FREELANCE HANDBOOK The freelance challenge

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             The freelance
             forced labour or

                    November, 1992

This handbook is published by the International Federation of Journalists. It is
one of series of Manuals designed to assist journalists trade unions in the
defence of their members professional and industrial interests. This manual is
produced with the assistance of the freelance groups in journalists' federations
of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. The IFJ is particularly grateful to
Stig Petersen, a journalist and member of the Freelance Group in Denmark, for
his significant contribution to the manuscript. The IFJ is also grateful to the
European Commission for its assistance in printing this Handbook.
This Freelance Handbook, which was written in 1992, is for most of its
information still valid and useful, though a lot of change has taken place,
specifically regarding the further decrease of freelances’ social protection
schemes and working conditions. The EFJ Freelance Expert Group agreed at
its last meeting in January 2003 to put it on the Freelance section of the IFJ
website and to get it revised as soon as possible.
For any comments, please send them to
Renate Schroeder, European Officer.

INTRODUCTION The Future is Freelance                       Page 1

CHAPTER 1              So you WANT to be a freelance? Page 3

CHAPTER 2              Organising freelances               Page 13

CHAPTER 3              Strategies for freelance rights           Page 18

CHAPTER 4              Enforcing Minimum rates                   Page 21

CHAPTER 5              Freelances and authors’ rights            Page 24

CHAPTER 6              A Model Contract Form                     Page 25
                                                                    IFJ Freelance Handbook


The future is freelance

The freelance community is the fastest growing sector in the world of journalism. An IFJ
survey carried out in 1987, and repeated in 1992, reveals that dramatic changes in the
employment structure of journalism are taking place.

The freelance of years past, a proud and professional independent worker who chose to
stand alone in journalism, is a threatened species.

Instead, a new class of journalist has emerged. Many of these journalists do not choose to
be freelance in the traditional sense of the word. They are often partly-employed and
generally under- employed. They are forced to take casual work, or short term contracts,
because that is the only way they are able to function in the increasingly competitive and
volatile media jobs market.

Some newspapers, magazines and broadcasting media now rely wholly on such
"freelance" labour. The notion of "flexible employment" policies has been used by media
employers to create what the IFJ called in 1987 a "freelance culture" in which the role of the
traditional freelance has been marginalised.

Traditionally, journalists have understood the concept of freelancing as involving the
exercise of a free choice. The traditional freelance has been what most legal systems
regard as an "independent contractor" - a person providing services under a "contract for
services". These people differ from employees - who provide service under a "contract of
service" - in that they are not tied to one employer, they have control over the way they go
about fulfilling their contractual obligations, and they are free to refuse assignments if they
so choose.

But the changing conditions of journalism are challenging this fundamental notion of

Employers are putting pressure on freelances. Fees are low. Social benefits rarely go
beyond minimums set down by the state. Fringe benefits are non-existent. Journalists are
forced into freelancing, without the security of permanent employment, because it is
cheaper to maintain a pool of labour to cover the high activity periods, rather than maintain
full-time staffers who stay on the payroll in the low activity periods as well.

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International Federation of Journalists

Increasingly - particularly in developing countries - publishers are "requiring" freelances to
be available to work exclusively for that employer only. The ability of freelances to
maximimise their earnings by being available to work for more than one employer is being
diminished. This kind of pressure exposes such "freelance" arrangements for what they
are: disguised short-pay employment arrangements, under which the so-called
independent journalist is under effective management control.

Employers take advantage of the fact that few freelances belong to a union. Fewer still are
able to fight for conditions which enable them to earn a decent living.

The International Federation of Journalists held a Freelance Conference in London in 1989
which concluded:

              Above all, we aim to make freelancing a matter of free choice with
              acceptable conditions and to build respect for the job of a professional

If the future is freelance -- and the evidence of numbers suggests that is so -- Unionisation
and Solidarity are essential to any strategy to protect freelance interests. The importance of
these concepts will be explored in this handbook.

General Secretary

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                                                                    IFJ Freelance Handbook


So you WANT to be a freelance?

(Journalist and member of the freelance group of the Danish Journalists Union)

Taking the definition offered at the 1989 IFJ Freelance Conference, a freelance is a
journalist, photographer, layout artist or someone else working in the creative media, who
works for various employers and who does not receive regular salary. A freelance will earn
the majority of his or her income from journalism.

Freelances may also be casual workers, employed often by one or two employers, but
working fixed hours or on regular assignments.

Freelances may also be short-contract or part-time workers without a regular contract. The
common feature of the freelance is that he or she organises his or her own time.

The Traditional Freelance

The traditional freelance is well-educated, and possesses extensive general knowledge.
Very often he/she is a specialist in one or more fields, and is at ease using other
languages. This freelance will be familiar with the way the media works in his/her own

He/she will have insight and understand well the media he/she works for, knowing well
what is required for the work he/she is commissioned to carry out.

The great attraction of the traditional freelance is that the freelance can offer an exclusive
service and produce material which cannot be produced by permanent staff. Such a service
is of great value to any media organisation which takes its news and information role

However, the traditional freelance is also a professional, who can often turn a hand to
chasing news items in the field when required.

The freelance is able to meet deadlines, is conscientious, and respects professional
standards. Such qualities are universally admired where media employers put quality
journalism ahead of profitability and circulation targets.

