What do you do about companies or other employers that do not pay? I did several articles for someone and although they keep promising to pay, it hasn’t happened.
Jennifer, in comments.
I’m sorry you’ve not gotten paid. I suspect this happens more often in the low-pay article market than we know about. The truth is, unless you’re owed at least several hundred dollars and you know exactly where the company or individual who was supposed to pay you lives or has their office, there’s probably not much you can do.
If you are in the United States and so is the company or individual, you could file a small claims case. For small amounts of money it probably isn’t worth the time and effort. It may be best to just let it go and move on.
Here are 6 tips to help you avoid getting shafted in the future:
- Insist on some payment up front. If you’ve got some decent credits, ask for a third or half the pay upfront. This is a professional approach that does two things. You look like a professional and if they aren’t willing, they are not pros and you may want to avoid them. If you don’t have credits yet, insist on maybe five or ten percent up front.
- Avoid writing a sample or two. Instead, when you’re asked for a sample give them a link to other work of yours that’s published on the web. This is particularly true of low-paying article writing gigs. Asking for samples is often a way to get ‘free’ articles and they will never pay. The exception to this is writing magazine articles on spec.
- Get something in writing. A contract is best, and an email agreement counts. Make sure email from them includes the price they plan to pay and how long after you submit the article before you can expect your compensation. Email provides a legal trail that may be helpful.
- Follow up promptly. Send an invoice along with your writing. If there’s a rewrite, send a copy of the invoice along with that. If you don’t get paid shortly, pick up the phone and call! Ask when you should expect it. It’s up to you to be proactive about your pay.
- Keep your communications professional. In other words, don’t beg or threaten. Begging makes you look unprofessional and never ever threaten unless you’re certain you will follow through. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t give them a warning and one more opportunity to pay before you take it to collections or small claims court.
- Add a penalty for late payment. Your invoice should show some sort of penalty, maybe five-ten percent, that will be added if the it isn’t paid by x days after it’s due. Again, this is the way a professional acts, so be professional.
The more professional you are, the more you treat your writing like a business, the fewer problems you’re likely to have.
Got a question about freelance writing? Contact me and I’ll do my best to get it answered here.