Protect Yourself from Being Fleeced from Deadbeat Clients
by Brian S. Konradt of BSK Communications
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
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
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.