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International Federation of Journalists

For the professional freelance, journalism is the most important area of activity and the
principal source of income. For this reason they must ensure that their freelance income is
at an acceptable level in relation to the time spent on a given job, in relation to the expertise
required to carry it out, and in relation to expenses incurred.

"Amateur" freelances, whose main job and source of income lies elsewhere are another

In many countries, by tradition and more recently through deliberate commissioning policy,
non-journalists are used to work on a freelance basis. Such people -- often teachers,
lawyers, police officers, community leaders -- are not professional journalists and so cannot
join a journalists' union.

They should not be entitled to claim the advantages which a union has gained through
negotiation. Nor should they be entitled to appropriate the status that professional
journalists have painfully built for themselves over the years.

The problem is that those media managements who consider commercial priorities above
all else use this pool of unorganised, untrained and unprofessional "amateurs" to fill the
spaces between the advertisements.

The Reluctant Freelance

In many countries, where the media economy has been undergoing dramatic changes,
managements have imposed new and painful employment strategies. Personal contracts
are being introduced -- in Great Britain, Israel and New Zealand, for instance -- in order to
undermine trade union organisation and the collective strength of staff journalists.

Cost-saving measures mean that an increasing section of the workforce is freelance, not
out of choice, but through imposed employment policies.

This new body of the journalistic workforce is made up of many young journalists who, fresh
from college, school or journalism studies, are forced to freelance because editors are
unwilling or unable to recruit new staff members.

It also includes many women journalists who, having taken time off to have children, for
instance, are encouraged to freelance rather than return to full-time employment.

It includes, also, many journalists who, denied opportunities for movement to new media
because of a decline in the usual ease of mobility between media, take to freelancing as a

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                                                                      IFJ Freelance Handbook

temporary alternative until a full-time job arises. Sometimes it never does.

These changes in employment structure are not peculiar to journalism. Indeed, throughout
the white collar and service sector of national economies, the rate of part-time working and
casual working has been growing steadily.

In the media, "flexible" employment policies implemented at a time of recession, when
unemployment is high, are creating large pools of freelance labour which means that
journalists, like actors and audio-visual producers, are vulnerable to exploitation.

With ever-greater number of journalists chasing ever-fewer job opportunities, many are
tempted to accept terms and conditions which are too poor and inadequate to protect their
professional interests. In so doing, journalists make their own situation worse and make
matters even worse for other freelances.

Freelances are commonly forced into situations which make it difficult to make ends meet
and which jeopardise their professional self-respect. In these circumstances, journalists'
unions ignore the changes taking place in the industry at their peril.

It is a folly to consider that freelance interests are "marginal" to the central interests of the
union. Unions have a lot on their plate. The media business is cut-throat and volatile.
Intense competition between media companies is putting pressure on jobs and standards.

But that is no excuse for inaction. Journalists' trade unions must give the highest priority to
the battle for jobs. A quality media which can meet the needs of a democratic society needs
qualified journalists.

Co-operation with permanent employees - and employers

The freelance is the outermost - unattached - link in the editorial working chain. This gives
rise to a number of special working conditions. The freelance, for much of the time, is not
only a journalist, but also his own shop steward and accountant.

The professional attitude for a freelance to adopt is to make sure that pay and working
conditions for any assignment are clearly agreed - and preferably written down in, for
example, a standard contract, which the journalists' union or freelance section has drafted.

Freelances often have to accept jobs which have to be completed within a short period of
time, or at awkward times and so on. This means that the current labour market laws, for
example, on working hours and safety are not always respected.

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International Federation of Journalists

The freelance must also think at least twice before making a formal issue out of, for
example, a late or missed payment. If he or she does so anyway, the consequence could
be that the relationship is cut and the freelance is not again commissioned by that

The best way of solving this type of problem is a policy which, via agreements with the
employers, makes the permanent employees' shop stewards the freelances' shop stewards

The freelance ought to be able to take his or her problems freely to the shop steward, who
must ensure that the
appropriate agreements are respected, or that infringements are compensated according to
the rules.

A policy such as this presupposes that the union recognises that freelance journalism is
conducted under special conditions. The unions must work to get these special, freelance
conditions included in the general agreements between journalists and employers. And
they must see that shop stewards know they must also protect freelances' interests.

Above all else, freelances must be active themselves. They must unionise as freelances
and so play a part in sparking off the necessary debate in their professional bodies.

Co-operation opens up possibilities

The life of a freelance can easily become a lonely one for many people. Even if this way of
working suits some, a job carried out in the office at home can easily turn into a
professional and social vacuum.

Your daily human contact and opportunity for co-operating with fellow journalists lies with
the telephone. Many people miss working side-by-side with others.

Modern technology, such as P.C.s, modems and the telefax, has had an impact amongst
freelance journalists in many parts of the world. These are tools which make it possible to
send material to employers both from the office at home and while travelling. But there is no
substitute for colleagues to talk to, people with the same experiences and enthusiasms as

An office shared with other freelances has many advantages:

       * Large investment outlays and rent can be split. There is someone to answer the
       phone, when you are away - travelling, or on holiday - and there is someone there to

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       ask for advice, if inspiration is lacking.

