Monday, October 15, 2007

Follow Through

I think it was back in August that I mentioned I was waiting on three checks to arrive. One of those checks is still outstanding.

I followed up, for the first time, last week with an e-mail to the editor. It was more of a "I haven't received my clips and check yet, did I miss them?" e-mail. And yes, the reference to clips first was on purpose as was the possibility that I had received and overlooked them.

The editor was quick to respond with an apology and mentioned she reminded the person in charge of accounts. I don't have a date yet, but she did say she would let me know when to expect it. I have made a note to check back in a week or so if I haven't heard anything.

Following up on money issues is always problematic. You want to walk that fine line that keeps you in good graces with the editor while still collecting on a debt. It has been my experience that it is rarely the editor who cuts the checks, but it is the editor you deal with in trying to collect payment.

Since August, I have billed for and received a number of checks quickly. So it isn't always a problem, but every once in a while, checks take a long time to process. As someone trying to pay my own bills, it is a necessity that I figure out when I can expect a payment.

I've learned that asking a few questions early on in the process helps. How is billing handled? Do I need to send an invoice? Are there certain days when checks are cut?

A long time ago, a company I worked for didn't seem to have a billing system, and I could never figure out when I should expect a check. The checks I received had random dates, and I couldn't figure out a method to the madness.

When I asked my editor, she didn't know either. At my request, she and I learned there was a system. For invoices in before the 5th of the month, checks were cut on the Friday following the 10th of the month. It was that "Friday following" that caused so much randomness. Once I knew how the system worked, I knew what to expect and when. I also knew to make sure I submitted my invoices before the 5th of the month.

A few questions about billing procedures can really help you determine when to expect payment, and when and how to follow up on payments not made.

I also must confess that I failed to bill one of my regular clients recently. I should have received payment for work on the 15th (today), but I neglected to submit my invoices on time. No invoice, no payment. I will get paid eventually, but now I have to wait for the next billing cycle.

I tend to keep pretty close tabs on money I am expecting and dates when I should expect it. But even with a pretty secure system, I have to factor in the unknowns. Without a system, I would never be able to figure out what is due when. Do you have a system that works for you?


Carolyn Erickson said...

Yes, I have a system. Mine is to write the article, send it, remember the invoice later, send it, and then forget all about it until the check comes in the mail. Then I'm like, "Sweet!"

Can you tell I've been only doing this part-time? :)

But really, that's not entirely true. I do know when a check has taken an inordinate amount of time to arrive in my mailbox. And then I send a polite letter to the editor.

But I LOVE your example email, and your ideas about asking billing questions up front. In fact, asking about billing cycles might even be an easier way for me to bring up the subject of how much a publication pays. I hate asking.

But I do it anyway.

Serenity Now! said...

I have found that Excel works wonderfully for me... except someone convinced me to go with QuickBooks and I don't just need a QuickBooks for Dummies book... I need a QuickBooks for the Hopeless.

I'm fortunate, I don't have to follow up very often at all. I did follow up with one last week and I received my cheque today... dated for the day I followed up.

Dawn Allcot said...

I hate when I follow up in the morning because it seems like a long time and the check is in my mailbox that afternoon! (My mail comes at 2 PM! Grrr...)

I use Excel. I log the story, the publication, the issue it is to be published in, the invoice number and the date I submitted the invoice.

When the check comes, I write the date and, in all caps, PAID. (This helps me see at a glance what invoices are outstanding). I should add a column about the billing cycle (ie, 30 days after invoice, etc.)

Typically, I wait until I get a "good job" or "thanks for the story" or some such confirmation from the editor that he received the story, and then I submit the invoice. Otherwise, I'm always paranoid that they will ask for a rewrite and ignore my invoice or something. (Probably silly!)

If I send my invoice right on the heels of a confirmation, I don't forget to do it.

If the editor doesn't send a confirmation after about a week, I send them a note, "I'm just checking in to make sure you received my story on ... . Attached is the invoice for the article, as well."

As far as following up on late invoices, I do it exactly the same way Linda does. :) Putting the burden on me ("Did I miss it?")

I don't know why I always feel like I don't "deserve" to invoice (kind of like the asking about payment thing!)

Here's the thing... Editors *want* their writers to get paid. Paid writers are happy writers, who pitch more stories and submit their articles on time.

Mostly, money is out of an editor's control. So they *want* to know when there might be an issue with it. And if an editor sounds annoyed by your asking, they are likely annoyed with their accounting department, rather than you.

Unless, it's like 2 days after you submitted the invoice and the magazine pays 60 days after publication--in that case, well, chill out! LOL

Wow, sorry this is so long, I hope it was helpful to someone!