Freelance Writing Advice for SEO Content Writers: What to Do When a Client Doesn’t Pay (But Keeps Promising to Do So)
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In last week’s post, I promised you an update on Cold Calling Carol. If you read through her series (this is the seventh update), you’ll discover that she had some major success – landing thousands of dollars in SEO writing work in just a couple of months. She was even able to jet off to Hawaii for a quick vacay!
Now though, she’s hit a snag. A client she wrote tons of articles for has not paid. And, she’s worried that he’s giving her “the dog ate my homework” runaround. Following is the long email she sent me, and my in-depth response.
Freelance Writer’s Email to Me
I hope all is well and you are doing great! I have a question that has been on my mind lately. Unfortunately, the [client] I was working for has not paid me my [other] 50%. However, he has a valid reason: He had a lot of crazy events happen in September. First he had to pick up slack for his partner, then his daughter got a nasty sinus infection, then his father-in-law-died, and he took 3 weeks off to console his wife.
I understand that events happen beyond our control, however, sometimes I feel like he’s giving me “The Dog ate My Homework” spiel. He did communicate with me and said he apologized that he didn’t get around to the final edits due to all the “chaos”. But it’s been about a good month for the 1st project I completed. He said he will make payment after he reviews and approves, however due to his circumstances he says that he has not had a chance to review the pages.
I want to trust him and believe him, but you never know.
So, I am thinking with new and past clients, my policy should charge 100% up front until they prove that they are reliable. I don’t want to do this because I want to trust people. However, by trusting people, I am about 600 bucks in the hole. And I don’t want to seem like a pressure hound since they had a serious death in the family. But then again, I worked my ass off and put everything on hold to make sure he had good quality content.
Has this ever happened to you? If so, how did you go out about it? [emphasis added]
On other news, I have been emailing SEO firms, and I know I had success before, but it gets discouraging. Many people say my rates are too high! So, right now I need cash flow, and I am wondering if I should do a 15 buck special. Of course it will be more volume, but at least I will have some dollars coming in instead of 0 dollars. (I think I asked you this question before, so forgive me if I am repeating myself). Blah ups-and -downs of the writer’s life is no bueno 🙁
Thank you for all of your support and help!
Thanks for the good wishes. I’m doing great!
In answer to your question, don’t do any more work from this client until they’ve paid what’s currently due. That’s the whole point of getting 50% up front — at least you get paid something for your work in the event that a client doesn’t pay.
Why Not to Ask for Full Payment Up Front from Your SEO Writing Clients
And no, don’t ask for 100% up front from clients. Many won’t go for this; it could lose you clients. And, you’re really making all suffer for the actions of one crummy client. FYI, I’ve never been burned by an SEO writing client — ever.
I don’t know what your contract states as far as payment goes, but it should say “invoice due upon receipt.”
How to Handle This Particular Nonpaying Client: Exact Steps to Take
As for how I’d handle this with this particular client, I’d apologize (of course) for his family problems. But then, I’d let him know that I’d give him a week (5 business days) to review all work submitted to date. Then, let him know that the remainder of the invoice is due in full, and that you won’t be responsible for changes if he doesn’t get them to you beyond that.
Furthermore, let him know that while you sympathize with his family problems, that you run a business, that you returned the work to him in the agreed-upon timeframe and that the invoice is due — whether he reviews the work or not.
This should all be relayed in a professional manner of course; via phone is best, b/c it’s hard for people to dismiss you on the phone. THEN, I’d follow up on what was agreed to in the phone conversation in an email — just so you’re both on the same page. And of course, if ever there’s legal action, you’ll have documentation.
Why You Basically Don’t Have to Worry about SEO Writing Clients NOT Paying
As I stated above, I’ve never had an SEO writing client NOT pay. Most are ethical.
BUT, I did have one where it took me almost 90 days to collect what was due. This was my very first SEO writing client — a firm out of Canada. We worked seamlessly together for well over a year and they gave me a lot of work. But, the owner apparently went on vacay and the invoices got backed up (I found this out afterwards by the way).
