the brief, and expected to need to move, and hence to shoot hand-held/shoulder-rig or gimbal. Though as a professional, he should probably have had a tripod in the car just in case.

Even professionals make mistakes. I once accidentally recorded an event in slow-mo (camera was located awkwardly, and I unknowingly hit the button whilst starting recording). Unfortunately, at 120fps, the flicker of the lights was very visible, making it unwatchable. However, being a professional, I spent my own time fixing this in post. The client never saw the mess.

He's likely embarrassed, but given he's uploaded it would be happy for you to use the footage for free, but won't want his name associated with it. Get confirmation of this by email or mail, and move on.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.