Most, if not all, experienced freelancers have gotten burned financially. But experience makes you wiser and teaches you to look for signs of risk. For me, vague payment terms are one of those signs.
I don’t tolerate clients who aren’t clear about my money. Period.
I want specifics and I want them in writing. Not just for the sake of having them but because I’m going to read the details, closely. And I’m going to consider what each point means for me.
If I don’t like what I read or I get a bad vibe, I’ll either get written clarity or find other work.
In one case, I answered an ad for freelance writers and got accepted to the team. The company sent me a packet with the W-9, writer’s guidelines, and contract. Here’s what was in the payment section:
“We are committed to paying you in a timely manner. Once we have received all the posts we have commissioned for any given month (and these posts satisfactorily meet the standards listed above), we will cut you a check within 7 days. We can only send this check to a US address and can only work with contractors that have the rights to work in the US.”
What do you think about this? Sound good to you?
“We are committed to paying you in a timely manner…”
The first sentence and I’m already concerned.
It sounds as if these people have been debating whether to stiff people or not and they finally reached the conclusion that dammit, they are going to pay and they’re not going to take too long to do it.
Still, “timely manner” is not specific. And their definition may not match mine.
“Once we have received all the posts we have commissioned for any given month (and these posts satisfactorily meet the standards listed above), we will cut you a check within 7 days.”
“Received all the posts?”
What if they commission five posts and I write two then decide I don’t want to work with them anymore?
What if I write four articles and get sick and can’t complete the fifth?
According to the terms, they don’t even have to think about paying me until they have everything they asked for.
“…and these posts satisfactorily meet the standards listed above”
Here, the standards they’re talking about are the writer’s guidelines, which were, of course, detailed before this skimpy and vague section on pay. It sounds to me likes they’re going to use them as another license to play with my time or money.
There’s no mention of their commitment to review posts within any timeframe. Since I don’t know how many posts they receive or when they’ll get around to reading mine, I don’t know how long it’s going to take these people to determine whether the posts satisfactorily meet the standards.
Furthermore, if there’s a problem with a post, I don’t know how long it’s going to take them to contact me about it. Someone may set it aside and not tell me for days or weeks.
This means I have absolutely no idea, when or if I’m going to get paid.
And, on top of all this nonsense, they want to send me a check?
Don’t get me wrong, I do accept checks. BUT, not from everyone. And certainly not from any company that can’t provide a specific payment date.
Clearly, this was not the client for me. They need a writer who is comfortable with lack of details.
I prefer companies that say clearly how they pay and when they do it. Companies that put into writing, We issue payments via check on the 15th and 30th.
If this was an opportunity I really wanted to pursue I could have contacted this company and got more specific terms, but their approach was just a turn-off.
If a company can specifically outline what they want and when they want it. They should be equally specific about when they are going to pay for it.
Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section.