Last month, I talked about the factors that will influence what assignments you decide to take on in For the Love of Money: Adventure to Dice Castle. Now, I’m going to walk you through a couple of scenarios.
A company you have never heard of is offering to pay you handsomely for a 10K assignment you can write quickly. When you inquire further, you’re surprised to learn they don’t believe in exchanging contracts.
- Never (ever) work without a contract! Offers of payment in an e-mail may not be enough to ensure you get paid. What’s more, your rights and the company’s property both need to be protected. Any company that offers work-for-hire without a contract clearly doesn’t understand what’s at stake.
You’ve already completed a major, three-month assignment for a publisher but you think the payment is delayed. How do you handle this?
- Before you do anything else, go back to your contract and review the terms of payment and delivery. Were you on time? Was the project delayed? Cancelled? When are you supposed to get paid and how much time has passed?
Send a courtesy e-mail, reattach your invoice, and ask for a reply. If that doesn’t work? Get specific, but don’t get nasty. Remember, people do take vacations and they may not be around to handle your e-mail. I completed “X” for “X” book. According to the terms of the contract signed on “X” date, I was supposed to get paid on “X” date. That hasn’t happened, and since it’s now “X” days past due, I’m starting to get concerned that I won’t receive payment for this. Can you confirm you have the right address on file?
Then the question becomes: When do you take further action? That can be tricky depending upon the visibility and profile of the company because mistakes do happen. Sometimes, larger companies have accounting departments and the manager forgot to submit an invoice. Other times, a small company has run into a financial crisis and is delaying all of their payments, but doesn’t want to communicate that because they’re afraid all their fans will jump ship. Yes, projects should be as simple as: “I submitted “X” now pay me.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen the way it should.
Personally? I would review the payment terms before you sign the contract. I can’t tell you how many people don’t do this because they’re that excited to take on a freelancing assignment. There’s a lot of power in the word “No,” but often freelancers don’t want to use it because they’re afraid they’ll never get work if they turn people down.
If you’re out of options, the best you can do is take the publisher to small claims court. When you do that, though, make sure you have done your due diligence. Overdue payments don’t typically head to small claims without a judgement. That means you’re looking at an overdue payment of 120+ days in some cases – and there are HUGE companies that pay a lot later than that
You’ve blown a deadline. Now what?
- Well, don’t stick your head in the sand. Communicate! Keep in mind that your payment will likely be delayed, though, if you hand things in late.
A well-known company has asked you to write an assignment on a high profile project. The rates aren’t great and the assignment will require a lot of research, but you know the company will pay on time.
- This is the juggling act every freelancer faces. What I would do in this situation, is pull up the property in between e-mails and gauge how much time I think it’s going to take to do the job. Certain things, like outlines, will help facilitate a faster word count.
If the entire assignment is on you to research, develop and then revise after comments – then you’ll have to plan for more time. Unfortunately, just when you think everything is going right? They can go very, very wrong.
You’re desperate for work – paying work – so you put out a call. Now you have to decide between five, paying gigs that are short but guaranteed to pay or a high profile project that won’t pay for several months. You know realistically you can’t handle them all.
- This is a tough position to be in, because when you’re under pressure, you may not perform your best. In this case, financial stressors will make demands on your schedule. I’d take the five, smaller gigs because they were guaranteed to pay. Then, I’d learn from the situation and try to figure out how I could prevent it in the future – even if that meant taking on a part-time job that wasn’t relevant to my day job.
The worst possible thing you can do for your career is bank everything on that one assignment. In my experience? That’s usually when things go wrong. Very, very wrong.
Next month I’ll walk you through a sample assignment. So stay tuned!