- 30 Jul 2012
Shaking money out of publishers hasn’t gotten any easier as the media space has shifted over the last few years with many traditional outlets struggling and disappearing.
If you’re writing for money and you haven’t gotten paid in the time frame you were promised, here are 9 suggestions for getting a client to cough up the cash.
- Invoice. This may seem too obvious to mention, but not everybody is johnny-on-the-spot about invoicing. Send the invoice when you finish the assignment — unless you’ve agreed in writing to something else.
- Watch the calendar. Your original agreement should specify the payment schedule. (If it doesn’t, shame on you. Get it in writing the next time.) Once the due date has past, send a reminder. The electric company does and so should you.
- The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Get to know the person who is responsible for sending out the checks. Usually, that’s the accounts payable associate in the accounting department. Get that person’s name and phone number — email is too passive — and check on the status of your check at least once a week once its overdue — until it arrives.
- Stop working. If you hire somebody to paint your kitchen, and you don’t pay him, he won’t come back and paint your living room in the hope that the extra work will encourage you to pay up. Instead, he’ll stand on your door step and demand cash. Most writers these days don’t work for people whose offices are close enough to visit in person, but you can certainly stop providing your services. Don’t do any more work for someone who owes you money.
- Be friendly. Seek sympathy from the people who can pay your invoice. “Mary, I really need your help. I’m a freelancer; it’s just me. I rely on this money. When I don’t get paid, I can’t pay my bills – I can’t even buy groceries. When can I expect the check from you?” – is much more effective than accusations.
- Go up the chain. If 60 days rolls around and the accounts payable person hasn’t delivered, move on to a supervisor, the controller, the vice president for finance or in the case of a small business, the owner. Again, don’t be nasty. Just explain that you’re having a problem and you need help getting paid. The guy in charge may not even realize that his employees are stiffing you.
- 90-Day Warning. If it gets to 90 days with no attempt to pay you, send a notice of your intent to turn this debt over to a collections agency. Send copies personally addressed to your editor, the accounts payable person with whom you’ve been dealing, and the company executives with whom you’ve spoken.
- 120-day blast-off. By this point, it’s probably clear you’re not going to work for this publisher again. But be businesslike: burn your bridges cautiously. Find your contract and make a copy. If your story has been published, attach a copy of it to the copy of the contract and turn the whole mess over to a collections agency. Collections agencies work on contingency, so it won’t cost you anything if they can’t collect. If they do collect, they’ll keep 25 to 30 percent of the payment. Be sure to nail that that percentage down before they start working for you. And ask the agency for small business references. Collections agencies have to be licensed in most states, but bad apples muck up every barrel. If you need help finding a reliable collections agency, try ACA International, an association of credit and collections professionals.
- Tell your writer friends. They need to know.