Freelance writing is almost like gambling. You pick a client and then have to hope and pray they actually pay you when the work is complete. If you go through freelance website, they help reassure writers that they will get paid, but not always. In fact, many of those sites do not ensure a payment if a writer accepts a flat fee for services. So how do you get paid? Aside from finding paying clients, you need to be organized, efficient and learn how to invoice.
If you are like most writers, you write for more than just one client. So you need to keep track. Create a spreadsheet that tracks the work you do based on the week and month. Use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Tabs at the bottom are set up for spreadsheets representing each month of the year. Then in each month's spreadsheet it is broken down by the week. Have one column for the client name, assignment title/project description, pay rate, date submitted and a check box for when its invoiced and another for when it is paid.
Invoicing is optional, however even if clients do not require one, it is best to start a paper trail. Invoice weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, depending on how the client pays. Use a general invoice template, but modify it to have a column for the title/project, amount and date it was submitted to the client by you.
Even if you accept a job through a freelance website, create a contract. A contract that states what work you will do for the client, what your pay rate is and especially what dates they pay you are extremely important. Have the client sign the contract and give them a copy before any work/payments have exchanged between the two of you. Clients will not only respect you for creating a contract, but also in the event a client does not pay, you have a contract in writing that they owe you for services for small claims court.
As payments come in, it is important to track where the money comes from, who paid, balances owed and taxes owed by you. For full-time freelance writers, it is best to use professional accounting software set up for a small business such as Peachtree or Quickbooks by Intuit. That way, come tax time, you are organized and ready to fill in the forms, without tracking down bank statements.
Some freelance writing clients pay hourly. Though this is rare, when you do find one, you need to track time accordingly. Some sites, like ODesk.com, already have built-in trackers for hourly employees. There are other situations, however, you will not have a built-in tracker. Use tools such as Instant Boss or download a timer application for your smartphone or desktop to track hours. Write down hours immediately and make sure you can account for everything you did in that billable hour, even if it was just research or proofreading.