Getting Played, Not Paid? Use a Contract.

Oct 20, 2011

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You’ve finished your assignment, you’ve submitted your invoice, and then you wait…. and wait….. and…wait for your check. If phone calls or emails didn't work, you may have even considered going after your clients with butterfly nets or handcuffs. And still, no check. Instead of getting paid, it feels like you’re getting played! But you’re not alone. In a previous survey conducted by Freelancers Union of over 3,000 members, 77% of you said you’ve had problems getting paid. It’s the reason why we started to rally for the Freelancer Payment Protection Act in New York State, after all. Whatever a client’s reason – cash flow, bad bookkeeping, being too busy with other projects – the freelancer is the one who pays the price. Enter Contract Creator- log in through our website to try out **our incredibly valuable (free!) resource available to members nationwide to help prevent client nonpayment. ** While we wait for the legislation to become law, you can protect yourself and put some of the fun back into your freelance gigs. **The contract you create will be your most important shield in your fight to get paid.  **Clients will also see you as a complete professional which they will have to treat with respectful, “playing by the rules” business behavior. Contracts are great because everything is spelled out.  No more guesswork.  The client puts in writing what they expect from you and more importantly, you get to put in writing what you expect from them, including that all-important timely payment schedule.  Other crucially important items in a contract can include scope of work, and spelling out how potential disputes will be resolved.  With everything in writing and all terms agreed upon by client and freelancers, clients can’t change things in mid-stream, such as what expenses they will or won’t cover. That’s why the payments section in Contract Creator is so important.  You can specify your fee, the payment schedule, what expenses you expect to have covered, and what the late payment penalty will be for clients.  No more “the check is in the mail” or “How about a post-dated check?”  They either pay you on time or they pay late fees. It’s as simple as that. Besides giving you a way to protect your bottom line, contracts can level the playing field between you and your client, while protecting both teams. Some of you no doubt have been put in a “take it or leave it” position, where the client offers you their contract that you have to sign or you lose the assignment. **Having your own contract puts you on a more equal footing with the client, **and at the very least gives you a very firm foundation from which you can negotiate a fair rate. And finally, contracts equal R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  By having a contract, you are telling the client that you take your freelancing career as seriously as a full-time employee does theirs in the modern workplace. So, we urge all of you to use Contract Creator, to protect yourself and your career.  And after you’ve created your new contract, the next step is to take it to your client.  Check back at the blog soon for invaluable tips about how to be a fair but very firm negotiator during this interaction. Once you’re finished with our tips, your clients will look and act like warm and fuzzy pussycats. Until next time, good luck with  Contract Creator and your upcoming assignments.  If you've already used Contract Creator, what was your favorite part? If you haven't tested it out yet- what's stopping you?! Suzanne Surbeck is a freelance writer living in New York City and a dedicated Freelancers Union member. She has been published by Google News,, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and The Christian Science Monitor, among others.