Five Ways for Freelance Writers to Handle Deadbeats

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It happens to freelance writers all the time – you write some nifty article, send it off to what should be a grateful customer, ask for payment and then hear nothing but the sound of crickets. This recently happened to me, because I let my guard down. Now that I’m back in paranoid mode, let me share five ways to handle the lowest of the low, the deadbeat:

1)     Demand Up-Front Money

This is where I let my guard down. My policy is to ask for 50% payment up front. However, after I’ve done business with someone a few times, I grow to trust them and relax the requirement. Unfortunately, past performance does not guarantee future payment. Be prudent and always ask for an up-front percentage before agreeing to any assignment.

2)     Bill in Segments

This is for larger assignments. After you have received your up-front payment of 50 percent you need to deliver at least half of the material promptly. My practice is to deliver 75 percent and then ask for a 25 percent payment before delivering the balance. It seems like a lot of hassle, and frankly it is, so it only makes sense for assignments billing over, say $200. To be fair, always make this policy clear to new clients before accepting their work.

3)     Use PayPal

I use PayPal for billing. By requesting payment through PayPal, the client doesn’t have to have a PayPal account, just a credit card. This removes an obstacle (or excuse) for non-payment. PayPal has another nice feature: a reminder button. Often, non-payment is due to forgetfulness rather than evil intention. Give you customer the benefit of the doubt by sending a reminder of payment due.

4) Report to Google

In my particular case, the culprit used my material to monetize through AdSense a website about student loans using copyrighted material never paid for. Google has a form set up for just this kind of circumstance. You can report the evil-doer and hope Google takes some action. It may be a long-shot but its worth a try. Sometimes Big Brother comes through.

5)     Retaliate

If after gentle reminders it is clear your client has no intention of paying you the balance owed, take some action! You are not likely to sue unless the amount is considerable, like $500 or more. Then, you should head to small-claims court. You’d be surprised how many clients suddenly find their conscience when confronted with a court date. If the amount is not worth suing over, my advice is to post a consumer alert blog if possible.

In my case, the deadbeat earlier had me write some web content for one of his enterprises. After it became apparent the guy was a stiff, I posted a blog on Google Blogger alerting consumers to the type of person they would be dealing with. I used keywords that matched the ones from the original copy, so hopefully search results will return my blog in some proximity to his website.

Dealing with strangers on the Internet will always involve risks, and even the most careful individual may be ripped-off on occasion. In the end, chalk it up as a cost of doing business and move on. I have found overwhelmingly most clients to be honest and prompt payers.

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Copyright 2011 Eric Bank, Freelance Writer

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