You Ask, I Answer: Do I Need to Bill Editors?

By Linda Formichelli

Louise asks: Do I need to bill editors after I turn in an assignment or will they just automatically pay me?

Good question!

In short, you should send an invoice for all the work you do for any magazine or website.

Some magazines do pay automatically without an invoice, but it’s easier to just send one than to try to figure out who needs an invoice and who doesn’t. Also, having an invoice on file will help you keep track of your accounts receivable, and will give you some backup should you need to go after late payment.

A question that stems from this is when you should send an invoice. New writers are often afraid that an editor will be turned off if the writer sends in an invoice too soon.

I go by gut feeling. If a magazine typically doesn’t request revisions — or if they do but it takes them forever to get back to me — I send the invoice right away. But if the magazine I’m writing for usually gets some revisions back to me in a week or two, I want until I turn those in to invoice because I want to make sure the editor is happy with the article before I bill for it.

Technically, I could invoice everyone as soon as I turn in the article, but it just feels right to wait a bit on those magazines that are quick with edits.

Whatever you choose to do, feel confident in the fact that an editor will not blacklist you for invoicing when you turn in an article. You are a professional, and that’s what professionals do.

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16 comments… add one
  • Great tips as always, Linda! Any strategies on handling cases where you’re billing by the word and the editor takes weeks or months to send the final word count? I’ve run into this a few times and I try to politely nudge the editor but they often work at their own pace. I don’t want to nag but it also doesn’t seem fair to delay payment for months because my article keeps getting moved to the bottom of the pile. I’ve also tried submitting an invoice with the article for the # of words I’ve written but they pay for edited words so they won’t submit the invoice until they’ve determined the # of edited words. Maybe it’s time to move on from that publication but I’d love your suggestions.

    • Hi, Susan! Ugh…I can think of one time I was paid by the printed word, and they didn’t make me wait like that. I wonder if you could negotiate a contract that pays you on assigned words? If not, there are two things you can do: (1) Think of this as a Pay on Pub client and just factor that into your accounting, or (2) Consider whether you want to keep this client or politely ditch them and use the time to pitch clients that pay on time.

  • Appreciate this confidence boosting advice! I sometimes feel pushy when sending an invoice to an editor. I have one editor who is a slowpoke when it comes to payment, so I always invoice her shortly after submission (and then she asks me to resend the invoice when she can’t find it…). Thankfully, most editors I deal with send payment fairly promptly.

    • Yeah, it’s so funny that we feel we’re being pushy when we bill for work we completed!

  • I just ask if they prefer to be invoiced, if that isn’t covered in the contract. I have one magazine client who always apologizes for how long they take to pay. It is 30-35 days after I submit an invoice, and it comes long before the magazine, so I am happy with it. 🙂

    • That’s also a good approach. My MO is just to invoice everyone so I don’t have to worry about finding out who needs what.

      30-35 days? Sounds like a dream client compared to most! 🙂

  • Although I don’t generally write for print publications, I’m a big fan of submitting invoices right away with a disclaimer that they can be modified as needed pending any necessary revisions.

    Most of the time, this is so that I don’t forget to invoice later once I’ve moved on to other projects. But I’ve also found that portraying myself as a professional who deserves to be paid on time for work completed leads editors and clients to be more respectful of my billing practices.

    Really, they’re expecting to be billed at some point, so as long as we have don’t have other invoicing arrangements, I see nothing wrong with sending right away.

    • Thanks for your comment! That’s something I should have mentioned — another reason I like to invoice right away is that otherwise I forget!

      • Yep, I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve forgotten to invoice altogether on more than one occasion 🙂 Nothing like that “end of the month, what on earth have I been doing these last few weeks?” mindset to screw up your business finances!

        • Been there, done that. One thing I try to do now is if I know I’ll need to invoice someone later, I add it to my running to-do list or send myself an email.

  • The Editorial Freelancers Association has a nice and simple sample invoice posted on its website that you can modify to use for writing (rather than editing, which is what it’s designed for).

    I just make them in Word, convert them to a PDF, and send them.

  • I’m new to the invoicing process, but am finding it pretty frustrating overall. I number all invoices and duly send them off, but am never sure at what point to start chasing for payment. I tend to leave it a month and then start sending emails…it’s tricky, because I don’t want to harass the client, but at the same time, I need to be paid!

    • I know what you mean! Check the “money” category here on the blog…I have a few posts on when and how to chase payment.

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