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07 – How Freelance Writers Get Paid Upfront

Writers collect upfront feesSuppose you’re contacted by a potential writing client. He wants you to write a thousand word article on a topic that will require some research. He agrees to your $1 per word rate.

Do you stop negotiating there? Successful freelance writers go a step further and get paid up front.

Every time you agree to do some writing you should at least ask for an upfront payment.

The reason is simple. If you complete the work and the client doesn’t pay you, your stuck. You can turn him over to collections and maybe get 25 percent of your fee (often less and may require out of pocket expense from you), take him to small claims court, or eat the loss.

If, however, you’ve gotten paid upfront, you’ve satisfied the client and you’ve collected at least some of what you were promised. That’s a far better situation.

How much should writers collect upfront?

How much of an advance you should ask for depends on you and the client.

There are some writers who ask for the total fee up front and apparently get it. I get paid in advance for my coaching and at least half upfront in other situations.

Generally I get from 25 – 50 percent in advance for most writing projects. If, for example, I’m asked to write a four part series I’ll ask for half up front.

On book writing projects I often ask to be paid by the chapter, with the whole chapter fee up front.

The amount depends on your confidence, the type of project and the client.

How do writers get paid upfront?

The truth is we ask.

It’s that simple. You ask for 50 percent or 25 percent or what have you.

It’s done as part of the negotiation. When a client asks me what I charge, if I’m ready to name a price, I’ll state like this:

My fee is a dollar per word with 50 percent up front.

Then I wait. Sometimes the silence is long, sometimes the client pushes back. If the client and I haven’t worked together a frequent push back is “how do I know you’ll actually do the writing?” Sometimes I’ll say something like “the same way I know I’ll get paid,” making sure my voice has humor in it.

Another response is to offer references – suggest he call a couple of your former clients. Often that’s enough to convince him.

Sometimes I have to come down in percentage, but less often than you might expect.

And once in a while the buyer will refuse any advance. These days I thank them, invite them to contact me if they change their mind and move on.

If you and the client can’t come to terms, you can’t come to terms. It’s scary sometimes to let what sounds like a well paid writing gig pass, but it’s often best. They will find someone who will write without an advance, and you’ll find a client who is happy to pay you up front.

Try asking with the next prospective client. You might be happily surprised.

Do you insist on some payment up front?

This is part of a special series on business solutions for freelance writers. Just sign for this special solutions series and you’ll get email about the rest of the series – at no charge to you at all.

You don’t have to learn the business of freelance writing all by yourself. You can share the journey, asking questions and getting support in the About Writing Squared Freelance Writers Forum.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman freelance writer




{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Great post Anne,

    And you’re absolutely right. I charge all new clients and most others 50% up front.

    Requiring an initial deposit is really just a part of doing business. For example, a few years ago we hired a general contractor to make some renovations to our house. He required a deposit before he started work. So, the practice of getting a partial payment upfront is not just limited to freelance writers.

    I agree about moving on if a client refuses to pay the advance. It could be a sign that they don’t intend to pay at all.

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