Five Tactics to Help You Get Paid What You’re Worth and on Time

Two things we freelancers think about a lot: how to get paid what we’re worth and how to get paid on time. I’ve put the little grey cells to work on these topics a time or two. That’s when I came up with these five tactics to help increase my writing income and make checks land in my mailbox in a timely manner.

1. Write for higher paying publications.
We don’t have to write for low-pay or no-pay publications. Many writers do quite well by submitting only to publications that pay $1 a word or more. You can, too. How to find those publications? Do a Google search for “publications,” then search within the results using these phrases: “pays $1 a word,” “pays $1.00 a word” and “pays $1 a word or more” to build your own list of higher-paying magazines (you get most results by using all three examples). The National Writer’s Union some time ago put out a list of magazines paying that amount and it has been re-posted on the website of the Society of Professional Journalists. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the list at this time because it’s been out for a while. You might need to check to see if certain publications are still in business.

2. Write shorter articles and more of them.
While this involves more work on your part, writing shorter articles can add money to your bank account. If you usually write full-length articng shorter articlesles, consider writing essays, anecdotes, miniprofiles, opinion pieces, humor, reviews and other short pieces. In her book, The 30-Minute Writer, Connie Emerson shows how to maximize your writing time by focusing on these short pieces. And that can give your income a boost. Magazines seem to be using more short articles than previously, so be aware of that when considering publications to query.

3. Ask for more money
If you’ve written several articles for a low-pay publication or for one paying less than $1.00 a word, try to negotiate a higher rate for your next assignment. It’s quite appropriate to ask an editor for more money based on your experience working for that magazine. I’ve had editors bump up my check by several hundred dollars when I suggested that it was time for raising my pay rate.

4. Write only for publications that pay on acceptance.
This won’t guarantee that you’ll be paid quickly, but it’s sure quicker than writing for a magazine that pays on publication. Some publications even pay 30 or 60 days following publication—quite unacceptable. After receiving an assignment, make sure the payment terms are included in any letter of agreement you send to the editor or in any contract the magazine sends you. If payment details are not in any contract, an email or phone call to the editor may be in order.

Time for a small success story here: When one editor contacted me to do copyediting work and told me that payment would be made on publication, I politely told her that I only worked for publications that pay on submission, whether for writing or for copyediting. I reminder her that the printer, photographer and other suppliers were paid when their bills were presented, not after publication, and I felt it was discriminating not to treat me as they did other suppliers. The editor then agreed to pay me within two weeks of my invoice date. Had I agreed to be paid on publication, I might have had to wait two or three months for a check.

5. Make it easy for publications to pay you.

Don’t give them any excuse for holding up your check. Omitting vital information on an invoice can slow the payment process, especially now that some magazines are outsourcing their account payable operations. When you send a completed article to your editor, include a dated invoice containing the name and amount due for the article. Make sure the invoice includes your name, postal and email addresses, telephone number, and either your social security number or business identification number if you have one. If you’ve been assigned a vendor number, include that. And put the payment due date in a prominent place.

Got ideas of your own about this subject? I’d love to hear them. Please put them in the comments.

©2008 by Laverne Daley
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4 Comments on “Five Tactics to Help You Get Paid What You’re Worth and on Time”

  1. chocmoon says:

    Thanks for the post. I do include the info you mentioned on invoices except for my social. I just feel weird giving it out unless they ask. Maybe I’m being too paranoid.

    One question, if an online pub pays on publication, do you still put a due date on the invoice? I’ve been putting 30 days on everything regardless of whether they pay on pub or acceptance…

    I’ll look into the 30-minute Writer. I have found essays more difficult to write because they are personal, but maybe I’m taking it too seriously.

    Great post.

  2. ldaley says:

    I don’t think you’re being paranoid about not putting out your SS number. That’s my feeling also. The bad thing is, companies must report to the IRS what they pay you, so we have to give them the number.

    As for due dates on invoices, like you I put them on every one I send out. Most mags pay on time, but some still drag their feet.

    And also like you, I find essay writing difficult, maybe because in J-school it was hammered into us to keep ourselves out of the story. It’s different with blogging – we can put ourselves in the middle of a post, and that may make essay writing easier.

    BTW, have you ever considered doing an article on the do’s and don’ts of green writing? I can see a writing magazine snapping that one up.

  3. chocmoon says:

    Laverne, no I haven’t considered an article on the do’s and don’ts of green writing. Interesting!

    So, you think that if I worked for a pub in 07 that paid via PayPal, they are going to ask for my SSN soon?

  4. ldaley says:

    I’m no tax expert, but I know that every pub I’ve ever written for has always required me to provide SS number, and I’ve always understood that every pub had to submit a statement of my earnings to the IRS. I don’t think the rules are any different if one writes for mags that pay by PayPal.

    Isn’t it a beautiful day! Happy Weekend, Chocmoon!
    LD


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