Friday Speak Out!: How to Handle “Writing Snags” Without Coming Unraveled!

Friday, April 17, 2015
by Jennifer Brown Banks

Shift happens.

It’s the one certainty of the writing life. I recently got word that a major project with one of my biggest clients required a “change of directions,” derailing my cash flow, my summer vacation, and the allocation of my time for the next four months.

Earlier this year, in another detour on the path to my well-laid-out plans, a client violated our contractual agreement by establishing his OWN payment schedule for services rendered; leaving me to be "creative" in how to meet my mortgage.

And did I mention that I’m still awaiting funds for an article, (a month later) from a publisher that previously promised “payment upon acceptance?”

As a veteran freelance writer who has worked with a variety of clients worldwide, for over a decade, I’ve seen it all. And if you’re in this industry long enough, it’s very likely you will too.

Clients flake out on you. Your favorite editor changes magazines. Your book’s big “debut” gets pushed back. Your computer gets infected with a virus and destroys important files for your next novel.
The plot thickens…

Word to the wise: you’ll encounter many “snags” in your writing business. But, that doesn’t mean you should become unraveled in the process. You can write a “happy ending” for your efforts, maintain your sanity, and go the distance.

Accordingly, I offer the following practices and principles to help you succeed.

1. Don’t be bitter, be better.

When the client mentioned above failed to pay on time, I took matters into my own hands. Instead of begrudgingly accepting it, I built in a late charge for future payments.

You should too. Without an incentive to pay on time, some clients opt to pay the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker before they pay their writers. In the sage words of Dr. Phil, “We teach people how to treat us by the things we accept.”

2. Diversify.

The feast or famine cycle is a reality for most of us. Here’s some food for thought: we shouldn’t have to starve for the sake of our art. If for instance, you’re a copywriter, moonlight. Consider blogging, or editing, or speaking, or teaching creative writing. The more income streams, the better. I earn extra cash by consulting and providing editorial calendars for busy bloggers and small businesses.

3. Adopt the Serenity Prayer.

A creative career can sometimes produce as much internal conflict as the characters we create. We’re often plagued by uncertainty, doubt, moral dilemmas, and indecision. Shakespeare wasn’t the only one to question… “To be or not to be?”

Stay centered. Learn to accept the things you can’t control, and have courage to change what you can. Feeling stressed and out of control can cause writer’s block. And writer‘s block can block cash flow. Get my drift here?

Consider these timely tips for greater longevity in your writing career. Most of all, “Never let em’ see you sweat!”

* * *
Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, relationship columnist, and award-winning blogger. In her spare time, she enjoys karaoke, cooking, and connecting with other creatives.
Visit her "Top 25" writing blog at Pen & Pro$per.


Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Sioux Roslawski said...

Jennifer--Great post. I know and rely on the serenity prayer in other facets of my life, but never (until now) thought to connect it to my writing life.

So, the advice sounds quite familiar, the kind of sharp, experience-filled suggestions I'm used to from Jennifer Brown Banks, but the photo? Hmmm... To my way of thinking, in your profile photo you look far different than you in a full-on picture... But perhaps that's because I haven't had any tea yet?

Angela Mackintosh said...

This is great advice, Jennifer! I totally agree with you about charging for late payments. I use FreshBooks and they have a built in payment reminder option that automatically sends your clients three intervals of reminders. I find it extremely helpful so I don't have to keep chasing after them and I can focus on other things.

I just finished an article about how to survive in with a feast or famine income that should be up on Mint this month and cover more tips, but I didn't mention diversifying, and that's a great point.

@Sioux - are you looking at Marcia's Blogger profile and Jennifer's bio pic? Marcia posted the guest post for Jennifer. lol

Sioux Roslawski said...

No, the picture that's attached to the post (now) is different than the one that popped up on my sidebar this morning. Sometimes Blogger does weird things (to me) so I'm sure it was Blogger's fault...

However, I HAVE been known to screw up big-time... this is just not one of those times. ;)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Ok, got it! Yeah, Blogger does weird unexplained things… like the time our blog went offline for a couple weeks with no real explanation as to why, and then suddenly reappeared.

Renee Roberson said...

Great advice, Jennifer! I have had several of the above happen to me during the course of my freelance career, so I can relate. I've been really busy the past few months but am getting ready to start ramping up my queries and prospecting so I can fill my summer/fall calendar as well.

Linda O'Connell said...

As usual, all these tips are helpful. I contributed to an anthology that paid upon acceptance. I waited six months to be paid. I finally sent a letter demanding payment, received a personal check, but the book never went to print. Being firm sometimes is necessary. Late fees, now that's a great idea.

Susan Sundwall said...

Jennifer, Your advise is sound and doable. I,too, love the idea of a late fee. The oil company and the vet do it - why not writers?

Jennifer Brown Banks said...


Thanks so much for dropping by. It's always lovely to get your input, (tea or no tea). :-)

Jennifer Brown Banks said...

Thanks, Angela. I did not know that about Freshbook's features. I may look into that.

Much success to you in moving forward with your goals.

Jennifer Brown Banks said...

Hi Renee,

I appreciate your feedback here.
I hope you have a bountiful, profitable and beautiful summer. :-)

Jennifer Brown Banks said...

Hi Linda,

Wonderful to hear from you today. We're on the same page in terms of realizing that writers sometimes have to claim what is "write-fully" theirs.

As Dr. Phil often says, "We teach people how to treat us by the things we accept."
Thanks so much for stopping by and adding to the mix.

Jennifer Brown Banks said...


Sounds like a plan. Right? :-)
Thanks for chiming in here. I appreciate your time and input.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on charging late fees. And if you work with this client again, charge extra for aggravation (that was a tip from one of the writers in The Well-Fed Writer).

And diversification is a biggie. Even if you're not diversifying in writing, you need those income streams.

I'd like to include a suggestion for everyone - ALWAYS BE MARKETING. While it's easy to stop while you're working on projects, you have to figure out how to include it in your schedule.

Jennifer Brown Banks said...


Indeed marketing is a "must." Thanks for sharing.

Karen Lange said...

Great tips! The freelancer's life is quite the journey, isn't it? Appreciate your insight and support, Jennifer. :)

Jennifer Brown Banks said...

Thanks so kindly, Karen. :-)

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