Freelances: know your rights!

Prompt payment, holidays, trainingbenefits that are taken more or less for granted by permanent staff can be a headache for freelances. Hilary Macaskill investigates what the growing number of freelances in the book business may be entitled to </p><p>
Findings published by market research company Mori last month reveal a growing trend for skilled workers to reject corporate life in favour of becoming self-employed professionals. According to Alodis, an organisation recently founded to serve the interests of this group with a monthly magazine, there are currently 1.6 million individuals working in this way.</p><p>
Many of them are freelancing in the book business. The Society of Freelance Editors and Proofreaders (SFEP) has 1,400 members. And there are several thousand in the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Society of Authors, and the Writers' Guild. But not all of them would recognise the element of choice implied by the Mori research. Many have been thrust into the freelance way of life by redundancy caused by contractions in the book industry, changes in working practices and by the waning power of trade unions. In the mid-1990s a survey of SFEP members showed that fewer than 20% of respondents had gone freelance by choice. </p><p>
However, a recent article in the SFEP's newsletter CopyRight revealed that according to a 1999 Institute of Translators and Interpreters survey, 51% of those questioned had chosen to go freelanceand 88% claimed to be confident enough to drop unsatisfactory clients. </p><p>
Whether you have positively opted for freelancing or have had freelancing thrust upon you, your stock and your quality of life will rise if you know your rights. And, despite suspicions to the contrary, freelances do have some.</p><p>
When it comes to finding out about your rights, it is particularly useful to belong to an organisation, for exchange of information, networking, for support and access to expertise. The SFEP, for example, advises on payment rates and organises a programme of training courses. The Society of Authors, the NUJ and the Writers' Guild can all provide legal help. The NUJ negotiates on behalf of members, and has a number of useful publications. The Society of Authors advises on contracts. The Writers' Guild has expanded its contract-vetting service, negotiates minimum terms agreements, and also has a pension fund.</p><p>
Prompt and proper reward</p><p>
One thing that all organisations are agreed on is the need for freelances to be properly remunerated for their work. The latest edition of Freelance Fees Guide, to be published shortly by the NUJ, reminds the freelance of the raison d'