       * Working more closely with colleagues can give new ideas for work options.
       Journalists and photographers often co-operate on individual jobs and,
       professionally speaking, both parties can benefit from involvement in each other's

Don't forget, though, that sharing an office and working with other people is not without its
problems. You have no guarantee, for instance, that the personal chemistry will work, so it
is important to choose your partnerships with care.

Don't forget, either, to draw up written agreements which regulate the office-sharing and
make it quite clear how problems are to be solved, if something goes wrong.

If the office-sharing comes to involve a lot of people, or if it is decided to set up a firm, it is a
good idea to seek advice from professional consultants.

Freelances and ethics

Like all other journalists, the freelance must abide by the ethical rules of the profession. The
genuine professional freelance is painstaking and exact in the passing on of information or
pictures to the general public. He or she is not open to bribes, is honest and respects
requests for protection of people's privacy, as well as human rights.

The freelance does not give way to demands or pressure exerted to avoid publication of
circumstances, which in the freelance's professional judgement she considers ought to be
made public.

Self-censorship is also avoided. The freelance does not speculate beforehand about what
the employer or the interviewee will think about the information in question coming to the
notice of the public.

Dangerous assignments

Freelances are often offered dangerous or unpleasant assignments. These might be
politically complicated affairs where the medium does not want to damage its own reporters'
standing, so use a freelance to carry out the job. Freelances are also sometimes be sent to
trouble spots to cover disasters or war.

In these instances it is extremely important to protect your own safety - you can, and

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International Federation of Journalists

should, say "No" to the job, if you think it too risky. If you set off on a dangerous assignment
you should be even more careful than usual in processing and checking your information.

Begin by investigating the conditions in the area by contacting, for example, organisations
such as the IFJ, Article 19 (London 71.403.4822) or the Committee to Protect
Journalists (New York 212.983.5355). You should also consider subscribing to
"NewsGuide", the London-based journalists' group which provides regular country profiles
for journalists (London 81.749.8855).

It is sensible to insure yourself against accident costs and other expenses. It should go
without saying that the medium wanting to send you on this type of assignment pays the
additional insurance necessary for the job.

Education and training

The journalist's basic education will typically include, as a minimum, a well-rounded basic
schooling, followed by studies at an institute for journalism including practical training
taught by qualified journalists.

If this form of education does not exist in your country, then find the nearest place
where there is a course in journalism. It is the duty of the union of journalists
together with the Ministry of Education to plan and develop opportunities for study. If
there is no union of journalists in your country, then contact the International
Federation of Journalists.

Education and training are particularly important for the freelance. Therefore it is necessary
constantly to up-date and expand one's job knowledge.


First came the pen. Later came the PC. First came a cardboard box with a hole and a
shutter, now digital cameras are on the market.

In different countries there is access to different equipment. It is worthwhile learning how to
use most types of tool well, if you as a freelance want to avoid being left behind.
Revolutionary changes are constantly taking place within a world of communication

It is a good thing to acquaint oneself with new systems. But how can you get hold of the
equipment? The new technology means savings for the employer. So the employer ought
to help with financing purchases through paying increased rates out of the money saved.

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                                                                   IFJ Freelance Handbook

Or the employer can contribute with the union to a fund to enable the freelance to get hold
of the equipment.

Occupational training

Recommended courses might be:

       For journalists: verbal comprehension, creative writing, editing, foreign languages,
       TV/video journalism, radio journalism, use of new techniques, desk-top publishing,

       For photographers: photo-journalism, creative photography, war and crisis
       photography, photo transmission.

       For both: authors’ rights, media law, media ethics.

The trade union, the employer, local colleges and training schools might jointly arrange
training courses. If there is no journalism school in your country, then find the nearest
country with access to training for journalists.

The working environment

The freelance needs to be in good physical shape and able to cope with stressful
situations. The myth of boozy journalists belongs to the past. A healthy life-style helps you
to withstand both physical and mental stress. Marketing oneself as professionally
competent and always ready to tackle a job requires self-discipline. You must be able to
say no to assignments. Burn-out is a common occupational disease.

Freelances - and their families - need holidays, too. And they ought to be able to afford to
have a holiday from journalism, as do their permanently employed colleagues the world

Working from home is not always straightforward. When the bed and the desk stand next
door to each other, self-discipline is needed to keep night and day separate: especially if
the working day is long, and there is a heavy workload. Sometimes it is difficult to organise
the working day efficiently, because at home there are always jobs waiting: the washing up,
the laundry, or a baby demanding attention.

Some people choose to work freelance precisely because of the opportunity it offers to
combine child-care, the home

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International Federation of Journalists

and journalism. Other people find the household chores a distraction which prevents them
from working properly as a professional freelance journalist. A permanent office outside the
home can sometimes make it easier to organise the working day. And an office shared with
other freelances has advantages apart from the purely social ones (see above).

Protecting freelances' health and safety ought to be inserted into the journalists' unions.
That means that the union's training must include courses, where both permanent staff and
freelances can build up resources. These should deal with issues such as designing an
ergonomically-sound office at home.

