Posts Tagged ‘contract’

Freelance Q&A: When will I get paid?

There are three primary times when a freelancer can expect to get paid from a news organization:

  • Upon submission – when the freelancer submits the work
  • Upon acceptance – when the editing and fact checking is complete
  • Upon or after publication – self-explanatory

I’ve been paid by different news organizations in each of these ways. I prefer being paid upon submission because I control the timing of payment and cash flow. Being paid upon acceptance is my second choice. You’ll develop a feel for how long a piece takes from submission to completion of editing, so you can work around that as well.

Being paid upon or after publication can get tricky. I write for one magazine that mails the checks almost the same day the magazines go out. I’m happy with that arrangement because I know what to expect. However, I have written for one company that paid 90 to 120 days after publication, on a good day. I’d be wary of such situations, because slow payment on the part of a media organization can indicate a cash flow problem or a lack of respect for its freelancers.

Perhaps the most important thing a freelancer can do is to understand the terms of your agreement before accepting any assignment. Of course, you want to know what the assignment is, approximate word count and due date, but you should be just as diligent with the financial details of the assignment. Often these details will be outlined in a contract or business agreement. If not, get them in writing via email. That way it is clear who does what, when and how. You do the work on time, they pay you, everybody’s happy!


Dana E. Neuts is a full-time freelance writer and editor and is the publisher of and An avid SPJ volunteer, she is the regional director for SPJ’s region 10, serves on the membership committee, and is the chair for the freelance committee. She is also a candidate for the office of national SPJ Secretary/Treasurer. Followe her on Twitter (@SPJDana, @SPJFreelance, @VirtuallyYourz).



Freelancer Q&A: Do I Need A Contract?

YES! When writing for publication or producing for broadcast, the media outlet that hires you is likely to have its own contract. When the client does not provide one, however, I recommend that you provide your own. Sure, it seems like an extra step, maybe even a hassle, but a contract protects you and your client. It spells out what you will do (e.g., write, edit), what the client will do (e.g., pay you) and the terms of the agreement.

If you can afford it, it is ideal to have a contract drafted by an attorney familiar with the work of independent contractors. If you can’t afford it, look at samples of similar contracts online and draft a one or two-page business agreement that meets your needs. You can also revise it as circumstances dictate.

So what should a business agreement include? This depends on your business and unique circumstances, but it should at least contain these basic elements:

•    Names of the parties involved in the agreement
•    Date of the agreement
•    Services you will provide along with applicable deadlines
•    Agreed upon rate or price for the project
•    Payment terms, including how late payments will be handled
•    Indemnification clause
•    Confidentiality clause
•    Termination clause
•    Client signature block (to include name of authorized party, room for his or her signature, date of the signature, mailing address, and preferred email address and phone number)
•    Your signature, date of the signature and your tax identification number

When a client and I have agreed to work together, I explain that I will email them a simple business agreement that outlines the terms we have agreed upon. I ask them to sign and return the signature page, and let them know that I’ll begin work upon my receipt of the document. This last step is precautionary, and I don’t always follow it. It primarily provides an incentive for a brand new client to review and sign the business agreement promptly, so I can start work on the project.

Though I have a signed agreement from each of my clients, I’ve only needed to use them twice to enforce contract terms. In one case, I needed the agreement to provide the project price when I turned an unpaid bill over to a collection agency. In the other, I used the agreement to fire a client who wouldn’t provide me with the information I needed to produce the work.

Hopefully, you’ll never need to enforce the terms of your agreement, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have the signed contract, and you’ll find that most clients appreciate the professionalism of having such an agreement.


Dana Neuts is a full-time freelance writer based in the Seattle area. In addition to writing for publications like South Sound magazine and The Seattle Times, she is the owner and publisher of several hyperlocal community sites including and She is the regional director for SPJ’s Region 10 and the chairman of the SPJ freelance committee.


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