Freelance Copywriters: 4 Simple Ways to Make Sure You Get Paid

Image courtesy of Anankkml/

Image courtesy of Anankkml/

Being a freelance copywriter is a great way to make a decent income.  A lot of people choose this line of work because it allows them to make their own hours and they get to determine how much money they make each week or even each day. However, and this is a big “however,” in the world of freelancing, particularly online, you’ll need to know how to protect yourself from being taken advantage of.  This is because there are any number of scams out there, not to mention, dishonest people who may try to get you to work on projects, meanwhile they have no intention of paying you.

Newbie or not, I’m quite sure you’ve read other freelancers’ rants about difficulties in getting paid from problem clients.  You may have even had one or two of these challenging situations yourself.

You’ll need to make sure that you always protect yourself so that you have a nice, steady income and a great experience as a freelance copywriter.

Fortunately, there are measures you can take to keep folks from cheating you. If you apply the following tips you’ll have a much greater chance of assuring that your fees are protected and that you are not scammed out of your money.


1. Find Out About Your Client Before You Meet


Look the prospect up before you agree to work with them and before you discuss the assignment with them.  Your findings may help you develop more pointed questions that will serve to safeguard you and your fees in the end.

There are countless, simple ways to research a client, but be creative in your search for information on them. A few quick ways to do a makeshift, but effective “background” check are as follows:

  1. If  this client finds you in an online forum, make sure that you check their feedback score (if any).
  2. If this client finds you on an online staffing platform (e.g.,, check out the comments made by previous contractors. Make sure there are no  listed problems with that client. Also make sure that you check into the feedback that your potential client has left.  If they show a history of leaving a bunch of negative comments, be wary of that client. It may signify that he or she is impossible to please.
  3. Enter the client’s email address in a popular search engine and scan the results. If that email has ever been associated with a scam, it may be listed in your search results.
  4. Take twenty or thirty minutes to plug their name or their website URL in The Better Business Bureau’s website, and look them up on Yelp, Angie’s List, SiteJabber, TripAdvisor and the like.


2. Protect Yourself By Using Written Contracts


Another great tip to staying safe and making sure you get the money you earned is to always use a contract. Using a contract/written agreement/quotation agreement can help assure you are paid upon completion of your work. If you do not have a contract, you will not be well-protected and you’ll undermine any leverage you otherwise would have had.

If the client gives you a hard time about signing the contract or starts “nickling and diming” you on more than one provision in the agreement, this may be a sign that there will be more issues and stress ahead. It’s probably best to not work with that person.


3. Get a Down-Payment Before You Start the Job


Making sure that you are getting paid is key when doing freelance copywriting work or any type of freelance work. Many writers require that clients leave an initial deposit, and you should too. This deposit assures the client that you will provide the copywriting work, and it helps to assure you that the client will pay for the work. The deposit you require should reflect the amount of work you will be doing. For larger jobs you will need to require a larger deposit and for smaller jobs you can require less.  Having the deposit will help to ease your fears about not being paid and will help to develop a trusting relationship between you and the client.


4. Make It Simple for Clients to Pay for Your Services


When Mr. Pain-in-the-A says, “I only have a debit card,” you want to be able to say, “That’s fine. I take wire transfers, and there will be a fee of $___ dollars for that transaction.”

If Ms. Bothersome says, “I can only pay by credit card,” you want to be able to say, “That’s fine. I have Intuit or Paypal, so you are more than welcome to pay by credit card.”

Of course, in order to do this, you’ll have to set these program up.  Luckily, these payment services are user-friendly, and there’s always customer service (with real live agents) available to help you if you have a problem. Today, many, if not most, banks offer merchant services for small business owners (including freelancers). These services allow us to accept a whole host of credit, debit, wire and mobile payment methods the same way the larger establishments do.




Set and hold to milestones when you are working on someone’s project, especially if it’s a multi-tiered one. Always send a sample to the client before you begin so that you can make sure he or she is satisfied with your work.  Stay in constant contact with the client and confirm that you understand his or her wants by repeating it back to them and getting that nod, preferably the electronic nod – via EMAIL.   The more you and the client are in synch, the more promising your experience is likely to be.

If you do end up with a problem client you will at first need to be patient. In the beginning, if you cannot work things out, it is advised that you cancel the job with the client before things get too complicated. If you have already turned in work, try your best to work with the client and see what you can do to improve the work or meet his or her needs by some other mutually satisfactory means.