Social security

From time to time freelances fall ill or have an accident. They also have children. The
children regularly fall ill. Freelances grow old and retire from the labour market - become

Conditions for freelances in these situations vary extremely widely from one country to
another. Generally speaking, the freelance has a particularly poor level of social security.
Both the IFJ and the ILO (International Labour Organisation) have noted this in several
reports. So a freelance has to provide and pay for his own social security by taking out

This is because, in many countries, access to social rights is limited to people with an
employment contract. It is the fact of having a job that guarantees the individual and, in
some cases, their family, a social security net. But freelances in these countries in general
have no social security.

In other countries, for example Sweden and Switzerland, a person must be resident in order
to have access to the social benefits and to have a certain minimum earnings level.

In many countries, the trade unions have supplemented and improved the level of social
security by means of collective agreements, particularly as regards sickness insurance,
pensions and holidays. But the agreements apply almost exclusively to permanently-
employed journalists.

A freelance, then, normally has poorer security than a member of staff.

In a handbook such as this one, it is impossible to describe the various rules and conditions
for social security for each country. Besides, the information soon becomes out-dated.

A word of advice to a freelance who wants to be insured, is to contact the journalists' union

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                                                                   IFJ Freelance Handbook

in the country concerned. Find out whether there are special collective insurance schemes,
which are open to freelances too if they pay. Often this type of insurance can be better and
cheaper than the equivalent private schemes which freelances otherwise might have to
negotiate for themselves.

Of course each freelance must decide which insurance he or she thinks necessary - and
affordable. With the insurances listed below, a freelance will have virtually the same
security as many employed people in Sweden have.

* Sickness insurance, including insurance to cover the salary of a temporary replacement
for regular work commitments.

* Office insurance, including fire and break-in insurance, to cover technical equipment,
office furniture, files, etc. Check that the insurance applies irrespective of where the
equipment is. A camera or lap-top computer, needs to be insured whether it is in the office,
in the home, or being transported.

* Pension

* Accident insurance, which covers the freelance 24 hours a day.

* Travel insurance, which can be extended when the freelance is on assignment in a high
risk area.

A freelance can later combine the insurance schemes listed above with, for example, a life
insurance to benefit the family, where there is one, income insurance to cover long-term
sickness etc. All these insurances cost money.

Taxation and the freelance

The freelance - like the employee - must pay tax. If the employer does not deduct tax at
source, the freelance must be sure to put money aside to the equivalent of the tax which
has to be paid. Taxation is an area in which freelances should seek expert advice, and not
hope to "muddle through".


Working freelance can be a tentative step away for unemployment for many journalists.
Better to keep in touch with the profession than be full-time unemployed, is many people's

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International Federation of Journalists

Perhaps it turns out that there is a good chance of making ends meet as a freelance,
perhaps the discipline and will-power necessary to freelance successfully put some people
An unemployed person who makes use of the freelance option to keep in touch with
journalism will clearly be in a better position to make contacts with the media itself - and
perhaps find a permanent job.

But unemployment in the industry can also be a threat for freelances who are freelances by
choice. Unemployed people, who try their hand on the freelance market, may be less
inclined to honour agreements, minimum conditions and customs, if they expect that they
will only be working as freelances for a short time. This can damages rates of pay and
working conditions for the professional freelance too.

Therefore it is important that the journalists' union undertakes a continuous education
campaign to impresses upon all members the need to stick to minimum rates' policies.

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                                                                    IFJ Freelance Handbook

Organising freelances

Unionisation of freelances is the first step towards liberation for freelances. The Freelance
works in a national and international community of journalists, but he or she is often
particularly vulnerable. The freelance has no established workplace and no network of
immediate colleagues upon whom to rely when problems arise.

It is precisely these circumstances which make freelances acutely aware of the potential for
their exploitation. Freelances, therefore, are often keen to play a role in union work.
Freelance sections are often the most energetic groups within the union.

As the IFJ Freelance Conference in 1989 found, they often contain a core of trade union-
minded journalists who contribute much to the general policy and active life of a journalists'

However, some journalists' unions neglect the needs of the freelance community. A few
don't organise them at all. (Some are prevented by labour law from recruiting "independent
contractors", and are confined to the recruitment of employees. But others simply do not
exercise their legal right to organise freelances).

Trade unions need to give priority to the recruitment and organisation of freelance
journalists. All freelances should be encouraged to join their relevant national union.

Unions should also ensure that freelances enjoy an equal position both in the
organisation of the union, its structure and the implementation of its policies.

Freelance and staff journalist have common professional and industrial interests. If they are
not in the union and working together, both groups will lose at a time when journalists
conditions are under pressure everywhere and where full time employment is increasing
enjoyed only by a diminishing majority of journalists.

For freelances, union activity is essential. Not all media managements are liars, cheats and
charlatans. But with a say in the collective bargaining process, freelances will be able to
confront the ones who are and will be able to improve their pay and conditions. Promises
and verbal assurances from well-meaning, but powerless commissioning editors will not
guarantee a decent living for freelances. They need written agreements and recognised
conditions within which to work. As the song says, there is no force on earth weaker than
the feeble strength of one, but the union makes us strong.

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International Federation of Journalists

Solidarity is the dynamic energy that makes trade unionism work. For freelances solidarity
comes in the appreciation of the strength of their independence and in the collective power
of a united front against the worst excesses of modern media management. Working to
improve freelances' conditions not only protects the freelances themselves, it also creates
the best conditions for solidarity among all journalists'.

