How Do I Get Paid On Time and Fairly?

If you don’t value your time, neither will others. Stop giving away your time and talents. Value what you know & start charging for it.

Kim Garst


One of the most common questions new freelancers ask is what do I charge? There’s no set answer to that question, and many other freelancers have provided detailed guides on how to set your rates. Here’s a simple starting point from Forbes.

When you know how much you want to charge, you need to next ask: How do I get paid?

Have a Contract

First, you must have a written contract signed before you do any work. Two essential elements are a clearly defined scope of work and payment terms. For example, in my work, I often develop long-term relationships with my clients. I sign a contract with them upfront that lays out all the unsexy details of our relationship. Then, each specific project or assignment is an amendment that lays out the work expectations and the payment rate, which we both sign.

Know the Payment Terms

We will go into scope of work at another time. For now, let’s focus on payment terms you may encounter.

  • Payment on Publication. This is the worst arrangement for a writer. It means you get paid when the company or publication publishes your work. That could be months away, during which time the magazine or website could go in a different direction and choose not to publish.

  • Payment on Acceptance. This is a much more common arrangement for blog posts. You get paid when the client accepts your work. Sometimes this is on submission and other times it may be after one or two revisions to ensure your article meets the expectations both parties agreed upon in the beginning. Just make sure the revisions don’t exceed what’s listed in your scope of work.

  • Net 15, 30, 60. This means how long you have to wait before getting paid, usually from the time of your invoice. For consistent, hourly work, a net 30 arrangement can hurt your ability to pay bills. So advocate for a shorter time or keep a card on file to automatically charge the client for work completed.

  • Kill fee. This is always good to have in any contract for a single article or a project. This is a fee you get paid if the client decides not to pursue your article (before you’ve finished) or the project is abruptly stopped for any reason. It’s often a percentage, like 30% or 50%, of the total fee you would have charged.

  • Deposit. For larger projects that last many weeks or months, it’s best to get paid in stages. Charge a deposit, such as 15% or 20% of the total, before beginning work. Then set milestones during which you get paid as you complete the work.

  • Retainers. This is essentially the client buying your time every month. Figure out how many hours you will dedicate to this client, times your hourly rate and that’s your retainer fee. The key here is to make sure that the scope is clearly defined in your contract. You may originally estimate 10 hours a week for this client, but they add more and more work under the retainer until you aren’t profiting.

  • Late fees. When you agree upon payment terms, ensure there’s a late fee stipulated in your contract to encourage your clients to pay on time.

  • Rush fees. Sometimes a client wants work quicker than your established turnaround time. That means you may need to ask for extensions from other clients or make major shifts in your schedule to accommodate this work. You deserve to be paid extra for that. Note in your contract that work needed in less than X days will be subject to a 15% or 20% (or more) additional fee.

Additional Notes

Be sure you know exactly how your client wants you to invoice. If you don’t have all the necessary information on your invoice, your payment will be delayed.

What arrangements have you found the most beneficial? What terms do you ensure end up in all your contracts?

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