Freelance writers, photographers and web developers are advised that a Toronto-based startup magazine is behind on payments to its contributors.

The Revelation Magazine, an online publication that bills itself as a “non-denomination Christian lifestyle magazine,” published one issue in December before suspending publication in mid-January. More than two dozen freelancers — writers, photographers and graphic designers — are still owed for their work on that issue as well as work on a subsequent, as-yet unpublished issue.

Michelle Greysen, an Alberta writer and the National President of PWAC, says that she and other writers were approached by the magazine’s publisher, Steve Fakolujo, via email late last year. Fakolujo commissioned several articles from Greysen and told her and other freelancers that he had funding to run the magazine for a year without any additional advertising revenue.

In mid-January, however, he informed the freelancers that he was suspending publication of the magazine due to financial problems. Greysen has been partially paid for her work on the first issue, but is still owed over $1000. Subsequent promises of payment have not been met.

Ontario freelance writer Anne-Marie Hardie has not received any payment for the six feature articles she wrote for the magazine. Hardie, like Greysen, says that Fakolujo initially contacted her through her profile on PWAC’s database. In addition to the money she is owed for her writing, Hardie is out of pocket for several hundred dollars paid to a photographer who she subcontracted to illustrate her features. Hardie says she was promised a contract for her work in mid-November but no contract ever appeared.

Several freelancers have said that the situation has been especially frustrating because of the magazine’s Christian themes and subject matter.

“I definitely had a bias that because it was spiritually based the founder would have integrity and be forthright of any issues that arose,” Hardie said via email.

“Unfortunately this doesn’t appear to be the case.”

Online research turned up this article connecting Fakolujo to an attempt to defraud the Canadian government in a health insurance scam. Fakolujo has confirmed via email to Greysen that he is the person named in this article.

The magazine’s website content has been taken down due to non-payment of invoices, but its Facebook page is still online.

A group of the magazine’s contributors are exploring their legal options in this matter. In the meantime, they want to warn other freelancers to steer clear of Fakolujo’s future publishing ventures.

Keith Maskell of the Canadian Media Guild urges all freelancers to put together a contract when beginning work with any new engager, especially when that engager is a start-up. At this point, he says, the best option for The Revelation Magazine’s contributors is likely Small Claims Court.

“We’re taught that the great Christian values are faith, hope and charity. I don’t think that freelancers should be doing this kind of ‘charity’ work; if payment has been promised and the work performed, that should be honoured,” Maskell told Story Board this week via email.

“As for faith and hope, I hold out some of both that the people who are awaiting payment will get some satisfaction,” he said.

“This is just one more reason why freelancers need a strong collective voice.”