Even when he got back though, they were slow to pay, and the owner was pissed that I kept hounding them for payment. My guess is, he thought our previous working relationship should have proven that they were going to pay. But, it didn’t to me b/c that was the first time they’d NOT paid timely and it was quite a lot of money (a few thousand dollars). Like I said, they gave me a lot of work.
Main Takeaway Lessons from This Debacle
The lesson is, never let one client so overburden you that you can’t take on work for other clients.
Sure, take on big projects for a client if your time is free, but always be sure to schedule enough time to market for other work. This way, if work does materialize, you can still handle it.
So, the bottom line is — give longer deadlines, especially for bulk projects.
Why Not to Lower Your SEO Writing Rates – Even When Things are Slow
As for lowering your fees — I wouldn’t advise it. I feel that you’re panicking. And, that is no frame of mind to market in. Hold fast to your rates (they’re already at rock bottom IMO).
This is where as an entrepreneur you have to make some critical decisions about your business (and have nerves of steel). Ask yourself, do you always want to compete on rate, or do you have enough faith in your skills that you can — and should – command higher freelance writing rates?
Instead of lowering your rate, double down on your marketing efforts. As the story on SeoWritingJobs.com proves today, you CAN get good-paying SEO article writing jobs. But, you have to believe enough in yourself and hold out for what you know you deserve.
Freelance Writers: The Benefits of Writing for “Write for Pay Sites” When Things Get Slow
In the meantime, write for sites like AssociatedContent.com (or get a PT job) just to keep even a few dollars coming in. You can use the writings on sites like these as samples, you keep your skills fresh, you can write on what you want (which makes the writing quick and fun) and you’ll earn a few (a very few) dollars.
The bottom line is, don’t panic and market to clients for $15/article. You’ve proven that you can get at least $25. Why go below that?
Why I Never Looked Back Once I Started Raising My SEO Writing Rates
FYI, I’ve been where you are. But, once I got used to getting $25/article, I then raised my rates to $35 and then $45. Even when times were lean, once I’d gotten to the $35/article mark, I didn’t go back to $25 because I’d proven to myself that I could get at least $35 (and now $45 and up).
Like I said, it requires nerves of steel to hang in there when your bank account is dry and the first of the month is just a few days away (eg, rent/mortgage is due), but this is what building a business is.
Why Lowering Your Freelance/SEO Writing Rates Is Detrimental In More Ways Than One
A final thing to consider is — when you compete on rate, you will forever be “starting your business over” — again and again. What do I mean?
Every time you lower your rate, you reach back to a different level of client — one that you want to get away from (eg, the low-paying ones). Then, you have to strive and market and prove to your desired target market (eg, the higher-paying clients) — and to yourself — that you’re worthy of $25, $35 or more per article all over again.
And who knows, a client you land at $15/article could be one who would gladly pay $25 or more, but you’ll never know. And, plenty will pass you over at $15 per because they’ll think of you as a “content mill hack writer,” not a bona fide SEO writing professional.
Remember the story I told of the guy who questioned my abilities because he thought my SEO article writing rates were too low?
Don’t operate like this. You’ll never break free of bottom-of-the-barrel clients if you panic and slip back when things get tough.
Good SEO Writing Advice – Bad Freelance Writing Advice: The Final Decision Is Always Yours
With ALL of this being said, it’s your freelance business though; all this is just my opinion. No one has to pay your bills but you, so do what you feel is best for you.
One final thing, the only time I’ve ever been screwed on an invoice was by a lawyer; this was when I had my editorial staffing agency and was doing word processing, in addition to editing, writing, copyediting, etc. He took up our whole day (my sis and I owned the company at the time — and never paid). If I’d known where his office was, I would have sued his butt!
The legal profession doesn’t come by its bad rep unjustly, I guess.
Hope this helps, and do update me on how you handled it. Remember, you’re only accountable to you, so do what you feel is best for you.
P.S.: Learn how to create multiple freelance income streams. Get Living the Freelance Life! How I Live Internationally and Have Earned a Living Completely Online Since 2007 & You Can Too, a free ebook. SeoWritingJobs.com is an InkwellEditorial.com property.
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