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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

How to Protect Yourself from Being Fleeced from Deadbeat Clients
by Brian S. Konradt of BSK Communications and Associates

A writer who is a close friend of mine reflected on the time she got "stiffed" by a deadbeat client. This happened three years ago when she considered herself still an "amateur" at commercial freelance writing.

The client had hired her to write a series of press releases to promote a new product. When she handed in her assignments, the client promised that he'd pay her within 30 days. But that never happened.

After a series of letters and phone calls to the client's office to see the status of her payment, the client told her that he couldn't use the press releases and refused to pay her. My friend had made two mistakes: she did not ask the client to pay her 50% up front, and the rest upon completion of the assignment.

Secondly, she did not have a written contractual agreement about what was agreed upon between her and the client. She had, instead, settled for a verbal and handshake agreement.

The remedy to prevent yourself from being fleeced by a deadbeat client is to have a simple written contractual agreement. Although, according to our court system, a verbal agreement is legal, you will have a painstakingly hard time trying to prove in court what was agreed upon between you and the client.

A Letter of Agreement is the writer's best friend to assure that he or she will collect the proper amount of payment. It is also used to clarify all terms and agreements with a client and to get the client's signature as evidence that he agrees with your terms.

Don't get the impression that most clients are out there to stiff you. You will work for many wonderful and exciting clients. But there are some clients who will try to stiff you for various reasons, one being that they suddenly decide not to use your copy. But keep in mind: you have every right to bill a client for any billable time you spend on an assignment or project, regardless of what situations arise. And the client is required to pay you.

The basic elements of a Letter of Agreement include the following information:

The name of the client and the contractor (the writer).

A description of the services to be rendered.

Beginning and expected completion date of project.

Fees per hour or per project.

Percentage of extended payment.

Any additional comments, agreements or special terms.

A signature line for the client and the contractor.

And a date.

Your Letter of Agreement will vary in content, depending on the type of project you're undertaking. For example, my Letter of Agreement is primarily used for small and quick assignments. For larger projects, such as writing copy for newsletters, I may be inclined to charge the client extra fees to cover expenses for research, attending meetings, out-of-pocket expenses such as postage, car mileage, tolls, long distant phone calls, and so on.

For in-depth projects that require weeks or months of your time, you may decide to write a proposal that summarizes specifically what you will be providing the client, a break down of costs, and payment terms. If you submit a multi-page proposal to a client, also submit your Letter of Agreement for the client to sign. But in your Letter of Agreement, specify "See attached proposal for additional information for payment terms and services to be rendered."

Sometimes the client will have his own contractual agreement. That's okay. Use it instead of your Letter of Agreement. Mark up and cross out any parts of the client's Agreement that you disapprove. You're allowed to do that. One major rule when creating your Letter of Agreement is to keep it short, simple and to the point. Clients get scared when they see long, detailed contracts with paragraphs of sentences. It's not necessary, in most cases.

Brian Konradt is the owner and operator of FreelanceWriting.Com (http://www.freelancewriting.com), a web site dedicated to help writers master the business and creative sides of freelance writing. Mr. Konradt is also the principal of BSK Communications & Associates, a communications/publishing business in New Jersey, which he established in 1992.









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