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4 Reasons Freelance Writers Should Always Insist on a Deposit

depositInsisting on a hefty deposit or up front payment, if you can’t get totally paid in advance, is an absolute must for freelance writers for at least four reasons.

If the client can’t or won’t pay you get something

Not long ago I wrote about what you can do if a client can’t pay. When you insist on payment up front or at least a large deposit, if the client flakes or otherwise defaults you’ll have at least earned something for the portion of the project you completed.

How large a deposit? That’s subject to negotiation, but I generally insist on 50 percent up front unless it’s a project that would pay me thousands. Then I may take a third or a quarter up in advance.

Refusal to pay a deposit or an advance is a huge red flag

If the potential client refuses to pay a deposit, they usually claim it’s because they have no idea how well you’ll perform. This isn’t too surprising the first time they hired you. Your samples, and testimonials  on your website or in your portfolio, should convince them. If not, their stated fear may be cover for not wanting or not being able to pay you. It’s a huge red flag.

My advice? Pass on them and move to someone who is more reasonable.

Sure, there are escrow schemes – the buyer pays the money he will owe you to a trusted third party, to be released when you perform. They cost money and they aren’t needed in my opinion.

Deposits smooth out your cash flow

Deposits not only protect you against a client who won’t or can’t pay, they also help you manage your cash flow. Up front money is really about making sure you can not only survive working on a new project, but thrive. When you’re feeling secure about money you’ll do a better job with each client.

Deposits are a normal part of doing business

Deposits and up front payments are normal, much more normal in fact than you may realize. Generally it’s a simply matter of assuming you’ll get a deposit AND including it in any contract or proposal you generate. It can be as simple as just saying, when you’re quoting the price, “the cost of this will be ($XXXX) dollars and I expect 50 percent of that in advance.” Chances are you will get little or no push back. Make sure your restate it in any contract or letter of agreement or email that sums up what you’re doing and the payment terms. Something like ‘this contract begins when I receive a deposit of 50 percent, ($xxxx – spell out the amount) is the approach I use which works like a charm.

You’re in business for yourself and it’s up to you to make sure you get paid.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer



Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Claudia Previn

    I had gotten out of the habit of 50% in advance, I shall reinstate it, thanks. The difficulty comes from not being certain, even though I have established decent measures of how many pages per hour, for instance, how much work and time I’ll actually expend, because the manuscript given me to edit is still incomplete. Struggling with that.

    • Good point, Claudia. Maybe the key is not to tie it to a percentage, but just say I want $xxx in advance. But then I deal with flat fees. I have on occasion included a clause that gets me additional pay for additional work. Think I’ll do a post on this… great questions.

  • Hello,

    I totally agree with this blog, because freelancers really work
    very hard to make things happen.
    Thank you for sharing this amazing article.

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