Friday, 15 February 2008

Show me the money

What's the accepted average freelance rate per word in Dubai? How does it compare with overseas? Whether you're a legitimate freelancer, or doing some moonlighting, do you get paid the same rates? Do publishing houses like Motivate and ITP actually stick to a rate across the board? How many of you freelance for PR companies?

And, who are bad / late / no-payers? With great power etc: don't be a prat and start naming every company you don't like... we're looking for genuine warnings on companies that don't cough up. We'll give you a clue: they're normally government or quasi-government.

In the absence of proper unions, let's at least be open about the rates available, and make the tightwads pay up on time! We want to hear comments from editors about what they pay, and from freelancers about market rates and which companies are slow to cough up.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Motivate tends to pay around a dirham a word. Sometimes less. But it would seem that different rates can be negotiated with different publishing companies, depending on who you are, who you know and what you;re doing for them. Most people I know are freelancing on the side to supplement the journo stipend/pay the rent/have some sort of chance of saving money here.

Anonymous said...

Are you serious? A dirham a word? That's nothing. Why not freelance for magazines back home?

Anonymous said...

The standard rate is 1 Dhiram per word – if I commission someone at very short notice that will double. Most freelancers contact me offering their services but very few pitch ideas and when they do they tend to be PR driven. If someone does approach me with a original and relevant pitch then the fee will be dictated by the strength of the story – in which case the sky’s the limit.

As an editor I’m often faced with dealing with late payments because the MD or publisher is too busy playing golf to sign cheques – in the past I’ve actually had to pay freelancers from my own pocket and then claimed it back through expenses (ridiculous I know but good freelancers are thin on the ground and I like to sleep at night).

In the UK, magazines tend to pay their freelancers 30 days following publication. For some reason in Dubai I’ve had people chase up their payments the same day they’ve filed their copy.

Freelancers (like PR types) are well advised to get to know the publication before getting in touch, there’s no point sending me film and restaurant reviews when we don’t run them in the magazine.

Anonymous said...

One agency took over a year - it may have been nearer to two years - to pay me. Then the first cheque they gave me bounced. However they were enormously apologetic, and kept in touch as soon as they could issue another cheque.

I also know that they had financial problems being left in the lurch by a fly-by-night client (whom most of my work was for) that left a one million dirham account unpaid. Despite this, the agency still paid me. So it was a long time and it was frustrating, but they were honourable.

Because of this though I do not think freelancing is a safe or realistic way for most people to get by in the UAE. You need to have AT LEAST six months worth of rent/bills/food money in the bank before even considering it. And you'd be mad to do it without at least one, safe, "bread and butter" client who pays on time and regularly, even if not that much.

It's not just journalism/copywriting, I know several PRs that went freelance or tried to start their own agencies, with loads of great clients, but ended up having to go back to a bigger agency because the clients just wouldn't pay on time, or at all. Let's not forget Gambate.

I would also note that there are plenty of places that pay less than a dirham a word. And many of them are mainstream, "well reputed" (in terms of UAE media, which isn't saying much) media companies.

Anonymous said...

i won't work for less than dhs1 a word, and wouldn't work for that rate for non-Gulf publications. I just know I don't need to be on top form and do masses of research to write decent copy for a UAE magazine. Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

The worst payers are government without a doubt. They "lose" invoices, or need 10 signatures including someone's granny, and are often known to deduct money from the agreed invoice because they "think you could have done it for less".

Anonymous said...

Not just government bodies that "lose" invoices. One company - three letters, starts with I ends with P - seems to have the most random processes for paying freelancers. Waiting a year or more seems common - and not even knowing it'll come through.

Perhaps they took notes from their local rivals...

Anonymous said...

As someone who pays invoices on behalf of the government, trust me, it's insanely frustrating. The accountants simply don't give a damn; everything has to be done in triplicate, at least. Obscure signatures are always needed. Still, we do pay eventually, and we pay more than most.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 20.41 - would love to know who you work for.

Anonymous said...

The over-use of cheques in this country doesn't help. It'd be nice if payment for freelance jobs could be directly put into your bank account rather than waiting for cheques to be signed by God and world. Does any company do that here or is it all cheques?

Anonymous said...

I don't get out of bed for less than 7 dirhams a word.

Anonymous said...

Seriously. I have been thinking about doing some freelance work on the side for but 1 dirham a word it's not worth it. This place is such a sham.

Anonymous said...

