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On the one hand, simple sub-editing of copy for a website on a stable production system may pay little more than magazine sub-editing, even though more technical knowledge is required and mathematically-rigid style constraints may be essential to the production working at all.

In the middle, editing and design work that involves the use of authoring and styling languages (HTML and CSS at a minimum, increasingly often XML and even PHP scripting) can pay on the scale of computer programming work rather than sub-editing.

On the far other hand, some jobs are in effect business consultancy - what the client needs to know is how a website can change the way they make their living. Rates of £425 per hour were on offer for this as far back as January 2006 and that's probably not top of the range.

Building websites

Building and maintaining websites for, for example, local small businesses can be a useful source of backup income for a journalist with editing skills who has the skills and inclination.

These days, you will need to learn how to install, configure and maintain a platform such as WordPress or Drupal, or work with someone who does that.

Your Unique Selling Proposition as a journalist is that you can ensure that the content is grammatical and engaging, that it is laid out accessibly and organised in a way that makes it easy for the user to find what they want: that last would be the "information architecture" in the more lucrative jargon.

With the much-touted "convergence" of media actually happening, the ability to work with scripting languages is going to be as basic, for some, as the ability to work with InDesign.


The "think like a librarian" approach is a selling-point when it comes to reassuring clients that their sites will conform with disability legislation. Sites that stick to the web standards are easy to make accessible to people with visual or other disabilities. Those produced by designers who are thinking of the screen as a rather small printout, or those that clients think they have produced in Microsoft Word, are often impossible to make accessible.

Managing websites

Some clients may want to outsource the management of a website to a freelance or a group of freelances. A TV channel, for example, may want someone to commission and edit articles as back-up to a programme, update the home page and these new pages weekly, write copy "wrapping" older sites and generally keep things tidy. Many clients will pay over £800 a day to website design companies, for perhaps two days a week. Individuals, without managers to feed, may feel they can charge less, but should keep the going rate in mind.

All-in prices

Clients may want the apparent simplicity of an all-in price. Since requirements so often change half-way through the project, or more often, freelances should agree all-in prices only if there is a clear written description of the work and a contingency price for further work beyond it. See our notes on negotiating rates for editing and production.

If the client does request extra work, make sure that you get clear written agreement before doing it.

A per-day rate is often in fact simpler and fairer for both parties.

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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.