In the waning days of January I found myself at my desk, toiling away into the wee hours of the morning. Admittedly, there’s nothing unusual in that detail of my life. However, unlike most late nights, or early mornings, I was making absolutely no effort to be creative. This one regularly scheduled task doesn’t lend itself to creativity. Accuracy is the key. Which is why on one night each month I turn off the music, shut my door and pull out a pile of my most recently published clips to wade through.
This is no exercise in ego I’m embarking on. It’s the necessary precursor to a payday. You might refer to it as Invoice Night. I do. When the sun rises on the landscape outside my curtained window, I’ll have a detailed listing neatly prepared, ready to send out to publications that have used my work that month.
I didn’t always burden myself with the irritation of Invoice Night. But I didn’t always get paid, either. The realization that your work might occassionally be published, unintentionally gratis, will rattle the cage of even the most blasé of freelancers. And so I am devoted to this uninspiring chore, dedicating one night a month to the financial realities of being a writer. I’d urge anyone who aspires to earning even a meager living with words to do the same.
My invoices are simple. They could easily be more complicated, more ornate in their design. Although the reasons why I might want to go down that road escape me. The template I’ve come to work with is spare, but simple. Even more important, it gets the results I expect from my various publishers. So I continue without modifications. As they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
I write out my invoices on letterhead. Included is my contact information, as well as the name of the publication that printed my work, the name of the editor who gave me the green light to write the piece as well as their address. Below that I include the name of the story, the date of the publication it ran it and the rate we’ve agreed upon. At the bottom of the page I include a total figure. This is an especially worthwhile figure when dealing with publications like newspapers, where I may have sold multiple stories over the course of the month.
I end with the ever-so-businesslike phrase, “Invoice payable upon receipt.”
There is no punch-line here. No great payoff other than in the fiscal sense. For while writing can be a cathartic activity for many, or a method of preserving a historical record for others, it is a means to paying the bills for more than a few. And so I succumb each month for a few hours to the most mundane aspect of my career as a writer.
Here’s hoping you’re fortunate enough to do the same – with even greater success. Keep hitting those keys. If practice makes perfect, real dedication just might make you a satisfying living that you, your family and friends can take real pride in. One word, one piece, one invoice at a time.
Author – Burritos and Gasoline