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Understand how freelancing works! (in the media industry)

Types of contracts

Contracts for freelance photographers can vary from each other depending on the types of clients they are working with, as well as the required needs they may have.


Freelance photography partnerships with clients an occasionally be handled in an informal manor such as through convocation. An informal brief is usually not officially documented, and commonly conducted verbally. This is where the company and the client which has been employed discuss the needs and requirements for the product they will be producing and ultimately agree upon the project. An informal brief meeting is necessary in order to produce a relaxed atmosphere and environment to the discussion. For example, a freelance photographer may be hired for to capture a series of photographs at a birthday party and the photographer and client discuss the necessities in a coffee shop. Because there is no written documents, this could make it easy to forget or produce a product completely different to hat the company was asking for, as well as confusion on particular aspects such as wage and deadlines. However on the other hand, the advantages to this type of brief is that there is more verbal communication between the client and the company they are employing which could mean that the media company will understand fully exactly what the client is asking of.


A contractual brief is one of the most secure type of brief in the industry which would be used by more professional photographers with important photoshoots. For example it was be necessary to have a contractual brief when conducting photoshoots such as for magazine articles or for advertising companies. Then enables both parties to remain a professional standard and secures the agreement both ways. The contractual brief is classed as a documentation of a signed agreement that states the aims that the person who is to sign the brief would agree to, if the contract is signed and then one of the parties breaks the regulations of the contract, the contract holder has the capability to take legal actions against them. An example of when a contractual brief can be used when someone is beginning to start a new job for a client, therefor needing to produce a signed contract, such as a graphic designer that has been hired to create a professional looking website. The graphic designer may need to sign a contractual brief that can state what the requirements are, deadlines, and wage being received. Additionally, it ensures that the designer will meet the deadlines, and understands all the requirements stated within this contract. An advantage of this brief is that it can give the company an idea of what the client desires them to achieve, whilst also presenting a steady and stable price range, which the client and the employer will agree upon. A disadvantage is that the client involved in the contract may require a heavy workload from the employer, or they may change their mind on a particular aspect within the contract, and will not be able to change it as it is in the contract as well as it has been signed.


A formal brief would also be used when working for professional companies similarly to a contracted brief. This contract would be a written document that includes detailed information about what the client wants the company to accomplish and achieve for this project. The formal brief is commonly a straightforward and direct document, which doesn’t include any unwanted information. Similarly to this brief, the contractual brief is also is also written in an informative manor with a clear understanding. An example of a formal brief can include is a photographer has been hired by a company, and have to produce a product exactly how it is stated within the brief, such as fashion photographs captured in Camden. However as it is a formal brief, if the clients requirements or opinions are not considered, they cannot be changed neither before or after the contract is signed. An advantage of this brief is that as the document itself is very clear, as well as concise, it lacks any form of complexity, and leaves out all the unnecessary points and unimportant information. This reduces the amount of time that is wasted. However a disadvantage is that the contract is very general. Additionally the employer as well as the client, may disagree on the terms of each other’s decisions and opinions, which are listed in the contract.


Another brief that would effectively be used by photographers is a negotiated brief, which is formally contracted, and enables both parties to be happy with the signed agreement. This is when 2 or more companies have differing ideas that conflict with each other which has to then be negotiated to ensure that all parties are in an agreement on the topic that the brief is about. Compared to the contractual brief, the negotiated brief has room for improvement and allows you to develop and change the brief by negotiating what’s stated within the brief in order for both the client and employee can come to a mutual agreement. However the contractual brief can also developed and negotiated with, however this has to be before the contract agreement has been signed, otherwise the stated demands need to be met. For example, if a photographer has been offered a job at a company, they could negotiate the contract if they were unhappy with some of the agreements, such as the wage being too low or the deadlines being too short. A negotiated brief also contains ethical constraints, where the employee must consider the thoughts and opinions of the client. A negotiated brief enables the company to say their opinions, as well as having the ability to work around the contract. Also certain points can be negotiated leaving more open to suggestions from multiple viewpoints, which could make the product more successful. Because the communication is more verbal, this allows there to be a good working relationship to also be formed. However, a Negotiated the brief can sometimes waste time as the negotiation may take a long period of time which can affect schedules.


