If Your Client Doesn’t Pay

Freelance writers have to protect themselves when it comes to payment. Since you are not considered an employee, payment is not automatic and you have to take responsibility for making sure that the client is invoiced properly and timely. You also need to keep track of who has paid what is due and who hasn’t.

What to do if they don’t pay

Once the work is submitted and the invoice is sent, wait until the deadline for payment is reached. Once the date has been reached, you can send an email notifying the client that you have not received payment. Ask if the client has sent the money yet. Sometimes late payment is a simple oversight and they just need a reminder.

Remain polite and professional. Don’t insult the client, accuse them of ripping you off, or threaten them. Keep your composure and address the issue sensibly.

Don’t release the copyright. Let the client know, after several days if they have not responded that the copyright on the work will not be transferred to them until payment is released. Telling them that they are breaking the law if they try to use the work as their own is sometimes enough to motivate payment. If they don’t pay, you can try to sell the work somewhere else.

Make sure that you save any records of communication (emails, voicemails, etc.) so that you have hard evidence that the client agreed to pay. You can take the client to court as a final alternative, but don’t be so sure that they will be able to help. It is better to settle things with the client yourself.

How to protect yourself

The first thing that you should do when you begin working with a client is create a contract that includes payment terms. You should detail how much will be paid, when payment will be due, and what the payment method will be upfront. This protective measure can help in the event that the client does not send payment.

Do not automatically assume that your client can’t or won’t pay you. You can avoid scams from the beginning by outlining the terms in a contract and checking out who the client is with a little research. If you suspect that they intend not to pay, or seem overly optimistic and ambitious about an upcoming profit that they will use to pay you, it might be a good idea to pass on the assignment.

Work with a partial work, partial payment arrangement. Set milestones so that you can receive some of the money upon completion of some of the work. This way you will not waste all of your efforts if the client fails to pay. If a milestone payment is not made, you can stop working.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I specialize in writing supplements for college textbooks, so I work with large, multi-billion dollar corporations. They always pay, but too frequently the pay is delayed.

    The delays are due to the layers of bureaucracy a pay request needs to navigate before the check is actually cut and mailed to me. I typically wait about eight weeks; if I haven’t received the check I forward the e-mail invoice with a polite note telling the editor no check has yet arrived and could she please look into the matter. This takes care of the issue.


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