4 Measures to Put in Place So Your Freelance Writing Clients Won’t Rip You Off


As we discussed in yesterday’s piece about the dark side of freelance writing, sometimes freelance writing clients try and get out of paying us or flat out rip us off. While it’s true that it happens, it’s also true that there are things we can do to prevent being taken advantage of by our freelance writing clients. In fact, there are a few simple measures to put in place to make sure we’re paid as promised.

Prevent Being Ripped Off By Your Freelance Writing Clients

1. Request a contract: Do you make sure your clients put it in writing? You’d be surprised at how many don’t. Even though an email exchange is as binding as a contract, it’s still a best practice to get a signed document up front detailing what is expected of you, what is expected of them and all terms and conditions. Clients are less likely to take advantage of freelance writers who have an independent contractors agreement or contract in place. This post provides links to several sample contracts.

2. Request a kill fee: What happens when you complete an assignment for a client and he kills the project even though you did the work? Many magazines and some clients will pay a kill fee for assignments that end up not being used. Kill fee amounts are generally 20% to 50% of the originally agreed-upon fee, and while they’re not the full amount at least there is the promise of some payment should your editor decided she isn’t going to use your work. Writers get kill fees when the project isn’t published or used through no fault of their own. If writers miss deadlines or don’t deliver what they promised, the client may wish to withhold payment due to breach of contract.

3. Request a late charge: It’s a good idea to negotiate a late charge into your contract. If you’re not paid within the allotted time, the client will have to pay a certain percentage for each week or month payment is in arrears.This isn’t necessarily to get you more money, but the client will think twice before putting off payment. If a client refuses to negotiate a late fee into a contract, ask yourself why.

4. Request a deposit: Many freelancers will request a 25% to 50% deposit in order to begin the project. A deposit is a good faith measure for both parties. The clients is confident the deposit will motivate the writer to do the best possible job and the freelancer already has part of the payment ensuring cash flow and, with payment in place, it starts the project off on the right foot.

Do you put any of these measures in place for your freelance writing clients? Do you find they create more trust?

Tell us how you make sure you’re not ripped off.






3 responses
  1. Christina G. Avatar
    Christina G.

    Research! Always research your new clients if it’s possible. Google has always been a good friend of mine. Just about everyone these days has an online presence. Put their name and the words: scam, con, or complaint in the search engine. If their company or name shows up on the ripoff report than run. Also, keep your ear to the street by signing up for newsletters and blogs that inform writers about scammers.

  2. Angie J Avatar

    Absolutely right. I actually do three of those things (never added late payment into my contract, but have been meaning to).

    I had a potential client tell me yesterday, “You’ve heard the acronym KISS, right? (Keep It Simple, Stupid)” I said, “Yes, of course.” He said, “Well, I’ve been around long enough to know that contracts are written for the benefit of the writer, and they muddle things up. So let’s not mess anything up with a contract, ok?”

    I said, “I’m so sorry, but I’ll only work with a contract. My contract is designed to benefit you as well; if for any reason I can’t uphold my end, it frees you from what you agreed to pay me and guarantees you a refund of whatever you already had.”

    He said, “I don’t like working with contracts.”

    So I said, “I’m sorry, then, I don’t think we’re a good fit.”

    It seems very shady when a client is unwilling to sign a contract… and at that point, before any money had even changed hands, I was already doing battle! Not worth risking having to fight later, in my opinion.

    Anyway – these are great points… thanks for sharing them!

  3. Anne DeAcetis Avatar
    Anne DeAcetis

    Here’s my Q re: deposits — most clients can’t (or won’t) turn around an invoice in less than 30 days. If I require a deposit before I can even start work, it could take weeks, and might cause me to lose the project to someone who agrees to start right away. I am all for getting a deposit! But I’m curious how other freelancers have dealt with this. Do you just insist on rush invoice processing? Do you walk if they won’t pay, quickly?

    I have largely avoided being ripped off by only taking new clients through trusted contacts/referrals. But I do want to grow my practice more boldly, which will require talking to strangers!

    Thanks for all guidance,

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