Hugh says that another practical solution would be to abolish the practice of payment-on-publication, a system where freelancers don’t get paid on submission, but when the work is published. “It completely messes up your timetable, the thing that you’ve actually written isn’t going to be out for another month and a half and you’d like the money now.”
In 2019, the #FairPayForFreelancers campaign demanded an end to payment-on-publication, signed by 250 freelance journalists. Yet while it brought fresh attention to the issue, the practice still remains widespread.
Late payments, ignored fees and insecurity should not just be accepted as parts of freelancing that are tolerated. Whilst there are ways for freelancers to protect themselves such as making sure agreements are in writing and including the 1998 legislation, ultimately it’s the industry that needs to change.
There are simple, practical solutions that publications and editors can carry out to make the system fairer. Editors and staff journalists should advocate more for freelancers, especially considering they have a regular salary coming in. “If you’re in a position of power in your publication, make sure your freelancers are getting paid on time,” Michele says. Even if you’re not part of the finance department, your chasing can make all the difference.
Neil argues that the government should legislate more clearly around employment status so that employers can’t exploit loopholes. “Legislation could implement a more secure working arrangement,” he says. In the creative industries more broadly, it’s clear that employment legislation and payment processes haven’t modernised fast enough, leaving freelancers in the lurch.