One dirham a word is fine for the PR style bullshit that most mags publish. For properly researched stories, however, it's a joke. But, since there's no market for properly researched stories, well, it's a bit of a moot point, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

As a freelance NUJ member who had the misfortune to end up in Dubai for a few weeks, this collating of rates is an excellent. The Freelancer (the NUJ's news-sheet for freelancers) does the same thing.
In my experience, if you're doing standard feature writing and are not a 'celeb' writer, the usual UK rate is 25p to 30p a word. The only UK paper that as an agreement with the NUJ is the Guardian and the last time I looked is was 28.5p per word.
However, conversely, in the UK, commercial work pays more - so PR and marketing copy tends to attract a better rate. For instance, if you write for the Guardian's commercial dept they pay about 35p to 40p per word. Many good contract publishers will pay 40p-50p a word.
These rates don't sound high but if you're used to banging out 1000 - 1500 words a day can be lucrative.
Of course, these rates can go up and if you have a good working relationship with a national they will pay more, cos they value good freelancers.
In my thankfully brief time in Dubai I was amazed there was such a lack of good freelancers. Freelancing really sorts the wheat from the chaff and there isn't one media outlet of any stripe that would survive 5mins without them.

Anonymous said...

A big problem in coming here and freelancing is that you need a sponsor to get a residence visa.

The sponsor, let's say a publishing company, will often include a non-competition clause in any contract which means if your freelancing is noticed you could lose you your residence visa and you have to leave.

There is no way legally to just land here and freelance, which is why I think there is a dearth of good freelance talent.

As a section editor on a national paper here, I have have a decent freelance budget but am continually frustrated that there are few decent writers to spend it on.

I have received offers from loads of people who believe that they are qualified to be journalist in a particular field, just because it's their hobby.

Anonymous said...

There's apparently now a freelance visa available but I've heard it costs anywhere between AED15,000 and AED28,000 which is insane. Does anyone else know anything about this?

I once got an email from someone wanting to freelance for me - she emailed me dreadful letters that she'd had published in assorted UAE newspapers as proof of her published work.

Anonymous said...

"I don't get out of bed for less than 7 dirhams a word.

Yep, but you're probably writing Haiku's for a living.

Anonymous said...

There is a freelance visa, always has been. And yes, it is very expensive and has to be renewed, etc.. via DMC. Another alternative is to get a work visa in Abu Dhabi directly from the Ministry of Info or whatever it's called. It is much, much cheaper, like a tenth of the cost of getting a Media City freelance visa. All you need is a letter from a publication back home that says it will be running your work from time to time. If you get a good reputation for writing decent copy (which is pretty f'ing easy considering the competition) you can get a regular load of work. Look at Richard Dean. He was making a very nice salary for years doing only freelance.

Anonymous said...

DIT used to be shocking late payers. Not sure if that's still the case.

Anonymous said...

Translating Arabic into English and the other way around, I charge a dirham a word. I have recently raised it to 2. So it is strange that writing original decent copy is 1 dirham, I certainly feel the pain if I am translating crap.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else know about this?

Kohl, a women’s monthly magazine aimed at the huge Asian expat market here in the United Arab Emirates, is looking for a creative and dedicated Art Editor.

You'll have been working for at least three years on consumer magazines, and have experience of overseeing a team of designers, as well as liaising with editors and the photo department to create the best magazine possible. If you have fantastic ideas and passion for everything a savvy Asian reader should need to know - and can let this enthusiasm shine through in your work - even better!

A thorough working knowledge of InDesign and Photoshop is essential, as is being able to enjoy working hard under pressure to weekly deadlines.

The position is based in Dubai at the offices of ITP, publishers of Time Out Dubai, Harper's Bazaar Middle East and Grazia Middle East. ITP offers tax-free salaries and the chance to work in one of the world's most dynamic places with the added benefit of year-round sunshine. For more information go to www.itp.com.

Apply by email only to Cate Warde, Art Director, at catherine.warde@itp.com. Please include a covering letter, an up-to-date CV and samples of relevant work.

Applications without examples or CV will not be considered.

Anonymous said...

And the point of posting this here is... ?

Anonymous said...

The point of posting that here is so we can all laugh at the utter crap ITP spin into their efforts to offer another shite job to some poor unsuspecting kid desperate for a break into the media.

Anonymous said...

ITP is utterly shit at paying freelancers. I'm still owed AED9000from a year or two ago. Paddy Ashdown wrote something for Arabian Business a while ago and they didn't even pay him for months.

Anonymous said...

we pay very promptly at the media factory (a dirham a word), and I am desperate for freelancers who can turn around half decent business-related copy.

email me, by all means: damian@themediafactory.ae

Anonymous said...

desperate for freelancers because all us full-timers hate the place! does anyone else have to clock in and out? i'm sure TMF staff have the longest official working day of any media company in dubai too...

