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Freelance Writers Need To Set Their Own Payment Terms

paid writing invoiceWhen 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.

Collecting Payment

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?

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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Your post answered half of the questions in my mind about the payment terms. I believe that turning down a client is better than accepting work without advance and never getting paid.
    Thanks a lot Anne 🙂
    NextGen Writer recently posted..Bad Side of Good Google – How Search Engines Are Becoming The Death Of Quality Writing?My Profile

    • Anne

      Totally agree… not getting paid is unnecessary and demoralizing.

  • Thanks Anne – I wish I’d known this before doing work for a client who is now refusing to pay. It is helpful to know what the industry standard is. I won’t be making that mistake again! – Carolyn
    Carolyn recently posted..How the mighty become weak on Delta AirlinesMy Profile

  • I have to admit that I go both ways depending on what I’m writing. When I’m writing blogs I get the payment a month in advance. When I’m writing a number of articles I tell them that I’ll write the articles, show them one or two, then they have to pay me for the rest. Most everything else I come up with a project price and no matter what it is, unless I’ve worked with them before, I get half before I write a word.
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted..They Say Content Is King; Is It?My Profile

    • Anne

      Sounds like you’ve worked out a good system Mitch.

  • Yes, I agree – so important to get something up front for many projects, especially if you’re doing something for a new client. I’ve never been burned yet on that front, but I suspect something will happen at some point if I don’t stay pro-active in protecting myself.
    Nicky Parry recently posted..International Freelancers DayMy Profile

    • Anne

      Nicky, being proactive like I know you are is great protection and leads to success.

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