In the years since I started my writing business, I’ve had terrific clients who pay as soon as they receive an invoice. But sadly, about half of those who hire me hem and haw when it comes to paying the bill.
This, in spite of the fact that every one of them praises my work.
Here’s a case in point.
Last year, a client who helms a very successful Lasik company in California wanted web site copy for a new venture. In explaining her eye surgery company, she made it clear that she was a very wealthy woman. So, I gave her my hourly rate—much less than what a Los Angeles or New York City writer charges--and she seemed ready to go. Indeed, she already had a domain and knew her goal: to convince movers and shakers in her town to expand the local airport.
I’ll note here that while the topic was fun, this wasn’t an easy-peasy assignment.
Among other requests, she wanted stories and the research behind them about how the location came to be an airport; famous flights that had arrived and departed, as well as the facility’s part in World War I and World War II. Some phone interviews were also in the mix. She had their names but little contact information; I had to dig that up myself.
After completing the initial consulting end of the job, I sent her an invoice.
She got off a check right away. But instead of making payment out to me, she wrote the name of my business. My bill had been very clear about using my name. Nonetheless, hope springs eternal: I took the check to my bank. Not surprisingly, the bank refused to deposit it. So I tore up the check, mailed it back, and then explained that I was going to keep working.
However, I’d now need another check, one that was properly made out.
This time, it took a couple of weeks to receive payment. Thankfully, though, she followed directions.
As promised, I completed the job after several weeks, always making sure to communicate with her about what I was writing. Then, I emailed a final invoice for $300.
Not long after, new excuses began.
One was that while my writing was great, I hadn’t penned exactly what she wanted.
Now, she really only wanted captions to historical photos, not the one and two-page features on the topics I had
sent her and that we had agreed upon. Next time I called her office, I was informed that she was in Texas
on an extended stay.
Luckily, I had her cell number.
On this call, she told me she had instructed someone at her business to pay me while she was away. “You know how it is,” she said. “People never do any work when I’m gone!” She promised to contact her supposed-to-mail-the-check employee right away.
Of course, this took more time and more calls on my part. Well over a month after sending the invoice, I
Other stories in my collection scrapbook include a large public university which took over two months to pony up. Another client opined that she hadn’t paid me because her children were sick. With the latter, I sent a sympathetic email telling her I was praying for her kids, and then knocked on her front door the next day. She quickly figured out that I wasn’t going to leave until I received my money, so, she got out her checkbook.
Still, I wasn’t going to take any chances. I cashed the check at her bank before going home.
I know it’s not only freelance writers who deal with this.
The list includes most folks who identify as self-employed—artists, interior decorators, teachers, house painters and yes, even clowns. Also, I remember that decades ago, doctors and dentists mailed bills. But now, medical offices post signs stipulating that payment is due at the same time services are rendered. Come to think of it, plumbers and electricians and handymen operate the same way.
I wish my freelancing didn’t have to include wearing a collection hat.
But as long as I keep writing, and until a new rubric comes along, it’s part of the job.