Your business as a freelance copywriter can be greatly protected by these simple steps. Remember to follow your instincts, and if a job or a client does not feel right, move on to another job.  Require a contract and make sure that you get a deposit before beginning the job. Lastly, create that “paper” trail. If you’re a straight shooter, it’s always to your personal and legal advantage to have a paper trail, even if it’s email only.  Sometimes a financial dispute can very easily be resolved by reminding and showing your client that on X date, you did Y, just as she requested in her email.



About the Author:Stacey Mathis is founder and president of Stacey Mathis Copywriting.  Get more from Stacey on Twitter and

Instantly Make a Custom Contract for Your Freelance Business – At No Cost To You

freelance contract

Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom/

Back in October, I wrote an extensive post about starting a freelance business out on the right foot and, among other helpful nuggets, I included the following tip:


Unless you are crafting a flyer for your grandmother’s church picnic, use a contract. An elaborate contract is the safest bet, but a simple contract can work also, provided all of your bases are covered. Heck, if her church has a board of directors, you may want to use a contract for that church picnic flyer too. Nothing personal grandma! At the very least, your contract or agreement should contain:

♦the date of the agreement;

♦your name and address, the name and address of the business hiring you and the signer’s name;

♦a detailed description of the project, including the medium and format of the work;

♦the number of pages, if it’s a print document;

♦the various parts and stages of the project;

♦the number of edits and revisions you will allow;

♦the dates of delivery for each stage of the project, if more than one stage;

your fee and its due date(s);

♦a list of terms and conditions; and

♦both parties’ signatures.

In that vein, recently, I discovered that our friends over at have a complimentary tool for freelancers to easily and quickly create contracts for their businesses. I’d advise you guys to check it out. I used it myself last night just to test it before letting my newsletter subscribers in on the tool. I wanted to make sure it worked smoothly. Lo and behold, it worked perfectly! Check it out here.

“A lean agreement is better than a fat judgment” – Proverb Quotes

Want to Create A Winning E-mail Marketing Campaign? Make Sure You Grasp the Basics of Email Marketing First

email marketingSeventy-seven percent of small business owners report that email marketing increased their revenue and that $1.00 spent on email marketing $40.00 in revenue.* Many businesses are smartly discovering that email marketing can be a vital part of their business.  It’s a great way to keep in touch with customers and to invite them to special deals for your freelance services (or products, if you have any). The information and tips in this article will explain some of the practices you should engage in or avoid to ensure the success of an ongoing email campaign.

1. Rather than purchasing or renting a mailing list, build your own from the ground up. You can do this by including opt-in forms on your website or blog, gathering business cards at conventions or other industry events, and encouraging your subscribers to share your emails with others, which can garner even more subscribers. Of course, I would suggest creating a downloadable piece of content, preferably with instructional information that your target audience will find of value to them. The idea is to trade your free content for their email addresses.

2.  Always get permission! Unsolicited email is not welcome, and in certain cases, can get your ISP blocked. The last thing you want is to be branded a spammer.

3.  Be especially careful when crafting your first three emails to new customers. A new customer should get an introductory email inviting them to join your marketing list. Once they accept your invitation, the next email should tell them about discounts or special offers they can expect to get now that they’ve signed up. The third email should contain their first newsletter and their special offer.

4.  Make certain that it is easy for your recipients to opt out of receiving further emails. Not having a way to opt out can cost you customers since some of the people who wish to opt out might like your business and your products. They may simply wish not to receive emails. The process that you put in place should include asking for feedback as to why they are opting out. The information you receive can help improve your campaign.

5.  Try to make it as easy as possible for customers to unsubscribe from your emails. By not making it simple, they will feel like you are being too pushy and may be turned off from your product or business. Give them the option to opt out from some of your emails or all of them.

6.  Everyone knows that email filters are getting more and more strict. Graphics and other things included in emails are blocked out, so a reader might not even see what you are trying to say. Therefore, a good piece of advice is to use plain text with a hyperlink to your site.

7.  Utilize engaging emails and target customers who are inclined to use or share knowledge about your services. Make sure you are also soliciting feedback from them. Getting feedback from targeted customers is key to knowing what you can do to make your marketing strategies even stronger and more effective.

8.  What worked for you before might not work for you the next time around. That is why it is vital to always look into new email marketing strategies. Learn from others in your business niche, and always try out new methods to add to your arsenal of what works for your business.

It is a well-known fact that the use of the Internet has opened up an entirely new way for businesses to interact with customers. Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to keep in touch with loyal customers and to reach potential customers. Use the techniques and tips from the article above to create an email marketing strategy for your business.

