Advice - General / Getting your money / Kill fees for commissioned articles

You have a contract, and you fulfil your side of it when you deliver the work on time and meeting the agreed specification. The NUJ recommends that any work commissioned and delivered on time and to specification should be paid for in full, whatever happens to it after that.

Editors who have over-commissioned, changed their minds, or (especially) taken over a previous commissioning editor's job often offer a "kill fee", typically half the agreed fee, instead of the full amount.

The freelance still has to decide whether to press the issue.

If it seems that an editor may be unprofessional enough to find personal animosity in this simple contractual matter, the freelance has to make a judgement on whether they want to work again for such a client.

As always: Negotiate! As always: to negotiate calmly and reasonably is a sign of professionalism.

If when you were commissioned you agreed that the article should be "exclusive", and if your client insists on paying you less than 100 per cent of the agreed amount, you should insist that you are released from the agreement of exclusivity.

How much time you put into negotiating may depend on whether it is possible to re-sell the article. Is it time-limited? What other outlets would be interested?

We have not recently heard of photographers being offered kill fees. It would seem obvious that if you are commissioned to do a day's shoot you should be paid in full.

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Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. The collection (database right) © National Union of Journalists. Comments to please. You may find the glossary helpful.

The National Union of Journalists must not, can not and would not wish to dictate rates or terms of engagement to members or to editors. The information presented here is for guidance and as an aid to equitable negotiation only.

Suggestions apply to contracts governed by UK law only. In any event, nothing here should be construed as legal advice.