Graduated Payment Campaign

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on our livelihoods, the Freelance Solidarity Project is calling on all print and digital publications to adopt a graduated payment schedule and rapid-reimbursement policy for freelance work in progress since January 1, 2020. If a submission was assigned, filed, edited, or otherwise considered “in progress” this calendar year, publications should pay the freelance digital media worker a percentage of their negotiated total fee commensurate with the level of completed work.

These are intended as a starting point for individual negotiations. We encourage workers in every part of our industry to use this language. Assigning editors and managers may refer to this document as a model for fair compensation during the pandemic and into the future.

  • 50% of the negotiated total fee immediately on delivery of a first draft, including selects, samples, and/or audio or video clips. This initial payment can be thought of as a guaranteed “kill fee” or as partial payment toward the negotiated total fee.

  • 50% of the negotiated total fee (for a total of 100%) on delivery of any work that is ready for publication, defined as work that requires no substantial revisions by the freelancer. This guarantees fair compensation regardless of delays in publication or circumstances beyond the freelancer’s control.

For many assignments, a third-third-third payout schedule is more appropriate. In such cases, we would recommend: 

  • 34% paid on assignment, as compensation for work up to and including delivery of a first draft. 

  • 33% paid on delivery of a second draft, defined as work that has undergone one round of revisions, edits, and/or notes from an editor or manager and has been returned by the freelancer with changes.

  • 33% on completion of the freelancer’s work, defined as work that requires no substantial revisions by the freelancer.

Any expenses incurred by the freelancer in the course of the work should be reimbursed immediately. All payments should be made within 30 days of invoicing. (If either the freelancer or the publication is based in New York City, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act stipulates that all payments must be paid within 30 days of invoicing.) Questions? Contact the Freelance Solidarity Project at