When I wrote 8 Tips About How To Respond When A Potential Writing Client Calls Carolyn Jones who blogs at Spoiled Fruits of Empire, said:
Thanks Anne – that’s helpful. What do you recommend about payment? Do you ask for a deposit before you start work? Have you ever been in a situation where the client promises to pay but the check never comes? – Carolyn
Yes, I usually ask for a deposit. When I’m ghostwriting, payment often gets split up in thirds or even monthly. I want that first third or first month’s payment before I start writing.
I say usually because there are a few exceptions. I’m currently involved in two on-going projects for people I’ve worked with before. The first is regular press releases and the second is for twice-monthly articles. Since both these clients are known quantities I didn’t ask for up-front payment. If either of them were new clients I would have insisted on payment for the first two releases or articles in advance.
Magazines and Trade Book Publishers Are Different
Of course, when I submit magazine articles I don’t expect up front payment – that’s a different game. I do, however, submit only to magazines that pay on acceptance because the promise to pay on publication ties up an article with no guarantee it will ever be published or paid for.
Books for trade publishers is also a different game, although most trade publishers do pay an advance.
It’s been a long, long time since a writing client has failed to pay me. Part of it, of course, is because I do ask for payment up front. But most of it I suspect is because I’ve learned to really respect myself, my writing and my writing business. I don’t hesitate to turn a client down and I’m not afraid to ask for payment. I make sure I’ve got a contract and that within that contract the payment terms are spelled out clearly.
I haven’t had to take anyone to court to collect, but I wouldn’t hesitate. And if it were for a small amount I might do it anyway.
When you’re confident in your skills, when you treat your writing like the business it is, you’ll set the expectation of being paid and paid fairly which, in turn, makes it easier for you to set your payment terms and to enforce them.
What kind of payment terms do you set?