HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF WHEN ACCEPTING PAID SCREENWRITING JOBS!

paid-to-write      Many of you have already joined The Script Mentor’s LinkedIn jobs group “Script Jobs and Searches”. As a result, you are probably also following us on Twitter @scriptjobs, and on our Facebook page “Script Jobs and Searches”. We make the daily effort of finding the best (paid) screenwriting jobs advertised throughout the internet, and re-post them in these groups. What separates us from “other” screenwriting jobs newsletters (besides the fact that they charge $100 for “premium” access to many of the same job and contact information that we provide for FREE) is that we provide the link to the original posted ads. Our scripts searches are mostly EXCLUSIVE to our network, as many producers looking for a particular project know the talent within our screenwriting network (over 10K) is wide-ranging, and include some of the best writers in the business.

While we’ve enjoyed hundreds of success stories among our network, taking on paid jobs; sometimes the first paid writing job they’ve ever had; we have heard from a few our members that they landed a paid assignment, but the client hasn’t, or won’t pay as promised. In some cases, this is unavoidable. The ads are original to sites like Craigslist, Mandy.com, Stage 32, Kijiji, Elance, Media Match, Done Deal Pro, GetFilmJobs, etc. and cannot/are not vetted. If an ad is “suspicious”, we take the effort to note that in a comment, or we simply don’t post it at all.

However, there are some things one can do to REDUCE this risk of getting “burned”. So, let me share with you some advice regarding your response to these ads and what you might expect:

1) Very few of those posting through free sites like Craigslist are “serious” industry folk. Some are, but so many are anonymous, you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth responding to.

2) Be realistic about your expectations. A “producer” advertising on a free website, like Craigslist, looking for a writer to write a 5-10 minute short, is NOT going to pay $1000 to have that done. Chances are they are financing the production themselves, and all of the money they have is going to be on screen. Sometimes, however, a free gig here and there leads to other good things, so don’t discount this entirely. For the record, however, we only advertise and promote PAID opportunities.

3) If the gig is advertised as PAID, determine how they are willing to compensate. Getting paid $500 or less for a feature screenplay written from scratch based on their concept, is probably too low for most – but maybe not to everyone. My first paid assignment was for $200- and I ended up rewriting the short six different times. This led to other, more profitable, gigs, as I got something much more important than money with that first assignment: confidence. You accept whatever YOU feel is good for YOU. Don’t worry about what others think; those telling you that you should’ve gotten paid more. We should ALL get paid more, but others, most likely, do NOT know your personal/financial situation. I still take writing assignments, on occasion, that pay less than I’m used to, but the producer may be a friend, or may have an excellent track record, or I feel that gig may lead to even greater opportunities. But, to date, I’ve never NOT been paid for writing a screenplay.

4) If the money is good, and the project is agreed upon, request the parameters of the agreement – in writing! If they hesitate, or claim they’re too busy, then take it upon yourself and write the agreement. Send it to them signed, and request that they sign it and return it – signed. I would advise you NOT to write a single word until the contract is signed.

5) Don’t hesitate to register the screenplay after the first draft, or so. If they do not pay you the balance and refuse to give you a legitimate explanation, “remind” the client that THIS screenplay is registered to you and you alone. If and when they do settle the debt, give them the registration number, and/or have them re-register it under their own name(s).

6) In the case of a paid assignment, request 50% up front. If they hesitate, they probably don’t have it, and if they don’t have it now, they’re probably NOT going to have it later. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for the money (I know how difficult that can be). If you want to be treated as a professional, act like one. Being quick to accept a gig, and “hope” that they come through with the pay afterwards is foolish, and anything BUT professional. You can make adjustments in the arrangement to fit the needs of all parties, but do NOT act like a doormat or you will be treated as one.

7) A true professional concerned about their relationship is not going to screw you over. Don’t think EVERYONE is out to take advantage of the lonely, lowly screenwriter. That’s just silly talk. Do not be OVERLY cautious, and make the client go somewhere else.

8) Most gigs advertising pay of $10,000 on Craigslist is probably NOT a legitimate lead. Check out each and every client your respond to. Ask who they are, what their website and IMdb page is. If they have a number of produced projects, chances are they are trustworthy.

9) Ask fellow screenwriters (or us) if that client is someone we know, and would trust. Ask if they are any red flags to be concerned about. We get group members all of the time who add information on a particular company or ad that gets posted. We don’t work in a vacuum; some of these ads are repeat ads posted from other sites, as the client attempts to spread a wider net.

10) If you accept the gig, let US know that you have, and we’ll promote you as yet another success story from the group. Make sure you meet all of the requirements that THEY are seeking as well, especially in things like due dates, approval of changes, etc. Personally, when I accept a writing assignment, I always offer a free rewrite, providing the basic storyline remains the same. They may want more comedic lines, or deeper character development, etc. Beyond the one rewrite, you should charge for your time.

These are some basic steps that you can take to protect the arrangement from going south. For a working relationship to be a good one, both sides have to feel happy with the arrangement. The last thing you want to do is spend six months writing a feature from scratch, based on a promise to be paid. If they break that promise, you HAVE to be willing to share this news with the masses. Only you can protect fellow screenwriters from getting ripped off, and we will refuse to post any other ads from those people.

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