How to Get Paid as a Freelance Copywriter

How to Get Paid as a Freelance Copywriter


On the whole, most people and companies do their best to pay quickly, but…

The problem with being a freelance copywriter often lies not in getting the work, or doing the work, but in getting paid for the work.

Quite naturally (in their philosophy) some of the people who own or run ad agencies don’t like paying the people who do the work. Nor, quite naturally (in their philosophy), do the companies who commission the work like paying the agencies who farm out the work to the freelancers who do the work.

The Freelance Copywriter: Last in A Long Row Waiting
This can leave the freelance copywriter at the end of a long row of people who don’t like paying for the work. Then, of course, most people in Europe are sick or on vacation most of the time, which adds to the delays. And that’s before you factor in the staggering incompetence of many accounting departments.

The longest I’ve ever had to wait for payment was 18 months, from a company whose name rhymes with Late One (as I renamed them). In that particular instance there was little I could do except vow never to return to the distant city in which that agency is based, in this life or the next.

Justice for Freelancers!
When the late- or non-payer is closer to hand, one’s natural instinct is to go along at night and paint phrases such as ‘Give me the money’ all over the building. Or to stand outside during the day protesting. But I’ve tried this and you just get cold. Moreover, you can’t get on with your work when you’re standing outside waving a banner that reads ‘Justice for freelancers’.

Thus one’s only recourse is, on the whole, a politely worded but slightly biting email. For instance, I have one client who is completely incapable of paying a regular and small amount for a newsletter I write. The irony is that they are one of Europe’s leading business schools, a fact that I pointed out in an email recently. This did in fact elicit a response from someone who seemed to be quite senior in the accounts department, and prompted the payment of an old invoice that was lost in the system.

But this particular client has already returned to its usual ways, which brings me on to another observation. Namely, that companies who are unwilling or unable to pay promptly will never change. I have worked with one agency for over 12 years now. During that time they have been through various management structures, not to mention countless locations, agency websites, art directors and coffee machines. The only constant has been their complete and utter failure to pay a single invoice within a reasonable time period. Time and again they have promised that things will change, blah, blah. But it never does. It’s in their DNA – Do Not Authorize.

Of course, if you’re freelancing at an agency for a few weeks you can actually go and challenge the accounts department personally. This involves entering deathly parts of the building that have not heard laughter since it was announced that Portugal, Spain and Italy would be part of eurozone.

It involves being polite to people that you would normally cross the continent to avoid, and who really, really don’t understand the need for ‘creatives’ or why they should be paid.

I remember one guy at what is generally acknowledged to be the world’s most dismal agency network. To this day I’m not sure whether he was actually alive, or simply a ghost, condemned to walk the corridors of Amstelveen forever. Excepting those periods when he wasn’t sick or on vacation, of course.

The Plus Side of Never Knowing When You’re Going to Get Paid
On the plus side, never knowing when or if you are going to be paid means that you never spend any money. And the fact that you are always owed a large amount of money by various people makes you feel richer than you actually are.

On the whole, most people and companies do their best to pay quickly. In fact, I am sometimes surprised by how quickly some payments are made.

But you can never relax. And to work as a freelancer is to be frequently reminded of man’s inhumanity to small suppliers.








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