Get Half Your Money Up Front

By Greg Pak
For anyone making money freelancing, I highly recommend getting half of your money up front. Here are two practical reasons why:
First, last minute schedule changes can ruin you. If you commit to a project, blocking out time and turning down other work, you could lose everything if the shoot is postponed or cancelled. If you’ve gotten half of the money up front, at least you’ll have something.
Second, if you finish a job without getting paid, you might never get paid. It’s not unheard of for independent producers to run over budget and out of money. Again, if you get half of your money up front, at least you’ll have something.
There will always be situations which will preclude your getting your money up front — maybe the production is being funded by a grant which has been awarded, but the check hasn’t yet arrived. If you know and trust the producer, you’ll probably accept the job and hope for the best. But if at all possible, get your deposit as soon as you can. Even trustworthly people and good friends can have their productions fall apart — and you don’t want to take the fall when it happens.
Incidentally, I’d argue that this is a good policy for producers as well as freelancers. If you want to make a career as a filmmaker, clean payment arrangements are critical for keeping collaborators happy and maintaining good vibes within your filmmaking community.