Solidarity between the freelance cause and staff journalists is essential, too. The idea
behind the current theme of "flexible" management is the creation of a pool of cheap, often
untrained, often un-unionised journalists who are available at anytime to satisfy the modern
media's craving for journalism at the lowest possible cost.

Organising freelances: the arguments

The first question to be faced in dealing with the organisation of freelance journalists is
whether there is an acceptance that they can and should be organised. Some full-time
employed journalists see self-employed journalists as naturally bourgeois, conservative
small business people who work alone, compete among themselves, have no concept of
solidarity, and are therefore incompatible with the concept of trade unionism.

Others see freelances as the problem: that they are the cause of a "casualisation" of the
industry of journalism, rather than (in many cases) the victims. Still others see the disparate
nature of the freelance constituency as imposing insuperable obstacles to recruitment and
organisation, and thus place the issue at the bottom of the union's agenda.

The IFJ believes that none of these analyses is valid. Provided that unions are sensitive to
the conditions under which freelances work, and are thus able to prepare an action plan on
their behalf, there is no reason why freelances cannot be effectively organised in those
countries where the labour law allows for their organisation.

If one accepts that the first principle of a journalists' trade union is to recruit, organise and
represent all those who earn their living from the practice of journalism - irrespective of how
they entered the freelance branch of the industry - then the organisation of freelance
journalists is an essential part of the union's mandate.

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                                                                        IFJ Freelance Handbook

Essential elements of an action plan for a journalists' trade union should include:

                                       ACTION PLAN
       1. Adopt a positive recruitment policy. Be willing to welcome into union membership all
       men and women actively involved in journalistic work and relying on their earnings from
       journalism for their livelihood.

       2. Reject and campaign against the notion that freelances make bad trade unionists.
       Stress instead that the dramatic changes in the industry of journalism in recent years
       provide the reasons why freelances need and want trade union help.

       3. Accept that freelances have different needs to full-time staff journalists. They are less-
       interested in the cyclical collective bargaining rounds with employers, but more
       interested in contacts with colleagues, information about "going rates" and specialist
       freelance opportunities, professional advice on issues such as pensions, insurance,
       model contract terms and forms, legal difficulties, taxation policies and benefits, etc.
       Design a system for getting access to this advice, and for disseminating it to members.
       Establish contacts with lawyers, taxation experts, etc and encourage them to provide their
       expertise for a "Help Line" or similar information source.

       4. Design a structure for effective representative of freelances within the union. This
       structure should also encourage freelances to use the union as the "centre" of contact
       with fellow freelances. While freelances tend - particularly as they get more established -
       to negotiate their own rates of pay, this does not mean they do not need the information
       and support of their colleagues.

       5. Design a structure for regular meetings and joint activity between freelance and staff
       journalists. Encourage shop stewards to see themselves as representing freelance
       members as well.

       6. Plan a campaign on the status of freelance journalists. The campaign should
       encourage freelances to improve their skills through training, to lift their self-esteem by
       explaining the relationship between low fees and "casualisation" and the need to push
       freelance pay and conditions to a level where employers have no vested economic
       interest in "casualisation". It should also appeal to the solidarity instincts of staff

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International Federation of Journalists

Organising freelances: the Nordic experience

Freelance journalists occupy a special position in the Nordic labour market. Although they
will often have the same interests, their needs are not the same as those of their staff

As a result, it is important that freelances have their own forum within the journalists' union.

In Norway, the Federation of Journalists (Norsk Journalistlag) is divided into geographical
areas, but freelances are organised across regional borders and have their own club.

The freelance club elects its own committee. It has its own annual general meetings and
area contacts; it adopts its own rules of procedure and its own action programme. The club
has its own part-time union secretary.

Trade unionism is important for Nordic freelances, not only because it protects professional
rights, but also because it creates a sense of identity. The job of a freelance journalist is
often a lonely one, but the freelance club offers a professional environment.

The freelance club in Norway has concentrated on training its own members. Because of
the difficulties the union has faced in centralised collective bargaining sessions in getting
general agreement on freelance rates and conditions, the training programme has
concentrated on lifting the individual bargaining skills of members.

The club is working to get local freelance agreements in place. One major breakthrough
was in the country's biggest radio and television station, through an agreement reached
with the permanently employed staff. The club aims to set up similar agreements with other
media companies.

In Denmark there are freelance agreements with both individual papers and with one group
of papers as well as agreements with one of the two national broadcasting stations.

The freelance group, in co-operation with the federation of journalists, negotiates the
agreement with the employer. Several of the agreements include a minimum hourly rate
and include payment to a joint pool to fund participation in training courses and maternity

The freelance group also publishes recommended minimum conditions in partnership with
the journalists' union.

These recommend a minimum hourly rate and various other terms which ensure

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                                                                      IFJ Freelance Handbook

reasonable employment conditions.

The freelance groups in the Nordic countries have each for some years now published
freelance directories listing all freelances and their specialties. These are sold or sent out to
potential employers of freelances and are a good marketing tool for members.

The freelance groups also give financial advice. This might be on tax rules, or contracts
with employers, or help with assessing a price for a piece of work or helping to ensure that
the agreed sum is in fact paid to the freelance.

