In some of my older posts, I recommend that no author should pay a freelancer all the money up front. That’s true for all kinds of editorial services: translations, cover illustrations, cover designs, editing, Voodoo magics, and everything else. Honest professionals ask for part of their payments up front and the rest when they deliver; you should stick to that model and avoid those who ask for something different. Here are five good reasons why paying the entire sum up front might hurt you.
Reason #1: You Might Get Scammed
It could go like this: you find a freelancer who looks good, or they contact you first. They offer you a “special discount” if you pay all the money in one solution, up front. You trust them, but after you pay, they disappear. They do not reply to your emails. If they gave you a Skype ID or other means of contact, you find out that they blocked you or are simply ignoring your messages. Their online profile turns out to be fake, with made-up personal info and a picture taken from the Internet. The job is, of course, not getting done, and you have little hope of getting your money back.
Dozens of scams happen every minute in every parts of the world. You don’t need to be particularly gullible to fall for one, especially if the scammer is good. Even if you’re not dealing with a dishonest person, though, other bad things may happen when you pay all the money up front. For example…
Reason #2: Delivery Might Get Delayed
For a freelancer, the payment is the reward for finishing a job. But if you pay your freelancer the entire sum up front, before they even begin working, you put them in an awkward psychological position: they already got their reward, so all that’s left is the long, tiresome “work” part. They might be tempted to procrastinate and give you excuses for longer delivery times. Or, if they’re dealing with other people at the same time, and those people required a multiple payments model instead of a single, up-front payment, the freelancer might be tempted to put those people’s manuscripts before yours, because, well, you already paid them. The other authors have still money to give them.
From this warning, another one follows…
Reason #3: Quality Might Decline
For the same reason stated above, a freelancer is less encouraged to do a good job if they have already been paid. It’s less about ethics and more about psychology: they had their reward already, so why is there still work to be done? Better do it quickly and then look for other gratifications. It might sound silly, but working on a project after you’ve been paid for it feels like you’re working for nothing, because you’re not going to get any reward at the end (you already got it). Perhaps it doesn’t make sense, but it’s how the human mind work.
All the points so far have been about the freelancer; the last one, however, is about you. I put it last, but it’s arguably one of the most important ones. You should never pay all the money for a project up front because…
Reason 4: It’s Harder on Your finances
Most people who give advice overlook this issue. Translations easily cost thousands of dollars; cover illustrations by good artists do get well into the hundreds. Paying, say, one-third up front and the rest when the work is done allows you to breathe a little deeper, financially speaking, since you don’t have thousands of dollars going out all at once. As the freelancer is working, you might get some earnings from royalties, previous projects or other sources, which would lighten the burden. Conversely, paying a lot of money all at once might force you to make sacrifices or to postpone other projects you might want to begin sooner.
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