Tender contracts may also be used by a freelance photographer, such as for a company to use the photographer’s images for advertisement and promotional purposes. A tender brief is where a client publicises their brief, and a production company and business will produce a proposal I which they will pitch to the client. There could be several pitches given and pitched to the client from many different companies, therefore the client will then get the chance to decide which proposal that they believed was best and suits their brief, as a result a job offer is given to that production company. An advantage of the tender brief can be that that the client will be able to look at several different ideas for their product from a variety of different companies viewpoints, and in then would be able to produce their product to a very high standard as they had chosen the best idea. The disadvantage can be that if a company’s pitch had been turned down by the client, this can set them back in their business, as it is very hard to gain. The business may have been very hopeful in thinking that the client would have accepted their proposal and could have gone as far as to decline any work that they were offered. As a result this company would be missing out in generating a profit for their business.


The co-operative brief there are commonly two or more different companies that are employed by the client in order to work to the brief and create it together. Freelance photographers may do this to collaborate with other photographers or producers on a different field in order to create something more creative and original. Each producer could be in charge and control of a different segment of the project. An example can include when a graphic designer was been employed to produce a website for a magazine company. An advantage of the co-operative brief is that can be that having this type of brief means that there can be more viewpoints and perspectives to creating the product required by the client. The two parties would co-operate with each other to develop and create a brief by exchanging their ideas and highlight their key requirements. On the other hand particular type of brief can be that it’s more prone to have disagreements and conflict about the ideas discussed and given by each of the different media companies, as they have different ideas and opinions.

A prime example of this is can be when a specialised freelance photographer is employed by a media production establishment to capture images for promotional reasons, such as advertising clothing. The client would need to recognise and understand what it is exactly what the company requires. The photographer would also need to know the outline of the spending allowance from the budget, deadline requirements, and the layout preferred in order to complete the project to meet the standards of the company. As a result, this would make the whole process of the project run more smoothly, with no faults or errors occurring.

Throughout the processes of work, it must all be produced to a legal, regulatory and ethical constraints and standards. The constraints need to be examined and understood, in order to work within the specific guideline requirements.


Freelance photography is a very flexible career in their work and what style is applied. It enables them to work formally and informally. Large established companies may from time to time employ an independent photographer in order to put a spin on their company’s style and taste on how the images are normally captured. This is an effective technique to engage viewers and generate attention from new audiences. The purpose of a commission brief is where a large media business employs another independent media company to develop, create and produce a product for them, once the product has been produced, the larger company may use the product produced for an external client, which will pay the independent company for creating the product. An example of a commission brief can be when a company such as the BBC propose a commission brief for a programme with its deadlines and audience. When the client sends off the proposal for the brief document to the BBC, the company decides whether they will commission it or not. The commission brief is important as the product that is being produced must meet the clients standards. If the brief is not read properly and the product has been altered, such as if a photographer altered the colours and layout of the company’s style and lighting of photographs typically captured, they might not like it. As the commission brief negotiable, there shouldn’t be any alterations in the project. This is the difference between a negotiated brief and a commission brief. Having this particular type of brief means that the larger company do not have to do all of the hard work when producing the product. They can give the work that has been set and stated in the brief out to another company, plus each company will both receive money for the work. But also this type of brief could mean that because there are two different companies working on the same product there could be some conflicts, but because the brief is not negotiated with the client, the product made may not be to the client’s standards.

Negotiating contracts & commissioning processes:

When the contract is being negotiated, it allows the client ad the employees to examine any outstanding requirement issues that could be specified within the brief's requirement, plus which may need to be clarified with the client. As a result, it makes the whole arrangement and project run more smoothly. This also allows any misunderstandings or issues to be clarified and evened out before any agreements are authorised, preventing any future issues that could occur.

Before any commitments are finalised in any contract, both the client and the company need to have a full agreement on the requirements in the brief, understanding whether its needed to change any small minor details within the discussion between the two, such as whether the budgets and deadlines are opened for development. As a result, this will guarantee that both parties are on the same level of understanding and agreement and with provide an effective outcome. An example of this can be found when if a magazine production company employ a client who is a photographer in order to conduct photo shoots, they would need to have a consultation to discuss and negotiate any issues there could be or concerns there may be between the client and the company. Furthermore, this would be a formal discussion between the two parties.

