Friday, February 12, 2010

Invoices–The Key to Getting Paid

Many writers, especially beginners, live in an idealized ivory-tower world where the only thing that’s important is their writing. That’s fine if they’re independently wealthy. Unfortunately, few are.  Most work at 9-5 jobs and write either in their off hours or when the muse strikes them. They don’t particularly have to worry about whether their writing brings in any money.

If you want to make money at writing, you need to start using a staple of the business world–the invoice.

To get paid in business–and yes, writing is a business, especially if you do it full-time–you need to bill for your time. With every piece of writing you send to an editor, you need to include an invoice. This can be as simple as a sheet of paper with your name and address at the top, followed by the name of publication and, below that, the title of your piece and the amount due for it, or it can be an elaborate affair with a category code, invoice number, date, social security number, etc.

If you don’t want to design and print up your own invoice, then you can go to any office supply store and buy a pad of them, filling them in yourself. It’s infinitely more business-like to create your own. You can do this as a separate file to be sent with your writing file by E-mail, or of a simpler design that you can tack on at the end of the composition file. The former works better because the editor can print it out and send it on to the accounts receivable department of the publication. Remember, editors don’t pay you; someone in the accounting department does.

You should also always include an invoice, even if you aren’t being paid money for your work. While you should try not to write for free, you need to make the person on the other end know what your time is worth if they had paid for it. In this case, include a reasonable amount, and then mark the invoice “PAID.” Also, don’t forget to print a copy of every invoice you send out for yourself, so that you’ll have a record of all your sales for the year.

If you work on different types of writing–articles, public relations, fiction, etc.–you should consider including a category code on your invoice. This makes it easier for you to tally up the totals for each category at the end of the year. While you don’t need these totals for taxes, they help you see which categories are making more or less money, so you can plan for the next year.

While an invoice may seem an insignificant thing in your writing life, it’s more important than you  may realize.

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