A freelance writer assumes multiple roles. Not only do you determine editorial content (you ARE the writer and editor), but you also are responsible for researching topics, finding a home for your work, marketing your stories AND yourself, and devising an accounting system that works.
Within that last role, not only are you responsible for sending invoices and paying the bills, but at some point, you will have to be the collections enforcer. Establish a system for accounts receivable and share it with potential clients before you find yourself chasing the money trail of slow paying clients.
Here are some tips that will make collecting payment an easy endeavor:
- Get it in writing. A contract needs to spell out the terms of payment, including if you need to send an invoice, when the invoice should be sent, and how much you will earn. Also ask if the invoice should be sent via mail, email, or fax. If you write for a foreign market, ask the publisher to include how the payment will be sent (company check, international money order, PayPal). You might also want to include language about the exchange rate so there aren't any surprises when you receive your payment.
- Ask for payment in advance. This is especially applicable for copywriters. Explain you require a retainer before you begin work on a project. Some magazines might balk at paying for an article sight unseen, especially if you are new to the magazine. But, if you have established yourself with the publication, they may consider the advance.
- Submit contracted articles on time. You are a professional, and you need to meet the deadline agreed upon.
- Invoice on time. Submit invoices per the contract language. This should assure that the check will be in the mail. If you invoice past the deadline, payments will naturally be delayed; writers should not expect a company to adjust its accounting system because the writer did not meet this deadline.
- Follow up on a late payment. Most publications work on a Net 30 system. If payment is not received within the specified time, call the publisher and work out a time frame when you can expect to receive payment. Be polite! It is possible the missed payment is a simple oversight. If you do not receive a response (or check) within an agreed period of time, work through the accounting chain of command to receive payment.
The writer-as-collection-agent isn't always a fun aspect of your creative mindset, but it is a necessary role that needs to be filled, especially if you want to receive payment.