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Ask any freelance copywriter if he’s ever been stiffed by a client, and you’ll get a quick, “Hell, yeah!” usually followed by a tale of woeful injustice.
Whenever you provide a service and don’t get paid 100% up front, you put yourself at risk. And, unfortunately, getting ripped off by an unethical client is an occupational hazard for freelance copywriters, one that’s become more prevalent because of the internet.
In earlier years, pre-internet, you’d meet with a new client who wanted to contract your copywriting services. You’d look each other in the eye, discuss the project and begin to form a rapport. In a week or two’s time, you’d return to the client and present a first draft of the copy.
Then there might be some back-and-forth on revisions. The process could take weeks or even months, during which the writer and client established a relationship. It was rare then, that the client would even consider not paying his bill. After all, he’d seen the work process, had an understanding of the value the writer had provided and probably felt a personal sense of obligation.
It’s a different story today. Most clients find their freelance copywriter through a Google search. They check out your website, and if they like what they see, they call. They don’t know you personally, and they don’t expect to ever meet you in person. If it’s a relatively simple project, the work is quickly quoted, the assignment is contracted, and then the copywriter gets busy.
The relationship is based on mutual trust – trust from the client that the copywriter will do a good job, and trust from the copywriter that the client will pay his bill once the work is complete. Most of the time, the transaction goes smoothly and both client and copywriter are satisfied. But not always.
Because not every client is ethical and also because misunderstandings can occur, freelance copywriters need to guard against getting ripped off. Taking the following steps should prevent most problems:
If a client balks at signing the agreement or paying the deposit, don’t take on the project. While no freelance copywriter wants to lose potential work, the alternative, doing the work and not getting paid, is certainly less desirable.