Notes on negotiating rates for
Print media / Magazines

These are some things to remember when negotiating rates for magazine work. And please send us your accounts of successful negotiations.

  • The rates suggested for copyright work are for limited licences: each extra use licensed attracts an extra fee.
  • The rates suggested are minima from which freelances will negotiate upward according to their experience and specialist knowledge and the value of the work.
  • If the magazine wants to make further use of the work, it is usually down to the freelance to do the thinking for the editor: "OK, what do you need? The German edition - and use of both on the web for a year - how about 30% extra?" Alternatively, "the right to let the Lexis-Nexis database sell it to readers for $3 a go? Do I get a cut? How about 50% extra, until I do?" Editors are trying to think about the content and quite reasonably want not to think about copyright at the same time, so the freelance needs to do the thinking and make the way smooth.
  • A positive exploratory approach to negotiation by individual freelances often pays dividends, especially if work requires specific expertise, detailed research or travel time. Handy increases on a first offer are often achieved, and uplifts of between 20 and 200 per cent over the number the commissioning editor first thought of can be agreed, once it's emerged what work and skills the editor needs.
  • 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 another commissioning editor's job often offer instead a "kill fee", typically half the agreed fee. The freelance has to decide whether to press the issue; they may after all save some time checking edited copy and they may be able to negotiate a replacement commission from the same magazine and sell the rejected piece elsewhere. See Kill Fees for commissioned articles.

Shifts

  • Many magazines have fairly set rates for sub-editing shifts, often tied formally or informally to house agreements for staff pay. By law, freelances should almost always get payment for time off on top of these rates - see Shift payments - tax and time off.
  • The Inland Revenue periodically pressures publishers to deduct tax at source from payments for shifts: this section also gives advice on getting paid gross.
  • As a rule of thumb, a shift that is booked but then cancelled with less than a week's notice should be paid in full. See Suggested schedule of cancellation fees for shifts.
  • The rates for shifts do not include paid time off.

General

  • Many publishers operate a so-called "self-billing" system under which cheques appear magically with a kind of retroactive purchase order. This does give editors the option of boosting the fee for a piece they like. Both sides should check that it is at least as much as was agreed. See Getting your money.
  • Freelances who are registered for VAT will add it to every invoice. Usually, they will need to invoice even publishers that operate "self billing"; faced with a particularly obtuse accounts department it may be necessary to invoice separately for the VAT only, after the main payment has arrived.

Magazine editors periodically suffer from extreme pressure to make silly budget cuts. Frequently this pressure dissipates after a month or so, when the Men in Suits have asserted their authority and wander off beating their chests - and everyone else can get on with producing a publication that people want to read and therefore to buy.

Agreements
More advice and links...
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Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. Comments to ffg@londonfreelance.org 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.