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Cynthia...when a reporter inquiry arrives asking for my scoping rates and credentials, I send my rate/reference sheet. It specifies the page rates for different turnarounds, supplies reference names, sets out payment terms: First job is payable immediately; thereafter, within __ days.
If the reporter, having read this rate/reference sheet, offers to send work, I ask if the terms laid out in the sheet are agreeable. She/he says yes. I make a copy of the sheet and a copy of the e-mail acceptance, put it in the job folder.
It's not a guarantee that I'll get paid, but it puts the reporter on notice that there's a specific agreement between us.
I can count on one hand the number of times I've been stiffed since 1979. Reporters are great people to work with. Sorry you had such a hard time with this one.
That's wonderful news, Cynthia. I have to tell you, though, that I've been typing/scoping for reporters for 40 years and I've only been stiffed one time. And to be honest, I probably was only stiffed then because I was too busy to follow up on it. Reporters are usually great people. I try to do a small job the first time I work for a new reporter, but I don't make any special effort about getting paid. I assume from the get-go that I'm going to be paid. I guess that makes me a trusting person, too.
Another thing that has worked in my favor is that most of my reporters are local and most of my new work comes from their passing my name to friends.
Good luck in the future. I hope you hang on to your trusting nature and that it serves you well.
You could always ask for payment before sending the job back, but that may not fly very well. I just used a proofer for the first time yesterday and I paid her immediately through PayPal, because she said she wanted to be paid right away just to establish a payment record with me and that I'm honest. I had not problem with that and I paid her right away online. You may want to request the same thing. She was paid within 10 minutes, money in hand.