7 tips – invoicing for freelance copywriting work
When is a copywriting job finished and ready to invoice? It’s not as obvious as it seems. Sometimes, jobs can dribble on, and it’s not your fault. Maybe you’ve completed the job, and the client needs to check it, but somehow, they don’t get round to it. And then it’s not clear when to send your invoice in.
So you need to be clear and assertive about when a job is done at your end, otherwise you might not get paid!
Here are 7 tips on when to sign off on a copywriting job and send the client your invoice.
1. Get paid half up front
OK, this is actually before you start. But pre-emptive action is better than chasing after the event. This is especially important with a new client. It’s harder to get paid after the work is done.
So, before you do any work, ask the client to sign a contract (you have a contract, right?), and then get a down payment before you start any work.
This means you can be sure the client is committed to the process. It’s clear on both sides. Since they’ve already invested in the job, they’re more likely to see it through.
And if things get tricky and they don’t come through on part two, at least you’ve been paid something. This rarely happens, but it’s good to know.
2. Do the job quickly
If you can’t turn round the job quickly, it can drop off the client’s radar. It might even spill into another financial year, or into a time when they’re far busier. Then it becomes harder for them to get back into the brainspace for revisions and turning the job round at their end.
So it’s good to keep things moving quickly. Make sure they know you’re doing the work by sending updates. If it’s a bigger job, such as website copy, break it into chunks and stages, and send the client your plan.
If you struggle to handle your copywriting job pipeline and speed things along effectively, check out these productivity systems for writers.
3. Give the client a week to check and return your copy
Clients are busy people – that’s fair enough. But sometimes, they don’t get around to checking your drafts and signing them off. This is particularly true of final versions. Why does this happen?
Sometimes, it’s because clients are time-poor, or indecisive. They may have a big team, and decision-making gets stalled. Or – worst case scenario – they have an unattainable idea of perfection, and will never sign off your copy.
This means it’s sometimes hard to know when to invoice. When I was a rookie copywriter, I once didn’t get paid at all, because the client simply didn’t act on receiving the copy. Months passed and I was still waiting. This doesn’t just happen with final drafts. It can happen with revision drafts, too.
It’s fairly rare. And if you get this kind of client, run a mile! But first, you still need to get paid. So you need to be firm.
Ideally, you’ve agreed a process in your contract as above. This is particularly important when dealing with teams. Make sure you have a single point of contact and not lots of copied-in contributors, which will just confuse things and allow responsibility to slip between the cracks.
When you send your draft or revision in, say you’ll allow a week, and give a deadline.
Then make sure you follow up promptly. Mostly, your client will get back to you with revisions. If they don’t move on to step 4.
4. Send a reminder
So, your client hasn’t replied, but you still need their approval, and you still need to get paid for your writing time.
It’s possible they’ve just forgotten, or lost your email in the melée. In that case, a gentle reminder will swing them into action.
If not, it’s time for step 5.
5. Invoice your client anyway
What? The job isn’t finished yet! It hasn’t been signed off!
At this stage, I send my invoice for writing time spent. If it’s a small job and only likely to need another hour or so, I factor that in.
Then I send the invoice, saying that since I haven’t heard from them, I assume the job is finished. If there are any tiny changes or checks still to come, I’ll do that, of course.
If it’s a bigger writing job, I invoice the hours spent, explaining it’s an interim invoice and I can crack on with the next stage once it’s paid and they’ve sent their revisions.
This makes clear that your free work isn’t an option.
6. Escalate to your accounts department
What? You don’t have an accounts department? Maybe not. The accounts department may well be you. But it can be really helpful to have a second person to chase invoices on your behalf.
I work with my partner, so he does that job. It makes a huge difference, as he’s more assertive with clients.
But if you don’t work with a business partner, you have other options. Even just having another email address, accounts@, with a different signatory, suggests you have team backup. Copy that email in when you send an invoice. Combine with a clear, timely invoice system, it really does help.
7. Take control of the writing and invoice process
Occasionally, jobs done by committee or a team at the client end may never get finished. And then you might not get paid. So you need to take control.
The secret to getting paid promptly is to have watertight systems in place. That means:
- A contract. Use an email signature app. Signwell is free for three signatures a month, or try Adobe Sign, which is part of Acrobat.
- A job process. I use Microsoft 365 Sharepoint and a file folder system. You could also use OneDrive or Dropbox.
- A follow-up system. I use Xero software for invoicing, and a Kanban whiteboard to keep track of jobs in progress.
It’s rare to find truly problem clients. But the grey fuzzy edges around writing jobs and when to invoice are more common. I hope these tips help!
Read more articles on business skills for writers:
From creative writer to copywriting – 12 steps to build a business
7 tips – invoicing for freelance copywriting work
Copywriting interviews – how to research clients
Freelance contract copywriting work