*Aweber Communications

Don’t Be So Quick to Dismiss Marketing by Direct Mail

Despite the prevalence of digital marketing – forums, podcasts, social media platforms, linksharing, the blogosphere and e-mail – many B2B consumers still prefer direct mail when it comes to marketing messages. For freelancers (especially newbies) direct mail may be something you should consider including in your B2B multichannel marketing strategy when marketing to prospects who are not inclined to open emails from senders they don’t know. Many recipients, even when they do know you, don’t even bother to open their emails because they get so many of them. This makes direct mail a nice surprise, sometimes even a welcome surprise.

Infographic about Direct Mail

One thing’s for sure, as a freelancer, you’ll certainly stand out, since freelancers’ promotional and marketing collateral is almost never sent via traditional mail anymore. That alone makes your sales letter or postcard stand out.

What’s more, you don’t need permission to send it.





Postcards Postcards“Postcards are an excellent way to increase sales with high-quality, targeted marketing. Use them as direct mail to stay in front of your customers and prospects with quick announcements, special offers and more. Design and customize postcards with your logo or photos, or you can choose from our wide selection of templates tailored to your industry. VistaPrint postcards are printed on heavy card stock and come with matching envelopes. Get high-quality, full-color printing on the front and back of your postcards and try our Postcard Marketing service ? where we print, address and mail your postcards for you. Like all VistaPrint products, you can create your postcards in minutes and receive them in as few as 3 days.”

Infographic provided by: B&B

The Social (Media) Sickness – an Infographic

Social Media” – I was going to write a blog post about a similar subject, but then discovered this funny infographic.  So, I stole it. Just kidding, I borrowed it.  Anyway, I think it’s useful for freelance copywriters to see if they find themselves, in their business capacity, among the social sickos.  Sadly, I found my own conduct on one of the panels here. But, I’m glad I did.  Now that I know there is awareness about such behavior and folks are cognizant of it and not necessarily in a good way, I’ll modify my business tactic.

Initially, I was not a fan of the infographic. However, recently, as I’ve come to appreciate the time-saving benefit of a visual shorthand of unwieldy and often complicated text, I’ve become a huge fan. They’re so simple, yet so enlightening, and many are just freakin’ funny!



Start Your Freelance Copywriting Life Off Right

Start Now ButtonIn June and July of 2006 I committed to doing three things: (1) buy and read Bob Bly’s book The Copywriter’s Handbook, Third Edition: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells; (2) buy and read Steven Slaunwhite’s book Start& Run a Copywriting Business; and (3) start a freelance copywriting business by September 2006.

And I did.  Starting my own freelance copywriting business was easier than starting a small business typically is because I started off right – emotionally and managerially.  I quickly embraced my new reality – that launching and running this copywriting business was going to be a fun and challenging experience, but that starting off right meant, I needed to fix my mind-set.  Although this business was going to be a big and important part of my life, it was going to have a life of its own; it would be my freelance copywriting life, and I needed to be prepared for everything that promised to come with it (you know, the highs and the lows:  the first huge client payment of $2,500.00; then the frozen computer on the day of a “can’t miss” deadline; the ecstatic customer with the glowing testimonial about your work and who sings your praises to powerful decision makers; then the late arrival of your business cards before your meeting with JP Morgan Chase’s marketing team . . . and you have none left – you know that stuff).

So there.  Strapped with my borrowed, yet reliable mantra “Just do it” and these few tidbits, I stepped out on faith:

•Don’t let poisonous folks whisper in my ear, even the well-meaning ones;

•Develop and follow a simple strategy and stay focused;

•Don’t let things get overly complicated and stay focused;

•Allow only one captain to steer the ship – me – and stay focused;

•Keep tweaking things along the way when they need modifying;

•Launch this thing, and learn the rest along the way . . . WHILE STAYING FOCUSED.

And I did.  And I still am.

Following are practical business reminders I learned that helped me tremendously in starting my freelance copywriting life off right and keeping it right, and I am confident you will find them helpful too:

Your Passion . . . Not!

Don’t wait for that mythical fixation called “your passion.”  Some of the most happily successful people have found it.  Most happily successful people, it’s safe to say, have not.  What the two groups of happily successful folks have in common, however, is: they have a knack for what they do and they find enjoyment in some aspect of what they do.  If you wait for this passion thing to materialize, you may never get that freelance copywriting business off the ground.

