Being a working artist means you get to handle all sorts of business matters totally unrelated to creating art, but absolutely necessary if you want to keep working. The more time it takes to address business matters, the less time you have for creating art. Whenever you can shave down the time it takes to manage your business, without reducing how effective you are, do it.
One of the biggest time sucks for many working artists is chasing down the money they’re owed. And while this is consistently one of the biggest frustrations I hear about, very rarely do artists have policies about getting paid.
A policy, or rule for how you manage your business, can save you time and energy by establishing expectations and clearly explaining the consequences of not meeting those expectations.
Here are three of my favorite policies to help you get paid on time and in full:
Use Late Fees
If someone pays your invoice late and nothing happens, how likely do you think it is that they’ll pay you on time the next time they owe you money? (Spoiler: the answer is, ‘not very likely.’) Charging people late fees when they don’t pay you on time encourages speedy payment from those who want to avoid the fee, and discourages repeat offenders.
No payment? No copyright.
If you’re creating work for someone and they want to own the intellectual property of the piece (and are willing to pay for that privilege), only transfer ownership of the intellectual property after the final payment has been made. By withholding something they want until they’ve given you what you want, you not only encourage prompt full payment, but you’ll also have recourse if they don’t pay up.
Requiring a nonrefundable deposit before you start work ensures that, even if they change their mind about the project, you get paid. Make it clear that the deposit is not refundable to avoid misunderstandings down the road. Similarly, don’t turn over whatever you’ve created for them until they’ve made the final payment.
What policies do you use to help make sure you get paid?
Katie Lane is an attorney and negotiation coach in Portland, Oregon, helping artists and freelancers protect their rights and get paid fairly for the work they do. You can read her blog at WorkMadeForHire.net and follow her on Twitter: @_katie_lane.