Fair Pay!

(Graphic design by Jessica Levant)

One of the Guild Freelancers current priorities is developing a “Fair Freelance” certification for publishers who pay freelance journalists and photographers decently and promptly, accord writers the appropriate rights to their work and otherwise treat journalists with integrity.

We cannot set wages; legally, we would be violating anti-trust laws. But we can and should formulate standards that let publishers know we expect them to value our work, our time and our expertise.

Peruse the following draft before we vote as a unit on approving the seal:

Our Fair Freelance program is designed to function in much the same way as “fair trade” agreements for coffee or other consumer goods.

Publishers who will voluntarily agree to treat their independent contractors with decency by maintaining the standards embraced by Guild Freelancers will be able to use our “Fair Freelance” logo on their products.

This is our equivalent of a minimum wage. We’re describing the least generous situation that could ever qualify as fair treatment, and thereby lift up the bottom end of the market. Most freelancers can and should get more.

Because the freelance market is diverse, rates and types of pay vary widely among media genres and clients. In general, freelance work should fetch more than the hourly rate paid to full-time staffers, since freelancers assume the costs of doing business, including benefits, equipment and taxes.

Our rates apply to the San Francisco Bay Area. Guild Freelance units in other regions will adapt these guidelines to their respective markets.

Employers who fall consistently below market standards for writing, photography, audio or other categories of media work are not eligible for the Fair Freelance seal.

In any case, no organization will be allowed to use the Fair Freelance logo if it pays any independent contractor a rate less than a living wage, the equivalent of at least $25 an hour for freelancers in the Bay Area.


* Clear contracts: In all cases, contracts should clearly disclose all terms of the agreement, including parameters of work, rate of pay, future usage rights and reimbursement for mileage and other expenses. (At some publications, the writer and publisher may sign a general contract, then spell out specific terms on a story-by-story basis).

* Timely pay: The client should pay within 30 days of acceptance or publication, unless specifically negotiated otherwise in advance.

* Consultation: The client should consult with the freelancer before making substantial changes to the work. If agreement cannot be reached, the freelancer retains the right to remove his or her
byline with no loss of compensation.

* Rewrites/reshoots: Reasonable edits are included in the original fee, but writers are responsible for no more than one full, bottom-up rewrite without additional pay. Photo and video reshoots require additional pay.

* Self-promotion rights: The freelancer retains the right to use the work to promote him/herself.

* Kill fees: If an assignment is canceled during the initial/reporting phase, the freelancer should receive at least 10 percent of the original payment due. Substantially higher kill fees should be paid for work that is completed and turned in.

* Pay per click: When the freelancer is paid “per click” for online work, the client must clearly communicate in advance what kind of traffic the site customarily generates.  Pay-per-click arrangements are subject to the minimums listed below.

The following represent minimum wages for editorial work. Commercial rates are higher, and negotiable.
Per word, per assignment, per click, stipends and other pay arrangements can be converted by dividing hours of work by total project pay.
Employers who fall below these standards will not be eligible to use the fair freelance logo.
* Writing, editing: Short-term work should pay at least the equivalent of $25 an hour. Small-circulation, community-based or nonprofit news outlets or agencies may sometimes pay less, but in no case should freelance work pay less than the equivalent of the local living wage (or around $25/hour in the Bay Area).

* Books: A mainstream publishing house should expect to pay an author a minimum 10 percent in royalties.

* Photo/ video/design/web design: Work should pay at least $75 an hour, lowest, no case less than $50 an hour.

* Audio: Work should pay at least the equivalent of $50 an hour. Small-circulation, community-based or nonprofit news and broadcast outlets and agencies may sometimes pay less, but in no case should freelance work pay less than the equivalent of the local living wage (or around $25/hour in the Bay Area).

2 Responses to Fair Pay!

  1. Pingback: Fair Pay for Freelance Designers | Fletcher Prince

  2. Mike Bradley

    NWU did this once or twice (ASJA considered it, too). It’s useful info, of course, and builds visibility, but it can be a time sink that we weren’t able to fill. You’ll have to plan on regularly checking back on the approved publications because their practices can change dramatically from year to year, even from editor to editor.

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