Archive for May, 2007

Can a Freelancer Charge Late Fees for Late Payments?

One of our members, Dawn Reiss, asks:

I turned a story in March and thought it was going to run in April. I was then told the artical was going to be published in May. After sending my story in, in March and my invoice on April 3 I called multiple times – I finally received confirmation that yes that had received my story and my invoice.
The magazine was published beginning of May. I was supposed to be paid on May 10th.  I still haven’t received payment so I contacted the editor director who told me on May 25: “just wanted to let you know that I met with accounting today, and it looks like they’re about a month behind in freelance payment. Sorry for the delay on this, but I asked them to get to my freelancers as soon as possible.”
When I first started free-lancing someone suggested that I put the clause at the bottom of my invoice:
Terms: Payment is due in full 30 days after official print date of article. Payments made after that date are subject to a 20% late fee plus an annual interest rate of 20%.

I’m curious what other free-lancers have done.


I’ve never been successful adding late charges to my invoices for newspaper and magazine clients. I think the only time you might recover a late fee is if you had to eventually take the publication to court. Sounds like this publication is in trouble. If you still want to write for them, after receiving this payment you could give them one more chance. This could be a temporary cash problem fluke. However, if your payment is late a second time, I wouldn’t be doing business with them anymore.

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The New Trend – Interview Release Forms

I just signed on to take an assignment from a new client yesterday. Included in the package of materials, which included the usual writer’s guidelines (tho 13 pages of them), tax forms, contract, etc. there is an interview release form.
They want me to have my expert sources sign this form, which basically says (in legal speak) the publication (online) has the right to use their name and image and releases the publication from any claim against them for defamation, “invasion of privacy” etc.
While I’ve had parents sign photo releases on children, I’ve never had an interview release form – never even heard of one. I’m told this is a new and scary trend in publishing.
Anyone else ever heard of this? And if so, what is the reaction by sources? It seems to me at the very least, this opens me up for a whole discussion about seeing the article before publication (which I never do), and at worst, will make my sources want to flee when they see attorney language coming at them.

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Editor Stole my Story! and How Do I Become a Freelancer?

I’m taking two questions from the forum that haven’t had any comments and answering them. I invite our members to join in if they have helpful information as well:

Travis Braun asks:

Anyone have any tips for publications stealing queried ideas? I recently pitched a story to a publication and found it in the next issue, written by some staffer.

How do we protect ourselves against this?

You don’t say how often this publication comes out, but it is rare for editors to outright steal ideas. If this was a monthly magazine, they already had your idea in the works. If it was a weekly or daily newspaper, it’s possible, but still unlikely. Usually what happens if an editor likes your idea and can’t hire you, they will pay you a finders fee. Unfortunately though, ideas don’t hold a copyright and editors are free to take your ideas if they want. However, in 9 years of doing this full time, I’ve never had that happen. You’ll be limiting yourself if you’re afraid to send queries. Instead of a negative, I would look at it that my idea hit the target and try pitching another.


Emily Kostic asks:

I’m a college student that is double majoring in Journalism and advertising and would love to start freelancing. I’ve gone to a number of different sites but am confused about how to go about starting this up. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


You probably already have the basics down of having a passion for writing and reporting skills. Next, to be a successful freelance writer, you have to have business knowledge and an entrepreneurial spirit. Freelance writers are writers first, but we are also marketing agents, our own PR department, researchers, bookkeepers, collectors and overall, business managers. My advice is to first write a short business plan of your goals and then start local. Do you like sports? Maybe your local newspaper is seeking a sports reporter. Or local or school government, small papers often use freelancers to cover school board, park board or sometimes city council meetings. As you build a clip file, you can start researching larger publications and their freelance needs, as well as consumer magazines.

Good luck!

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Outsourcing Freelance Work to India

A discussion topic on some freelance writing boards this week surrounded a story in the L.A. Times about a website dedicated to news in Pasadena, California, outsourcing local news, namely the city council meetings, to writers based in India.

See the full story here:,1,7515978.story?coll=la-headlines-business

Erik Sherman, an independent writer, has already written a very well crafted commentary on his blog:

What do our members think? Is this something we should fear or is it the wave of the future we should embrace and learn to battle with our own technological know-how? How does this new type of “reporting” affect journalism?

Weigh in with your comments.

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