Over the years, I’ve found that freelance writing clients have certain, shall we say, behaviors. They do things that may seem odd to us contractors, especially if we’re new to the scene. Here are some interesting behaviors that I’ve observed from clients over the years, along with a stab at explanation.
Please, No Punctuation, No Caps, No Paragraphs
Have you ever had a client ask you to write in an odd way? Has a client asked that you forego typical conventions of writing, like punctuation or paragraphs? Along these same lines, have you ever been asked to turn your work in via something other than Word (which is the most typical format)?
Freelance clients who need copy presented in odd or atypical ways are often plugging your work into some kind of software or internet system, such as a Content Management System, which automatically formats these kinds of things. Or, they may need these types of formatting issues addressed with coding- perhaps HTML code or similar, which is done in-house (by them).
Please Submit With the Following HTML Code
In a similar vein, clients who ask you to use code on your copy are likely doing this same thing: using your copy via a software or internet-based content management system (CMS). For example, I’ve had many clients who purchase blog posts from me ask that I format the posts with the standard HTML coding used in Wordpress and Movable Type (i.e. common blogging platforms).
But I Don’t Want to Give Out My Social Security Number
I’ve had a lot of new freelancers waffle when it comes to giving out their social security number to clients. However, this is a typical request. When a client hires and pays you, they can/must report that payment to the IRS (if everyone involved is U.S.-based, that is). This helps the IRS make sure that you pay taxes on that income. However, freelancers who run their writing as a business should register for an EIN or TIN number from the IRS. It’s a simple process, helps you to keep your writing income separate from your personal finances, and means that you don’t have to give out your personal social security number to every potential company that wants to hire you.
Must Submit Paper Invoice
More and more often, I’m able to do all my billing and invoicing electronically. However, I do still get one or two clients who insist on me mailing them a paper invoice. I’m not sure why this is, as I gather that most of my clients who keep paper records simply print off an emailed invoice. I did ask a publisher once why I couldn't bill them electronically, and their only answer was that this was the typical internal process.
Of course, my advice for when it comes to getting paid is this: do whatever the client asks of you! I have no qualms about mailing out a paper invoice when I must.
Yeah, We’ll Pay You. In 60 Days or More
When I come across clients whose typical pay out date is 60 days or more from the date of my invoice, they typically are one of two types. The first type is usually a trade or consumer magazine. Their policy is to pay you after your article prints. Keep in mind that the magazine timeline is quite unique. You are often going to turn in articles that won’t print for a month or two.
The second kind of client who pays out in months or longer is the one who is subcontracting you. That is, they are doing a project for Company A, but they hire you to work for them, and then they send your work on to Company A as part and parcel of their own. Then, Company A takes 30 days to pay them, and you get your share only after they get paid.
Both these situations are pretty typical, and I would consider working for both. The subcontracting situation brings up a few caveats, but that’s an article for another day.
Yeah, We Want You. Wait, There’s No Work
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been hired, on-boarded, and processed through a company only to be told that there’s no work available just yet. This commonly occurs when the company is subcontracting you for another company’s project (see above), or they just may have ran out of money or underestimated the timing of the project. Again, this is a typical situation, and simply requires patience from the writer.
Freelance writing is like any other career: there’s a whole slew of typical processes, weird clients and odd requests that you’ll need to master and deal with. Eventually, you'll figure out scene, and there's no better way to learn than through experience.
Got an odd situation not addressed here? Email me!