How Do I Get Paid on Time?

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Q: What steps can writers take to ensure timely payment? —Anonymous

A: This kind of thing happens all the time: writer does job, submits invoice, waits for check, check never shows up, writer buys carton of eggs, Googles editor's home address and, well, you can guess what happens next.

There are several things that can slow down or even stop your payment from ever being processed. Sometimes it can be a slip-up on the editor's side. Other times the writer misses a step in the process or has misinformed expectations of when the payment will be delivered. So to make sure you receive your payment in a timely fashion, it's important that you understand the contract and keep things clean on your end.

First, be sure that you submit a correct and thoroughly filled out invoice—including name, date, mailing information, social security number/business tax ID, title of project/article and the amount charged. When sending the invoice (typically via e-mail), copy yourself (put your e-mail address in the CC spot). This way you have a record of when it was sent and whom it was sent to.

Also, it's important for you to remember that editors don't fully control the purse strings for publishing companies, and accounting cuts all the checks. All accounting departments work a little differently—some pay 30 days from the day the invoice is submitted, some pay 60 days from the publication date of your piece. Before contacting anyone, examine your contract so you are clear on when you should get paid. Once you've established that date, add two weeks before contacting the editor to look for the payment. (The two-week buffer is in case the editor took a couple days to pass it along to accounting and for mailing-time.)

If you follow all these steps, you'll save yourself time, energy and headaches down the road. Plus you'll save that poor carton of eggs.

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

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