These are some things to remember when negotiating rates for work done for national newspapers. 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 are suggested as minima from which freelances will negotiate upward according to their experience and specialist knowledge and the value of the work.
- If the newspaper 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 weekly edition - and use of both on the web for a year - how about 30% extra?" Editors are trying to think about the content and want not to think about copyright at the same time, so the freelance needs to do that thinking and make the way smooth for an equitable agreement. See Negotiating Fees.
- 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 the commissioning editor's job often offer instead a "kill fee", typically half the agreed fee. The NUJ recommends that work submitted on time and to spec should be paid for in full; but 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 publication and sell the rejected piece elsewhere.
- Many newspapers have 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.
- 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.
- The Inland Revenue periodically pressures publishers to deduct tax at source from payments for shifts: Shift payments - tax and time off also gives advice on getting paid gross.
- The rates for shifts do not include paid time off.
- 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.
- Some papers are trying to impose "payment on publication" schemes that at best delay payment and at worst enable arbitrary setting of fees by management. The NUJ is organising resistance to this and offers advice on your rights over late payments - see the links below.
- 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 for the freelance to invoice separately for the VAT only, after the main payment has arrived.
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.