The Norwegian freelance club holds an annual meeting which is open to all members. The
participants pay to attend, whilst the travelling and hotel expenses are covered by the club.

The club's finances come partly from member subscription, and partly from funding from the
federation of journalists.

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International Federation of Journalists

Strategies for freelance rights

1. Unionise

The first major step for the union is to acknowledge the need to recruit and organise
freelances and to work actively for acceptable living conditions for freelances. Those
freelances who have the best conditions in the world today are those who have managed to

This strategy will benefit permanent employees. It will remove the threat of the freelance
becoming a cheap option for the employer and will enhance the security of permanent staff.

Freelances must be able to join the journalists' union as full members. This requires in the
first instance, pressure from the freelances themselves.

Journalists unions must encourage freelance co-operation and solidarity within their own

The Union must ensure that the freelances can get the backing necessary to organise
themselves within the union.

2. Collective Bargaining

The minimum objectives of journalists unions should be to:

       1.      Create collective bargaining arrangements which           provide   minimum
               conditions for both full time staff and freelance work;

       2.      Encourage freelances and full time staff to work according to an established
               and basic set of minimum conditions;

In many countries, the labour relations laws do not - on the surface - allow trade unions to
represent "independent contractors", the status employers claim most freelances have.
Therefore, demands for proper working conditions and enforceable minimum rates for
freelances face initial rejection from employer advocates at the negotiating table.

But these objections do not always end the matter. In many countries, the law recognises

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                                                                         IFJ Freelance Handbook

that collective agreements both confer BENEFITS for employees and impose
OBLIGATIONS on employers. Trade union are thus able to frame claims relating to
freelance rates and working conditions in terms of obligations on the employer, rather than
in terms of benefits for independent contractors.

This distinction is vital. It is in the interest of employed, staff journalists that their trade union
requires the employer - through a legally-enforceable collective agreement - to pay
minimum rates to freelance workers, in order to prevent under-cutting of the salary levels of
full-time staff and in order to protect the employment rights of full-time staff.

Thus the employer can and should be obliged to agree not to undercut: to pay living rates
to freelances.

By this mechanism, the trend toward viewing freelances as a pool of cheap labour can be
arrested, and freelances will be consequential beneficiaries.

3. Fight for jobs

Frequently, full-time staff journalists are slow to see that they are damaging the freelances'
position if they "moonlight" -- take on a second job -- alongside their own, permanent job.

Journalists' unions must work to minimise such practises and have the objective of
eliminating them altogether.

Journalists' unions must make themselves aware of the scale of the problem. The number
of qualified journalists must match the needs of the media in each country. What is written,
edited, and transmitted in the name of news and information should be the work of trained,
qualified, and responsible journalists.

Journalists' unions should carry out research into the needs of the media in terms of
journalists jobs.

Having established the numbers of qualified journalists required, journalists' unions must
fight to create the conditions for education and training which will provide people with the
expertise they require for work in an increasingly high-technology field.

Journalists unions then have to campaign for the establishment of the highest possible
level of full-time employment while encouraging the role of genuine freelance activity.

Journalists unions should also guard against the exploitation of the "pseudo-freelance" -
the so-called independent who is in fact so tied to the single employer as to be

                                                                                        ---- 19 ----
International Federation of Journalists

indistinguishable from a full-time or regular part-time employee. Where there is a
"permanent" freelance arrangement, it is in the union's interest to require the employer to
offer a full-time staff position to the freelance after a qualifying period (say, 13 weeks).

    If your employer gives you notice and proposes a freelance association,
    demand a written contract which guarantees you:

               a)    fixed work for the medium at a fixed price, with social benefits
                     and assured authors’ rights;

               b)    the freedom to work in other media at the same time.

               c)    get a standard contract drafted, which can then be filled out for
                     each job.

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                                                                    IFJ Freelance Handbook

Enforcing minimum rates

The best way of ensuring reasonable pay and good working conditions for the freelance is
through collective agreements.

Many employers are initially unwilling to enter into freelance agreements, and much time
needs to be spent in negotiations between employers and unions.

The employer's interest is in ensuring a supply of freelance work at a fixed hourly rate. With
an agreement in place, he should realise that he has a professional partner who is
interested in supplying a properly turned out piece of work.

For their part, freelances must deliver a professional service, certainly if they wants to get
another assignment or commission, or - more importantly - if they want the collective
agreement to be renewed.

During the preparation for collective bargaining, it is sometimes necessary simultaneously
to work hard to bring freelances into the union and to set up a freelance group. Freelances
must be kept informed of the negotiations.

Recruitment information and consultation during the bargaining process will be essential if it
becomes necessary to contemplate taking action -- such as halting supplies -- in order to
encourage the employer to reach agreement.

If a negotiated agreement proves impossible, a feasible alternative is for the union and
freelance group together to draft unilateral minimum conditions.

The Danish freelance group has found this a very useful exercise. During the first two years
following the publication of minimum conditions, which laid down hourly rates, percentage
supplements for holidays, payment for travelling expenses, meal expenses, authors’ rights
rules, terms of delivery, etc., many employers gave de facto recognition to the minimum
conditions when making agreements with freelances.

