Friday, March 6, 2009

Show Me The Money!

Julia Wildman mentioned in her latest assignment submission that she's had an article accepted by The Lady magazine. Whilst clearly overjoyed at the news, it then threw up another question in her mind - how do you invoice a magazine? What exactly do you have to do?

Well, The Lady, has an excellent reputation for communicating with its writers. I know from experience that they will write to Julia nearer the time and tell her how much to invoice and where to send the invoice to. But Julia raises an important point. Once over the initial euphoria of receiving the acceptance letter, there is the the practical, professional aspect of getting paid for it.

The picture here is an example of the invoices that I issue and if you click on it you can download a much bigger version to scrutinise. Yet essentially, an invoice needn't be too complicated.

All you need is:

  1. The word 'Invoice' on the document, to show that it is a demand for money.
  2. Your full name and address. The magazine needs to know who the cheque should be payable to and where to send it!
  3. What the invoice is for. Be as specific as you can with this. ideally, quote the article title (and the one used by the magazine when it has been published) and if possible, which pages the piece appeared on in the magazine. List other items if they have been agreed such as payment for pictures, mileage (rare), postage (even rarer!)
  4. Give the invoice a date.
  5. Give the invoice a due date. In business terms, most invoices are paid 30 days after the date of the invoice. Many magazines pay a month after publication anyway, so this isn't a problem. It can be frustrating writing and article and not being paid for so long, but that's how it works. Last December, I wrote an article for this December's issue of a magazine. So I wrote the article in December 2008, it will be published in December 2009 and I will be paid for it in January 2010. There are not that many professions where delivery of work and payment can be so far apart!
  6. Give your invoice a unique reference number. In reality, this is a tax office recommendation. In practice, it can be very useful. I always tell students that once an article has been accepted they should submit more work. Which means that it is quite possible that you could be submitting invoices to the same magazine over a period of time. If they pay a flat rate per thousand words, all your invoices could be for the same amount. What happens if one invoice isn't paid? How do you refer to it when you chat the to accounts department? Exactly! So a unique reference number is really useful. Don't panic, it needn't be complicated. Calling the first invoice number 1, the second number 2 and so on, usually works and is unique enough! What some people do is precede the identifying number with the tax year, so the invoice reference looks like: 08/09-01.
  7. Ensure there is a 'total' figure, so the accounts department know how much to pay.
  8. Put the address of the accounts department on the invoice too, so you know where to send it. This also makes it clear to the recipient that the invoice is for them and not somebody else. (The Lady is not going to pay an invoice which is addressed to Pipe Fitters Monthly!)
  9. I also quote my bank details - Sort Code and Account number, because some businesses like to pay the money directly into the bank. Now, some people throw their arms up in horror when they hear this. Bank details should be kept confidential, they cry! Well, as someone who spent 8 years working for a High Street bank I then tell these people that every time they wrote a cheque out they were giving someone their full bank details, as well as a copy of their signature! As long as you quote your sort code and account number only, there shouldn't be a problem. Let's face it, no one minds who pays in, we're more interested in who takes out, and they should need a signature or some PIN numbers to do that.
  10. End with a pleasant comment - 'Thank you for your business' or 'For more information about my work visit ...'. It's not critical, but it rounds the invoice off nicely. In some organisations it may even be the editor who writes the cheques and posts them off, so it may be registered by him/her. In other organisations it will be the accounts department who are probably based in the other end of the country and have no idea as to who you are, but it's always nice to be pleasant and professional at all times.
Make a note of when the invoice is due and then watch out for the payment. If payment isn't made within two weeks, don't jump up and down and start threatening court action. Give the accounts department a ring (NOT THE EDITOR) and make enquiries. Volume of work means that some invoices get pushed back to the next cheque run. Sometimes the post office doesn't deliver the invoice in the first place - stuff does go missing in the post. Most accounts departments I've come across will say that if you submit a duplicate invoice they'll arrange for it to be paid as soon as possible, instead of waiting for the next cheque run.

You can create invoices like this quite simply. A Word processor document is sufficient, but if you're any good with a spreadsheet you can set up a template on there and get it to calculate all the necessary totals for you. But as long as you quote all the necessary information, you should find yourself seeing the financial reward for all that hard work you did many months ago!

Good luck.