--------------------------------

--------------------------------

Search This Blog

Loading...

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Freelancer's Bible--and How to Collect on Every Invoice


Hi, readers, and happy President's Day to my fellow Americans. :) 
I was recently asked to read a new book aimed at freelancers of all stripes, and I was impressed with it. The Freelancer’s Bible is aimed at readers new to self-employment and walks them through everything they need to consider, including what type of business to choose, creating their initial freelance portfolio  and setting up their office. It’s got some great tips on marketing your business, including a chapter on online marketing (a skill I admit I’m weak on), and a whole section on running your business. It’s a comprehensive resource for anyone considering self-employment. 
There's a big distinction between writing and freelancing. A freelancer doesn't just write. He or she writes for money--and that's a critical distinction. That's why having a business mindset is essential to your success--and so is getting paid for your work.
But what happens when a client doesn't pay you
This will happen to you at some point in your freelance career, but there are steps you can take to get paid (almost) every time. 
1. Always have a signed contract before you start work. 
2. After you've completed your assignment, ask your client whether he or she needs an invoice to pay you. In many cases, an editor will simply “put payment through,” and you’ll receive in check. If you need to supply an invoice, though, you can use software like Quickbooks or write one yourself. Include your client’s name, the project, what rights you’re selling (or you can say “according to written contract dated January 1, 2011”), the amount of money, your social security number or tax ID number, and your contact information. I always include an invoice number for easier tracking.
            Here’s an example: 

DATE

EDITOR’S NAME/CONTACT INFO

Re: INVOICE #387

Dear Sue,

Please let this letter serve as my invoice for $90 for one-time reprint rights to “Banish the Workout Blues” per your e-mail of today. My social security number is xxx-xx-xxxx.

Thank you very much!

Best,
Kelly James-Enger
[mailing address]

            Good enough. But what if you don’t get paid right away? 
            3. Then it's time for step 3: a follow-up letter like the following:

DATE

EDITOR’S NAME/CONTACT INFO

Re: INVOICE #387

Dear Sue,

I’m reviewing my accounts receivable and realize I haven’t yet been paid for the above-referenced invoice, for $90 for one-time reprint rights to “Banish the Workout Blues.” Could you please let me know when I can expect payment?

Thank you very much for your time and help.

Best,
Kelly James-Enger
[mailing address]

            4. Still haven't been paid? Call the market, repeatedly if you must. If you still don't get paid, it's time for the big guns--what I call the “pay-or-die” letter. You’ll want to detail the terms of your contract, prove that you’ve satisfied your contractual obligations, and describe the attempts you’ve taken to get paid. I’ve found that threatening legal action usually provokes payment.
            One more thing--find out who actually cuts the checks (it’s not your editor) and pursue him or her directly. That will get you paid quicker.
            Here’s an example of a letter I sent to the owner of a publishing company that had owed me money for months, with names changed to protect the guilty: 

DATE

Dear Mr. Badman:

I am a fulltime freelance writer who has spent over six months trying to collect payment for work performed for No-pay magazine. I first sent invoices for the work last August after my articles were accepted, but have never been paid for them.

In the past two months alone, I have sent two letters with copies of invoices to Michael Nogood, your controller, and have called him on nine occasions. He has never returned my calls nor paid me for the outstanding sums owed me. Your company still owes me the following amounts:

Story/Issue/Amount
“Fit on the Street”/November/December, 1999/$270.45
“Ten Health Club Commandments”/January/February, 2000/$750.00

TOTAL $1,020.45

As all of this work was long since performed (back in the summer of 1999) and these issues have already been published, I would appreciate it if you would immediately issue me a check for $1,020.45. If I don’t receive payment within five days, I’ll turn the matter over for collection and will involve my attorney.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you and receiving my check soon.

Very truly yours,
Kelly James-Enger

With this letter, I did get paid, finally. And oh, let's not forget step 5:
5. Refuse to write for the market again. 

That's it--five steps to collecting your money. Readers, how do you collect outstanding invoices? Have you found my pay-or-die letter helpful? Let me know! 
**This post is drawn from "Collect every check" from Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success.