One major concern for freelance writers is that after putting in a lot of time and hard work writing content, their client will refuse payment. This can not only be discouraging, but can actually cause some significant financial difficulties for people who rely on this income to support themselves and their families. There are some strategies which can be used, however, to minimize this risk and discourage clients from attempting to keep the content without paying.
The following quick tips will help freelance writers manage this risk without alienating clients:
- Demand Up-Front Payment – For smaller orders, always demand full payment up front. If a customer is hesitant, explain that if you don’t deliver, they can always file a dispute with PayPal (or whatever payment processer you use). If, however, you deliver the content to them and they don’t pay, you would have little recourse.
- Never Work without Some Payment – It is understandable that customers don’t want to put all the money up-front for larger orders. For big orders, always require at least 25% up-front. Most of the time it should be 50%. Make it clear that if full payment isn’t received after a reasonable amount of time (5 days is what I use), you will keep the money you have, and begin attempting to sell the content to others to recoup the remainder of the payment.
- Written Communication – While sometimes it is nice to talk to a client on the phone, written communication is better for new clients. If they attempt to file a dispute with PayPal, it is easiest to win if you have everything in writing, and can provide it to the PayPal investigators.
- Clear Disclaimer – All invoices should include a clear disclaimer. My invoices have something like this included in them, “Due to the nature of custom content creation, I cannot offer refunds. I will, however, make reasonable edits or changes to ensure you are happy with the purchase.” This is typically sufficient to win any PayPal disputes, if you can prove you delivered the content (see above).
- Use Invoices – Invoices can be a hassle at times, and getting paid directly may sound simpler, but it is much better to have a written invoice. This is not just to help you get paid, but also to track income for taxes and other important reasons.
- Use Unpaid Content – If a customer refuses payment for any reason, ALWAYS use the content for another purpose. Either sell it as PLR, post it on your site as a sample or try to sell it to a content mill. Even if you can’t get too much money for it, it is better than nothing.
- Check for Usage – If a customer accepts the content, but doesn’t pay in full, make sure they know they aren’t to publish it, and that they don’t have any rights to use it. Follow up after a week or two to see if they have published it, and if so, send a notice to them and their web host to take it down immediately. If they don’t, follow up with the web hosting company to see what action they are able to take.
- Clear Communication – Last, but certainly not least, it is absolutely essential to be VERY clear about all content creation jobs. Don’t hesitate to go over the job with the client one more time to ensure everyone is on the same page. A majority of payment issues can be avoided by simply taking the time to ensure everyone knows what is expected from both parties.