Perseverance and the Threat of Rejection

One of the most common hindrances to perseverance is fear of rejection.  I don’t like guarantees, but this one is unmistakable, so I’m going to share it. You will experience rejection in one form or another.  If dealing with rejection is a challenge for you, then from the outset, you have to find a mechanism to help you cope with it.  It could be anything from Yoga to meditation, from training for a 5K to venting in a supportive online community.  Whatever you choose, just monitor the strategy, because if it’s not working, you need to tweak that plan.  And, speaking of supportive online communities – there are loads of them out there for copywriters and freelance copywriters from linkedin copywriting groups to warriorforum copywriting threads.  It behooves you to join one or more. Besides being comforting, they can be quite informative,  and great places to get educated feedback on copy drafts you’ve done, or to simply hang out, “coffee clutch” or network.

Make Good Habits a Habit


Unless you are crafting a flyer for your grandmother’s church picnic, use a contract.  An elaborate contract is the safest bet, but a simple contract can work also, provided all of your bases are covered. Heck, if her church has a board of directors, you may want to use a contract for that church picnic flyer too.  Nothing personal grandma!

At the very least, your contract or agreement should contain:

♦the date of the agreement;

♦your name and address, the name and address of the business hiring you and the signer’s name;

♦a detailed description of the project, including the medium and format of the work;

♦the number of pages, if it’s a print document;

♦the various parts and stages of the project;

♦the number of edits and revisions you will allow;

♦the dates of delivery for each stage of the project, if more than one stage;

♦your fee and its due date(s);

♦a list of terms and conditions; and

♦both parties’ signatures.

Keeping Records – Phone Calls

No one remembers everything, especially when you are busy.  When you speak to a client, particularly if you verbally agree to do or not to do something, it is a very good idea to memorialize the phone conversation in a follow-up email. This serves a number of different purposes. It jogs yours and your client’s memory. It solidifies what was said. It helps you recall what you said you’d do or not do. It creates a paper trail in the event something happens and you need proof.

Keeping Records – Billing

If you do nothing else, spare yourself some stress by having some place to drop your receipts and records of incoming payments. If this is too much of a hassle for you and the thought of even doing this much organizing stresses you out, then use as few ways to make purchases as possible.  For example use one credit card and one Intuit Merchant or Paypal account. This way, when it’s time to sit down with your accountant, all of your financial information is in only one or two places. The ideal solution is to keep your files organized in off-line or online folders, categorize them and use one of the gazillion simple accounting software programs out there like Lessaccounting.

Networking and Marketing

Yes, I used to hate this too – networking.  But, I soon learned that I was really good at it. I still don’t love it, but it works wonders and brings me in a lot of business, sometimes more than I can handle alone.  Whether you do it online or off-line, marketing your business is a must. And don’t be fooled into thinking you only need to market when business is slow.  Any self-respecting freelance copywriter will tell you that the optimal time to market your business is when you have customers coming in the door.  This way, you are more likely have  steadier stream of income.   And, by the way, marketing your freelance copywriting business needs to be a big percentage of the time you spend on your business – around 35% of the time.

In addition to networking, there are myriad ways to market your business:

-Article marketing.  Write and publish a few articles on sites like or  Include your URL in your resource box.  The resource box is a section at the end of published online articles where you get to promote yourself and your business;

-Bartering.  You can, for example, offer to consult with a business that agrees to plug your freelance business in their newsletter;

-Cross-promotions.  You promote a local business on your site in exchange for them promoting yours;

-Distribute a press release on a few free press release directories like Press Method (; Free Press Release Centre (; SB Wire (;  or (, just to name a few;

-Free classifieds (e.g., craigslist); and

-Social media (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin).

Stay Relevant

Take your eyes of the marketing media road for more than a month and you may feel completely lost when you turn your attention to the trends again.  Between social media, mobile media, cloud this and cloud that, the marketing media environment is growing by leaps and bounds!  It’s imperative that you keep learning. As a part of your routine, subscribe to (and read), a few newsletters or blogs that keep up with the trends of copywriting, freelancing and best small businesses practices. To keep on top of what’s trending, you can monitor Twitter hashtags like #smallbusiness using any number of free tools like Hootsuite.


Check Yourself

Check your site and make sure your information is still relevant. Make sure your links all work. Sometimes, unbeknownst to you and for a number of reasons, a link will suddenly die. This happens with WordPress blogs on occasion, so check them periodically just to be sure everything’s in working order.

Check your online business image.  Make sure you’re not tagged in that photo you took at your cousin’s wedding with the chandelier on your head where you’re drunk and dressed only in your bra or boxers. Put security limits on the accessibility of your personal Facebook page(s) so that only folks you want looking at it can see it.  Business people will definitely go searching for your personal Facebook page. So, if you’re doing anything on your personal social media page that could offend your customers and make them go elsewhere in search of a different copywriter, put some blocks in place.

