National newspapers include daily and Sunday titles produced in London and distributed throughout the UK; also The Herald, Sunday Herald, Daily Record and Sunday Mail (from Glasgow) and The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh) - although the latter, and the Scottish editions of London-based nationals, tend to pay less than their London counterparts.
Although the London Evening Standard is not a national newspaper, similar rates apply; likewise for Lloyds List.
The Belfast Telegraph, Belfast News Letter, Irish News, Belfast Sunday Life, the Western Mail and Wales on Sunday are usually regarded as regional newspapers and their rates and conditions are comparable with those of provincial daily and Sunday newspapers. See Newspaper categories.
The rates paid for features in national newspapers vary hugely, depending on the titles concerned, the expertise/research required and how much the publication wants the article.
Red-top or traditional tabloids often pay considerably more per 1000 words than the "unpopular papers" - more than twice as much - but pieces tend to be shorter. The price for the piece tends to be discussed with only a passing reference to the number of words involved. Experience shows that there is more opportunity to negotiate with tabloids than with broadsheets and that, with them especially, genuine exclusives carry a very significant premium.
Freelances covering news will be paid either per 1000 words or by the day. Once again, rates offered by different newspapers vary widely and freelances should negotiate hard to get a fair return for their work. Remember again that exclusivity will have a huge bearing on the fee. Rates should be higher, sometimes much higher, for tabloids.
Certain jobs or stories command higher rates than others and it is worth negotiating significantly higher rates for them. For example if a journalist must work unsocial hours (after 8 pm, before 8 am) in order to file a story, they should add a minimum of £100 to the payment for the story as well as expenses.
Exclusives can command huge fees: a story in a national tabloid that appears in a prominent position, such as a page lead, should command more than £700 whatever its length.
If a newspaper orders an exclusive story that is subsequently not used, the fee should be substantial to reflect the fact that once the story ceases to be current it may be impossible to sell it elsewhere. See the link below to advice on "kill fees" and full payment.
Negotiate higher rates for material that appears in the colour magazines that accompany some editions of newspapers.
Rights and syndication
Some newspaper publishers attempt to gain all rights from freelance contributors. See Rights and why they are important for a discussion of why you should resist this.
Most newspapers have set rates for sub-editing shifts and these can be difficult to negotiate individually. Almost all shift work should by law attract additional paid time off. National newspapers commonly try to enforce deduction of tax and national insurance at source, but this can be challenged - see Shift payments - tax and time off. The best way for freelances to get improved shift payment may be by working with the chapels to try to get minimum rates included in a house agreement.
The NUJ has house agreements with some newspaper publishers. However, only staff and, in some cases, people doing regular shifts are covered by the legal rights to union recognition and collective negotiation of terms. The union is working to include sections in house agreements that set out minimum terms and best practice for engaging freelances, and has achieved these with the Guardian and Express; but to get more will take some years, especially with those managements that resist negotiating anything they're not forced to negotiate. In any case, freelances submitting articles will need to negotiate what each article is actually worth, even where there are agreements that set out the minimum.
Freelance agreements remain more likely to be achieved where freelances form networks (some think of them as "freelance chapels"). These have negotiated in liaison with and supported by the Freelance Office, the Newspaper Organiser, the relevant staff chapel, Freelance Industrial Council and any appropriate NUJ branch (freelance or general).
See contacts for some email networks - we are always happy to help set up another if there are several people demanding it.
Extra money ‘for free’
All freelances who write should register with the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society to receive payments from secondary uses such as photocopying, and provide the Society with updated lists of their articles. See Rights and why they are important.
Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. The collection (database right) © National Union of Journalists. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.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.