The hourly rate should be considerably higher than a permanent employee's average
hourly pay. Freelance rates have to compensate for expenses for office, rental, equipment,
postage, telephone, newspaper subscription and insurances, which the permanent
employee either does not need, or for which the employer pays. The cost of training
courses and a minimum living wage while attending them should also to a certain extent be

                                                                                 ---- 21 ----
International Federation of Journalists

comprehended in the hourly rate.

The collective agreement should set rules on the method payment to freelances. For
example, the agreement could require the employer to pay for the work no later than two to
four weeks after it is submitted with a bill.

Standard contracts ought to be drafted by the union and the freelance group. They are
used each time the freelance works for a new employer he or she is not quite certain about.
It gives a legal basis for suing for breach of contract if the employer fails to pay up for the
work supplied.

On the other hand, the standard contract also obliges the freelance to supply the agreed
quantity of material on time. It must be of the expected quality in relation to time spent and
payment agreed.

Photographers and magazine illustrators too, will find a price list a useful tool.

Without agreements or minimum conditions, the buyer - the employer - can all too often
unilaterally put a price on the work supplied, often after the event.

Nordic Freelance Agreements

Journalists' unions in each of the Nordic countries have negotiated agreement on freelance
rates. Naturally, some are better than others, and some are more extensive in their
coverage than others.

The DANISH freelance group has negotiated an agreement with the Labour Organisation
(the national trade union centre) to cover its magazines. Some of the features of the
agreement are:

       * special higher payments for producing audio-visual programmes;

       * the same higher rate for arranging and teaching in seminars on journalistic

       * Unsocial working hours: agreed working time between 1700 and 2300 gives an
       increase of 50 per cent in the hourly rate of pay. Work between 2300 and 0800 and
       on weekends and public holidays gives an increase of 100 per cent.

       * If the job requires the freelance to stay away from home overnight, the freelance is
       paid an extra two hours pay.

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                                                                         IFJ Freelance Handbook

       * Transportation is paid at an agreed per kilometre rate, or documented charges are
       reimbursed. Documented expenses are also reimbursed.

       * A holiday allowance of 12.5 of the total payment per cent is paid.

       * The total bill is paid within 14 days of receipt of the bill.

       * Re-use of the work is paid at the rate of 100 per cent (of the rates existing at the
       time the work is re-used).

       * the Labour Organisation contributes to a union fund covering further education and
       childbirth leave for freelances.

In FINLAND, freelances receive a daily fixed rate if required to go "into the field", plus a
kilometre rate if they use their own car.

Journalists' unions in both NORWAY and SWEDEN have agreements covering holiday

In Norway, the holiday pay allowance is 9.9 per cent of earnings. In Sweden, the
percentage is 14.

Re-use of freelance journalists' work in Norway is paid at the rate of at least 50 per cent.

Swedish freelances have special rates for the delivery of material in electronic form: either
via modem or disc, when the article is of more than 20,000 characters.

While it is not yet contained in an agreement, the DANISH freelance group recommends to
its members that temporary jobs of less than one month's duration should be paid at either
an hourly rate or a weekly rate. The rate should be at least the average wage at the
particular media establishment, plus 25 per cent. In practice, the rate achieved in individual
negotiation is closer to 10-15 per cent, although some publisher pay no addition at all.

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International Federation of Journalists

Freelances and Authors’ rights

The international rules for protection of authors’ rights, contained in the Berne convention,
ensure that freelance journalists keep the economic aspects of the authors’ rights to the
"work" ordered by, and supplied to, an employer, provided they do not trade away these

This means that, as authors, they have the exclusive right to determine where and how
their material will be published: they have the exclusive right to authorise its use.

It is largely up to the freelance to make sure he or she is not exploited. It is important to
define the authors’ rights rights assigned to the employer. For a detailed explanation of
journalists' authors’ rights, see the IFJ booklet, "What is Journalists' Authors’ rights", or
the IFJ "Collective Bargaining Handbook".

The employer is only allowed to use the "work" - text, layout or illustrations - as agreed.
Generally that will mean a single publication in the relevant medium. If "single" use is
agreed, re-publication of the work entails a new payment of royalties whether it takes place
in the same medium as before, or in a new medium.

For freelance journalists, authors’ rights is divisible in three ways: in terms of TIME, PLACE
and USE - or in any combination of these three sub-divisions.

This means that the sale of authors’ rights material can be made conditional on it being
used within a certain TIME; its use can be confined to a particular geographical (or
distribution) AREA;
and the transfer of authors’ rights to the publisher can be limited to a particular USE (eg,
only in a particular newspaper, in a particular magazine, in a particular radio news bulletin).
If the purchaser goes beyond any of these agreed positions, he or she must first obtain
your authority to do so, and must renegotiate the price.

Your text, pictures or lay-out may not be worked on and changed without your permission.
In accordance with journalists' ethical principles and internationally accepted "moral rights",
your text or your pictures may not be used, for example, for commercial ends without your
permission. There is a clear-cut division between advertising and journalism, and it is
important that you don't allow your material to be commercially exploited without your
authority.     - NEAL SWANCOTT

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                                                                  IFJ Freelance Handbook

A model contract form:

     The Australian Journalists Association - which has very active freelance
     Sections in its major Branches - has adopted a standard freelance
     journalist's contract form. This form is produced in pads of 100 forms,
     for use in telephone or personal contract negotiations. When a
     telephone agreement is made, the freelance posts or send by facsimile
     the filled-in standard form. The form is designed to ensure the freelance
     covers all aspects of a typical engagement at the point of agreement.
     The form is based on Australian contract law - which largely follows
     British law - but is adaptable to most legal systems. The text is
     reproduced below, along with the "Terms and Conditions", which are
     printed on the reverse of the Standard Contract Form.