Anonymous said...

what exactly are your hours?

Anonymous said...

Damian, I believe your company has already been outed by Communicate a year or so ago as being horrible at paying your freelancers on time -- or ever! I am sure there are at least a handful of people here who can attest to that!

Anonymous said...

International rate is equivalent to dhs3 a word.
The dhs1 a word rate hasn't changed since I moved to Dubai four years ago.
Us freelancers need to make a concerted effort to raise standards and demand a more respectable rate

Anonymous said...

You mean "We freelancers have to make a concerted effort to raise standards ...". I wouldn't pay you the dirham for "Us".

Anonymous said...

Hello Fellow Observers!

As a follow-up to one of the comments:

Not sure, if you guys have heard of www.ContentSyndicate.com

They have a core-team, besides a global pool of more than 1900+ freelancers (editors+copywriters).

I've signed up with Content Syndicate and worked with them for several months now, since they went live in beta. Definetely happy with their service.

On time payments (they even pay real-time to your bank account); quality work; prompt service.

Also I can post all my original content up for sale, without chasing those *&^** editors. I decide, when I write; what I write; who I want to sell it to; and how much and when I get paid.

Its like an e-bay for content!

Even publishers can upload all their content for sale.

Very interesting business model and a great online platform, which does all these fancy things, to make life easy for freelancers and publishers.

Heard they also offer hotdesking services. Not sure about the actual details.

See their website - sign-up is simple, free and on merit basis.

Payment terms range from a 1 AED to word to 5AED+. Its based on where the publisher is based...Pricing is done accordingly by their system.

Finally a solution to frustrated freelancers everywhere!

Paid-Lancer.

Anonymous said...

Would any of the editors looking for good freelance talent please be so brave as to post their details and the areas that they cover so professional freelancers can pitch them ideas?

I would love to pitch ideas to editors serious about wanting good copy, but I refuse to sell my skills alongside the type of bored housewives and wannabee journalists who get the lifestyle freelance work in Dubai - presumably because they'll work for next to nothing.

Anonymous said...

anon @ Feb 17: I don't get into bed for less than dhs7 a word.

Anonymous said...

to Paid-Lancer : obviously writing advertorial is right up your alley, since your comment reads just like one.

Is that the same site that was set up by Alicia (Arabian Business) and the other bloke from ITP? Think his name was Maddy.

In which case, can we all do assignments for Arabian Business via the site, and hike our rates up to dhs5 a word and get immediate payment via bank transfer? Instead of going the regular ITP route?

Alternatively, ITP staff could supplement their income by writing for their own magazines via the site?

Cynical-Lancer

Anonymous said...

"we pay very promptly at the media factory (a dirham a word), and I am desperate for freelancers who can turn around half decent business-related copy."

Then why did it take me 18 months (is this a Dubai record?) to get paid for an article I was commissioned to write? And commissioned at 80fils a word I
should add.

Perhaps this explains why you are currently desperate to find people to write freelance articles for you.

Anonymous said...

Paid-Lancer :

lol that is such self promo!! lol

And yes DIT are still shocking late payers..but atleast they pay.. you will be lucky if you do get paid by Strategic Publishing

Anonymous said...

All you folks - I have been a freelancer for the last 7 years, and was among the first to sign up at DMC. If you have right amounts of talent and grit, it is smooth sailing. I live well, I take a short holiday every 45 days, and I have been able to buy myself two apartments (only one is mortgaged). This is NOT a brag, it is just encouragement. Give up the booze, cut down on the parties, keep your deadlines, and you can make it as a freelancer. Trust me

Shiva said...

I have been a freelancer too! Been doing it for the past 7 minutes and enjoying every minute... Hate to do this but gotta run now to put down a down payment on my third condo! This business rocks or what! ;)

Pankaj said...

payment in 30 days - 1 dhs a word. If you love cars, and write well, let's talk. pankaj@automiddleeast.com

Agnus said...

I am a freelance writer, new in the UAE. Presently, I get works from UAE clients. May I know the standard writing rates here?

Anonymous said...

I m on this field for the past many years. For one of my clients in the UAE, I charged 0.75 fils per words. Then, he told it is too high. I wrote more than 3500 words for him. Later, I reduced it to 0.57 fils. Still, he said the same and told he will pay 0.35 fils for my write ups. I felt absolutely sad hearing this. I had put lot of energy and effort to build up their company profile into best.

I said it is better that you don't pay for me. I took it as a charity work. What else should I do friends?


Therefore, always get an advance of it before starting your work. And try to know that your clients are not tricky ones.