Re: Collecting Receivables

Subject: Re: Collecting Receivables
From: Peter Kent <71601 -dot- 1266 -at- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 4 Dec 1995 10:56:38 EST

>>A writer is requested to "assemble" a publication from graphics prepared by
another contractor.<<

Did you do any writing, or just layout. One strength advantage that writers
often have is copright law. If you right something for somebody, they don't
own the rights to use it until they've paid for it, so you can deny them the
right to use the user manual or whatever until they pay. Copyright violations
are a criminal act, too, so you have more leverage.

In fact few writers realize that they still own the copyright to their work
even _after_ they've been paid, unless there's a clause in the contract that
specifically transfers the copyright to the client. That means that a client
can't have another writer modify your work without your permission! In my
experience few clients realize this, and it's rare to find a client who wants
to add a copyright clause to a contract.

>>Throughout this process the writer is billing the client weekly. The client
is too busy dashing off to tradeshows and meeting with distributors to pay any
of the bills.<<

This is difficult to advise on; I've had clients who paid late, but I was
certain that I _would_ be paid, so I let it slip a little. With a small
company that I wasn't sure about, with no payment history, I would make sure I
got paid. One of the advantages of being paid throughout the life of the
project is that you can limit your liability; if they stop paying at some
point, you stop working. This way you can limit the amount you are owed to the
amount for which you can sue in a small claims court, too.

>>The writer is requested to meet with the client at which time the client
requests a discount (1/3) since the project is hugely over cost of an average
technical document of similar size.<<

The client was clearly playing games with you, waiting until he had the
manual printed before he asked for the discount; he knew you'd have the upper
hand earlier on in the process.

>>The puzzled writer discusses the problem with his accountant and attorney.
The accountant suggests taking as much cash and taking either stock or product
for the remainder. <<

I'd go for the cash, and sue if necessary. I don't know what the product is,
but do you really want to go into business selling this thing? Do you know how
much it will cost you to sell it? Marketing a product generally costs a lot
more than producing it! As for stock, it's probably worthless.

>>The attorney suggests if no more work coming from this client, bill the
entire amount. Otherwise, determine a fair discount. The writer is still at a
loss for direction. <<

I'd bill the full amount, unless I was totally sure that there'd be more
work, taking into consideration the effect that the strained relationship will
likely have on the client's decision to continue sending me more work.

>>The client has indicated thatthere is no problem paying the original bill,
but would prefer a fairer price tag on the total project. <<

It seems dishonest of the client to complain about the price, when they were
getting regular invoices. They should have complained earlier, not right at
the end.

>>The writer is not interested in taking product, and although enticed by the
stock, the client is in a highly competitive and risky business. (BY the way
the stock is closely held.) <<

Most stock in small high-tech businesses is next to worthless; think of all
the high-tech companies you know of that have gone out of business. They come
and go like bees on flowers (I thought I'd better use that analogy, rather
than the "flys" one).

>>The writer asked if the client would give him future work, and the client
indicated that it would depend on how the writer bills this project. How would
you handle this situation?<<

Don't count on the client giving you future work, unless they actually sign
something as part of the final agreement, promising you the work (it had
better be a firm promise, not some vague generality). It's too easy to say
"yeah, sure we'll give you more work," just to get you to buckle. (I've had
this done to me.)

Good luck,

Peter Kent

Peter Kent: 71601 -dot- 1266 -at- compuserve -dot- com, 303-989-1869
Coming soon, an updated and revised Technical Writer's Freelancing
Guide. E-mail for more information. Comments/suggestions welcome.

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