           THIS AGREEMENT is made the ________ day of _________ 19 ____

           BETWEEN ____________________________________________________

           of _________________________________________________________

           (hereinafter referred to as "Journalist/artist/photographer)

           AND ________________________________________________________

           of _________________________________________________________

           (hereinafter referred to as "Publisher").

           Journalist/artist/photographer agrees to undertake the work referred to
           in the schedule hereto for Publisher upon the terms and conditions
           contained herein.

                                                                             ---- 25 ----
International Federation of Journalists


               1. DESCRIPTION OF WORK: (brief description of work submitted or

               2. DELIVERY DATE:

               3. FEE:

               * to be paid within 14 days of delivery date
               * authors’ rights license 3 months unless otherwise specified.

               4. PUBLICATION/USAGE: (publication or medium in which works is to

               5. AREA OF PUBLICATION/USAGE: (metropolitan, state, national,

               6. JOURNALIST'S EXPENSES:
               Travelling expenses     ............. per day
                                       ............. per kilometre
               Accommodation per day .............

               Research time per hour      .............

               Other expenses specified .............

               7. CREDIT LINE:

               8. SPECIAL CONDITIONS OF USE:

               SIGNED by the Journalist/                   SIGNED for and on behalf
               artist/photographer                         of the PUBLISHER

               ........................                    ........................

               Witness:                                                Witness:

               Date:                                                   Date:

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                                                                    IFJ Freelance Handbook

                                                        that Publisher shall only reproduce the
1.   Publisher     and    journalist/    artist/        material for the purposes agreed to
     photographer agree that in elation to              herein. Publisher acknowledges that
     material to which this Agreement                   the licence granted herein is personal
     relates that in consideration of the               to Publisher and shall not be assigned
     payment of the fee referred to in Clause           or otherwise transferred by Publisher.
     3 of the Schedule the material shall be
     licensed to Publisher for the use as          6.   Publisher agrees to pay the fee referred
     defined in Clause 5 of the Schedule for            to in Clause 3 of the Schedule within 14
     a period of three (3) months after the             days after the delivery date referred to
     delivery date referred to in Clause 2.             in Clause 2 of the Schedule.

2.   Publisher agrees that the rights hereby       7.   Where in advance of the delivery date,
     licensed are the rights to reproduce the           Publisher wishes for any reason not to
     material on one occasion only.                     proceed with the publication or
                                                        broadcast of the material Publisher
3.   All authors’ rights and other rights in            shall pay to
     the material, including rights to publish          Journalists/artist/photographer one half
     or broadcast in areas other than                   (1/2) of the fee referred to in Clause 3 of
     specified in Clause 5 of the Schedule,             the Schedule. Further Publisher shall
     reprinting or rebroadcasting rights, to            pay to Journalist/artist/photographer all
     subsequent publication or broadcast,               expenses       incurred    to    date    of
     and all other rights whatsoever shall              notification.
     remain the property of journalist/artist/
     photographer. The licence granted to          8.   Subject to the warranty in Clause 9
     publish or broadcast the material shall            Publisher shall be responsible for
     expire three (3) months after the                  paying any damages and/or court costs
     delivery date referred to in Clause 2 of           which may be imposed as a result of
     the Schedule.                                      any court action in relation to
                                                        defamation or any other tortious action
4.   Publisher agrees that the Credit Line              undertaken by third party concerning
     specified in Clause 7 of the Schedule              the material including any damages
     shall    accompany       publication    or         and/or court costs which might be
     broadcast of the material. If Publisher            imposed       on      Journalist/artist/
     desires to publish or broadcast the                photographer.
     material without the Credit Line then
     Publisher        agrees       to      pay     9.   Journalist/artist/photographer warrant
     Journalist/artist/photographer a further           that Journalist/ artist/ photographer has
     fee of 100 per cent of the fee referred to         the full right and power to enter into
     in Clause 3 of the Schedule.                       this agreement and shall keep
                                                        Publisher fully indemnified in relation to
5.   Publisher acknowledges and agrees                  any claim for breach of authors’ rights

                                                                                   ---- 27 ----
International Federation of Journalists

      by any third party.                         11.   For the purpose of this agreement,
                                                        "material" shall mean the written article,
10.   Publisher acknowledges and accepts                sound recording of the article
      that publisher shall be responsible for           howsoever made, or any other means
      any loss or damage whatsoever to the              of recording words which is the result
      material    supplied      to    Publisher         of the work performed pursuant to this
      hereunder from the date of delivery of            agreement.
      the material to Publisher until the same
      is               returned              to
      Journalist/artist/photographer         in
      accordance with the provisions hereof.
       Publisher agrees that at the expiration
      of the licence granted Publisher shall
      promptly return to Journalist/artist
      /photographer all material submitted by

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