Part of checking yourself, includes checking your competitors.  You want to stay a  step ahead of them or appear to anyway. There is competition out there for almost every copywriter, but particularly for narrowly niched ones. If you are one of 10 copywriters in your niche, definitely keep your eyes on your competition. One way to legally spy on them is by using Google alerts and Twitter alerts by signing up with sites like Tweetbeep.  You can use these sites to have emails sent to you when Google or Twitter finds things like web pages, news articles, blog posts,etc. that match your search item (i.e, your competitor’s name and the name of their business).  It only takes about 3 minutes to set each of them up initially, and they’re both free.

Oh yeah, and do this: Unfollow small fries who aren’t following you back on Twitter. Don’t look socially desperate.  If they don’t respect you enough to follow you back, unfollow them.  You don’t want to be one of those Twitter members who is following 500 people, but who only has 90 people following them back. Businesswise, that’s not a good look.

Even with its ups and downs, the freelance life, as so many people will testify, can be a great experience, and the best way to do that is to start out right. Go in with the proper mind-set and with realistic expectations.  Decide you are going to give it your all, but that you are not going to lose yourself in it.  Whether you choose to do it full-time or part-time, if you have the knack for it and enjoy copywriting and want the freedom that comes with self-employment, get your mind-set, make sure you have a plan you can live with . . . then JUST DO IT!

Happy writing,


P.S. Some of the blogs and websites that keep up with the trends of copywriting or freelancing or small business best practices are as follows:

Escape from Cubicle Nation

Copylicious Direct Creative Good Copy, Bad Copy

Harrison Amy Copywriting

Jeff Sexton Writes

Men with Pens

The Well-Fed Writer Blog

Words That Begin With You

The Freelancery

Freelance Unleashed

Dr. Freelance

Profitable Freelancing

Guerilla Freelancing

Ajeva Freelance!

Are You Out of Work and Considering Freelance Writing Jobs?

Freelance Industry Report 2012

Have you been wondering whether or not you should become a part-time freelance writer while you look for full-time permanent employment?  Or, perhaps you’ve been thinking about pursuing freelance writing jobs on a full-time basis.  To be effective at either option, you will need some guidance. Before you make such a serious commitment, you’ll want to explore the field and see if, in fact, it’s the right decision for you and your family.  The 2012 Freelance Industry Report is just the guidance you need to answer probably the vast majority of the questions you’ll have.

The study surveyed 1,491 freelancers to grasp who freelancers truly are.  You can use the information in this report in a variety of ways, including to see how you stack up against your colleagues and learn what areas you need to work on.

As stated in the 2012 Freelance Industry Report, when you read this report you will find:

• The most common professions for freelance work.

• Key demographics such as age, gender, location, experience and work status.

• The biggest challenges freelancers face and how those challenges differ by

profession, location, experience and other factors.

• Attitudes toward freelancing, self-employment, running a solo business and the

economy, as well as freelancers’ business outlook for the next 12 months.

• Income trends, hourly rates, billable time, how different freelancers price their services

and structure their fees, and the impact of the economic downturn on those fees and


• Lifestyle choices, including average number of hours worked, the importance of free

time and flexibility, and attitudes toward reentering the traditional workforce.

• How freelancers attract clients today, how much time they spend promoting their

services and what marketing strategies they’re planning to implement over the next


• An analysis of displaced workers who have given up their job search in favor of the

freelance path: what challenges they face, how they feel about self-employment, their

lifestyle changes and their likelihood to remain self-employed.

Whatever you decide in the end, after reading this report, you will certainly walk away with a better idea about the freelancing field and whether or not it is the style of employment that fits you.



Just Click the Pic Freelance Industry Report 2012 Cover




Copywriting on Tight Deadlines


In this Web clinic replay, Dr. Flint McGlaughlin teaches how to write copy that doesn’t need to be flashy to work.  He walks through a step-by-step framework for consistently writing effective copy that’s honest and clear.




Okay, I Just Saw the Coolest FREE App for Newbie Freelancers EVER!

It’s called MyPrice, the app every freelancer needs.

If you are a copywriter or graphic designer, etc., you can calculate how much you can charge for your creative services. It takes all functions into account, like location, your education, experience, expenses, you name it. I’m so excited to tell you about it that I don’t have time to do a formal review. But, I don’t really need to because the video will tell you so much, you won’t need to read what I’d have to say anyway. So, here it is.

Oh, one thing: The reason I say it’s for newbies is because it seems to have a quirky issue holding in its memory years of experience beyond six years. In other words, if you have over six years’ experience, it’s probably not the tool for you.