The world of magazines is remarkably diverse, both in terms of what is published and how much is paid for it. It encompasses some of the best and some of the worst payers in the media industry. We divide the suggested rates into four bands - but note that publications like Vogue and almost all US magazines are off the top end of this scale and that Rabbit Breeder's Week may have been off the bottom while it lasted (it did exist, and had the lowest of all ABC circulation ratings!).
The nature of the publication; the value of a story in marketing a magazine; its exclusivity; the writer's experience and particular expertise; and the time taken for research all play important parts in negotiations over how much an article is worth.
It makes sense to expect a lot more from Cosmopolitan or Radio Times than from a small-circulation, fringe political publication. There are, however, "glossies" that pay relatively poorly, and prestigious specialist publications, with lower circulations and advertising rates, that pay top rates to the most highly qualified journalists.
The magazine categories used in suggesting rates are based on a combination of the publications' advertising rates, their circulation and prestige, and o course reference to the open Rate for the Job market survey . They are imprecise, making individual negotiation all the more important. (Remember Rule One: let the client name a fee first, and start from there.) NUJ members can check with the Freelance Office to see whether any new house agreements have been signed.
Note that we can not guarantee writers will get the rates quoted for work on the titles listed - only that members have secured similar rates and that they are reasonable minima in the light of the rest of the market. Writers should remember that you might always get more if you ask - and you will not if you do not.
Provincially-based or fringe publications routinely pay lower rates than those suggested. The NUJ cannot recommend that anyone should work for such low rates, though we recognise that members may sometimes accept them for reasons other than financial reward.
This fast-growing area is the magazine equivalent of book "packaging", in which one organisation produces a magazine under another's imprint. An example is Redwood, which has produced publications for Boots and Marks and Spencer.
The area is volatile: a client may ask a contract publisher to produce a glossy magazine from scratch in six weeks - only to cancel it the next day. So it's probably a good idea for a writer commissioned by a contract publisher to get a clear agreement that they will be paid in full for good work delivered on time, whatever happens to it. The range of publications produced in this way is as wide as that in the more traditional field of "publisher publishing" and the rates paid are as varied, though with a welcome inclination to the high end on the whole. If in doubt, use the guidance for Groups A to C.
Contract publishers may well ask for all rights. As with any publisher, follow the advice in Rights and why they are important and ask what rights/extra usages they actually need: writers should charge extra if they agree to anything beyond normal print usage.
Most freelances who work shifts on a per-day rate are sub-editing. Covering for a section editor, it should attract a higher rate to reflect the additional complexity and responsibility.
Magazines may also bring freelances in to do a day's, or a week's or a month's, work writing news, for example covering for a staffer on leave. They may even pay on a per-day basis for a specific article, and this may be a desirable alternative to negotiating a per-word rate that would reflect the amount of work involved. Freelances should be aware that this clouds the issue, at least, of who owns the work.
See Shift payments - tax and time off for notes on taxation of shifts at source and entitlement to paid time off.
House agreements in magazines
The NUJ has house agreements with some magazine publishers. However, only staff and, in some cases, people doing regular shifts are covered by the 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, but this will take some years, especially with those management that resist negotiating anything they're not forced to. In any case, freelances will need to negotiate what each article they do is actually worth, even where there are agreements that set out the minimum.
Freelance collective 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, Magazines 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 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 - and see the link below.
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.