Content Writer, Freelancer, Lover of Coffee
In the world of freelance writing, client non-payment can be a very real and very frustrating problem. Nothing is worse than spending a few weeks, or even months, putting aside all else to work on a project and then seeing nothing come from the effort.
When I was starting out in the business I had several clients attempt to escape payment and a few succeed. Even now I still can’t understand how someone could expect work for free. Would you go to Starbucks, order a grande caramel soy frappemocha and just walk out? No. So why stiff your writers?
But, over time I developed a few tricks to ensure you get paid for your writing jobs. They are relatively simple and well worth the extra effort when bills are due. Take a look at these handy freelance writing payment tips and hopefully they can help you keep your bank account out of the red.
This is probably the simplest of all the steps and the most obvious. However, no matter how simple it is, you’d be surprised how many people overlook this simple rule of freelancing. Maybe it’s the excitement that comes from landing a new client that distracts us from the realities of our business. Always have an explicit contract. It doesn’t matter if you’ve agreed upon the details of the job through email, if they decide to jump ship without giving you a cent, you’ll be up a creek and emails won’t help. A contract should include explicit detail of what services you will be providing as well as payment details such as how long they have to pay after the project is submitted for approval. If payment is to be broken up into multiple installments, these details should be included as well, i.e. what date each installment is to be received and how much each installment will total.
Getting a deposit before you start work is imperative to freelance success. Some clients may balk at the idea of sending you money before they receive content, but those are not the clients you want, so don’t feel too bad if the demand for a deposit breaks the deal. The problem that arises is clients do not feel comfortable paying ahead for services of which they cannot foresee the quality. A good way to nip this in the bud is to make sure you have a strong portfolio. A well rounded portfolio can put their mind at ease as to the outcome of your work on their project. If the work is to be completed over a period of a few weeks with installments, simply deduct the amount of the deposit from their first installment. A deposit is also a good way to get some money in your pocket to live on while you complete the writing job.
If the project you are working on is to be completed over a month or more, it’s generally a good idea to set up weekly payments as opposed to one lump sum. When billing weekly you have a better chance of catching a “no-pay” client early. One week of payment lost is much better than completing a whole project and being out a month or more worth of your valuable time.
Something that happened to me a while ago helped me learn this lesson, unfortunately the hard way. I had been commissioned to ghost write a novel. It was to be a few months worth of work, with good pay. I had received a small deposit, written what I thought was a solid contract and gotten a good feel for the quality of work the client was expecting. However, about halfway through the project the client pulled out, deciding to go in a different direction with the novel and no longer needed my services. This lead to a long dry period as I was not expecting to need any other work for two more months. An early termination fee would have made him think twice about pulling the plug on our project and would have at least put some money in my pocket to hold me over until the next job came. An early termination fee can be written into your contract and most serious clients will not even flinch as flaking out is not an option in their minds.
A late fee can be included in your contract to encourage prompt payment. If there is no penalty for paying a month late, then why shouldn’t the client pay a month late? If they can put off the drain on their bank account for as long as possible, many will. However, if for every week they delay they owe more, their business senses will start to tingle and they will be more inclined to grab their checkbook.
Hopefully these quick tips can get you on your way to freelance writing independence and avoid some of the common early mistakes that can bring a sprouting freelance writing career to an abrupt halt. If you have found any other methods in your time freelance writing or feel I overlooked something, please feel free to leave a comment!
Content Writer, Freelancer, Lover of Coffee