When freelance writing clients don’t pay, everybody loses.
It might happen to lots of freelance writers. I know it happened to me.
My client hired me to ghostwrite a novel for which he’d already written a screenplay. I submitted the first chapter to him and received rave reviews.
Each subsequent installment was met with praise and excitement. I finished the novel in just three months.
The last portion of the contract involved conducting a thorough copy edit. Before I could complete that step, my client started shopping the manuscript to agents.
He received a negative response from one agent, which incidentally had nothing to do with grammar or punctuation and everything to do with the plot, and he decided not to pay the remaining $2,000.
The bastard didn’t even tell me that he wouldn’t pay. He simply stopped responding to emails and telephone calls.
Last I heard, he’d self-published the manuscript.
What I’d Do Differently
When freelance writing clients don’t pay, you’re out of luck. I wish I’d been more proactive with clients—especially when it came to collecting money.
This happened a few times to me, though never again for as much as $2,000. If I were just starting out as a freelance writer, I’d demand payment up front.
Contractors and other service providers can place liens on their clients’ property and take other measures under the law to recoup funds that customers have failed to remit.
Freelance writers don’t have the same protections. We can sue, sure, but lawyers’ fees and other costs will quickly eat up any judgment we’re able to get.
Even if the client has to pay court costs, we lose time that we could have spent hustling to get new clients.
Don’t be afraid to ask for money up front. If the client expresses concern, use an escrow service. It’s all about protecting everyone involved.
And never forget that you’re not alone. Lean on fellow freelance writers to gain guidance and support. Don’t assume that you live in a bubble.
If you’re a struggling freelance writer, feel free to get in touch. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I enjoy helping other freelance writers find their way.