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Professional Standards

IWOC members are professionals who earn a substantial portion of their income by providing communications expertise to clients. And as the Find a Writer member directory shows, that expertise encompasses a wide range of areas and specialties, including advertising, journalism, public relations, publishing, sales, and marketing... to name just a few.

Regardless of specialty or assignment, IWOC advocates the highest levels of professional and ethical business conduct by and for its members. And such conduct can be greatly aided by the use of an established set of uniform business practices for writers and their clients. The standards outlined below may be used, by specific mention in a written agreement, as the formal statement of standards established between the Client and Writer.

Initial Discussion

Good communication at the outset of any new project is essential. The Client is obligated to explain fully to the Writer the requirements and constraints of the job and to judge the Writer’s competence for the work based on the Writer’s submitted samples and representations. At the same time, the Writer is obligated to become thoroughly familiar with the demands of the job and to reject any assignment that the Writer knows he or she is incapable of completing satisfactorily. Writers shall not falsely represent their qualifications or submit work done by others as samples of their own.

Establishment of Conditions

The nature of the assignment, its format and purpose, its intended audience, and the Client’s expectations should be clearly set forth at the beginning of the project. Estimated delivery dates and payment schedules should also be established in advance. When a project is to be paid for on an hourly rather than a flat-fee basis, IWOC recommends that the Writer and Client discuss their expectations regarding the likely final cost to avoid subsequent disputes.

Development Process

For major projects, IWOC recommends that the developmental process proceed from outline to preliminary draft to final draft, with review by the Client expected at each stage. Once an outline or draft has been approved, or approved with revisions, the Client shall not subsequently require major changes not anticipated in the early drafts without paying additional compensation to the Writer.


The Client shall specify in advance the party(ies) who shall have the power to give direction to the project, to approve work in progress, and to accept the final draft. Any changes requested by persons other than the designated party(ies) shall be deemed additional labor at additional expense. If, after the designated party(ies) has received the final draft, the work is deemed inadequate, unacceptable, or unnecessary for reasons beyond the scope of the original agreement, the Client shall nonetheless be obligated to the Writer for the full amount contracted for, and the Writer shall not be required to undertake any rewrites or revisions unless additional compensation shall be agreed upon in advance. In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, when the Writer submits a final draft and the Client does not indicate approval or disapproval within ten (10) working days, approval shall be presumed.


The Writer is to be compensated for conference time with the Client. If a flat fee is agreed upon for a project, rather than an hourly charge, the number and location of conferences should be agreed upon in advance.

Changes and Additions

Requests by the Client for changes or additions other than those contemplated in the initial agreement shall be deemed additional labor at additional expense. Any changes occasioned by demonstrable fault of the Writer shall be made without additional compensation.

Terms of Payment

Unless otherwise agreed, invoices are due when rendered and shall be paid within thirty (30) days of invoice date. In case of dispute, the Client shall render payment within thirty (30) days of invoice date for all portions of the bill not in dispute. For a project requiring a substantial commitment of time and effort by the Writer, the Writer may request incremental payments prior to completion, with the balance to be paid upon acceptance of the final draft.


All reasonable expenses incurred by the Writer during the course of the project, including photocopying, postage, delivery service, telephone calls, travel costs and/or time, entertainment, production costs, and so on, may be billed to the Client as incurred or included with the final invoice. Reimbursement for all such expenses shall be agreed upon the outset of the project, and the Writer, whenever practical, shall supply appropriate receipts.

Written Agreements

IWOC recommends that a formal contract be drawn up and signed by all concerned parties before any major project is undertaken. In the absence of such a contract, IWOC recommends that one party draft a letter summarizing the terms and conditions of the project and present it to the other within two (2) working days of the start of work. Unless the other party objects in writing within two (2) working days of its receipt, the letter shall be presumed to be accurate and binding.

Changing Conditions

If, through no fault of either party, the nature or conditions of the project change, then the parties may agree in writing to revised terms, including deadlines and fees. If for any reason the project is canceled after work has begun, the Writer shall be compensated pro rata for the time and work already invested.

Unsatisfactory Work

It is recognized that occasionally, despite good intentions on both sides, a Writer will be unable to complete a job satisfactorily; in such cases, a reduced fee may be agreed upon. In no case, however, shall a Writer who has performed to the best of his or her ability be denied reasonable compensation for time and effort.

Rush Work

Additional payment is expected for rush jobs requiring night or weekend work.

Submission Standards

Work submitted by the Writer to the Client shall meet commonly accepted standards for preparation and presentation. Lacking a specific style sheet provided in advance by the Client, material prepared by the Writer shall be submitted in a form generally consistent with The Chicago Manual of Style (also known as the University of Chicago style book), The Elements of Style by Strunk & White, and/or The Associated Press Stylebook. For writing assignments, a relatively clean typescript is the standard; letter-perfect copy is required only if Client and Writer so agree at the outset of the project. For editing assignments, standard typographical symbols and notes in any format that can be followed by a competent typographer are acceptable.

Speculative Work

Acknowledging that the objective of independent entrepreneurship is to command payment for work performed, IWOC urges that no Client request a Writer to perform work on speculation. If the work is to be exploratory or subject to competitive bid at later stages, such conditions must be stipulated, and in all cases the Writer must be adequately compensated for time spent.


No work shall be considered work-for-hire as defined under United States copyright laws unless so specified in a written agreement. In no case shall copyright to a creative work pass from the Writer to any other party before payment in full has been received by the Writer.

Proprietary Information

Once a work-for-hire contract has been signed, the Client’s ownership of the content and finished form of the project, plus any sensitive or proprietary information stipulated within the contract, shall be respected in every instance by the Writer. In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, the Writer’s right of pride in authorship regarding unpublished materials shall be restricted to the personal presentation of samples; none will be sent ahead or left behind. No current work will be shown under any circumstances to direct competitors of the Client.

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