When working in the photography industry, commissioning a brief can differ on different types of work the photographer has been hired for. For example commissioning a brief when working on a wedding contract would be more flexible in what they capture, as the shoot would be more spontaneous and natural. Whereas on the other hand, commissioning a job for a fashion photo-shoot there would be more organization and requirements involved, such as location, time, and content captured for the client, while a wedding would have already been organized.

The media industry can be seen as unique compared to any other, due to its flexibility and it constantly changing with aspects such as technology and job roles. Because of this, it enables workers contracts to be more versatile and adaptable in comparison to set conventional jobs that would have a fixed contract. Flexible contracts are very common within the media industry. Many contracts can also be negotiated also in the industry and can consist of: full-time, part-time, permanent, fixed-term, shift work, freelance, irregular and anti-social hours, office hours, on completion, and salaried. These contracts can be really effective as they callow you to be flexible with your hours, however on the other hand it can enable you to not do enough hours unlike with fixed traditional job hours.

Working to a brief

A variety of different skills may need to be developed and discovered depending on each brief for the product to be produced. For instance, if a photographer that had just been hired for a company for a photo shoot, they would have to sign and approve of a contractual brief, which has been produced by the company. Additionally, whilst on the job they may develop new or existing skills they have, such as effects used, and different types of shots that can be captured.

Before any commitments are finalised when working towards a brief, both the client and the company need to have a full agreement on the requirements in the brief, understanding whether its needed to change any small minor details within the discussion between the two, such as whether the budgets and deadlines are opened for development. As a result, this will guarantee that both parties are on the same level of understanding and agreement and providing an effective outcome.

A flexible contract requires an employee that will work for temporary period amount of time under a fixed-term contract. However a freelancer contact specifies that you are expected to handle our own benefits and arrangements which can include aspects such as working hours and sick pay. However depending on your contract the worker may be entitled to certain benefits. Freelancing and fixed-term jobs are generally having creative tasks such as photographers and journalists. One of the benefits of working one of these contracts it gives you flexibility with working hours and gives you a variety of pieces of work for the worker to complete. On the other hand what can be a negative of working fixed-term or as a freelancer is that work the work would not be received on a regular basis, which can be difficult involving finance issues that the worker could face.

A prime example of this is can be when a specialized freelance photographer is employed by a media production establishment to capture images for promotional reasons, such as advertising clothing. The client would need to recognize and understand what it is exactly what the company requires. The photographer would also need to know the outline of the spending allowance from the budget, deadline requirements, and the layout preferred in order to complete the project to meet the standards of the company. As a result, this would make the whole process of the project run more smoothly, with no faults or errors occurring.

A freelance contract can be compared to doing overtime so the worker is paid extra money in addition to their average wages. This can result to them working through unsociable hours. This is highly frequent and recognized within the media industry. However one of the biggest pros is the payment given, which is for encouragement for people to work these hours in comparison to the traditional contracted jobs. However it can be an issue as it can be unhealthy for the worker as it can cause loss of sleeping due to the irregular hours.

Proposal and treatments

A proposal is a marketing instrument intended to persuade, advertise, and sell goods, services, or ideas to funders, distributors, and other potential clients. This is seen as a highly valuable tool, which is used in order to bring in business and to offer something new to the market. A proposal is a detailed description of all the aspects of an initial project produced in the pre-production stage. A freelancer could use a proposal to pitch himself or herself to work in partnership with other companies. For example, a photographer as interested in working with a print production company and plans to photograph images for an article. They would pitch themselves to express a different perspective and a new flair of creativity they would express in the project. This is especially good for beginner freelancers in order to get there name known in the industry as well as receiving professional experience. The timescale to prepare a proposal can depend on each project the photographer is to work on. However on average the time to prepare will be provided by the employer, which commonly is around a day to prepare and pitch it.


The hours of work scheduled for a freelance photographer would vary on the type of job being done; it often also includes long weekdays, evenings and weekends. Freelance photographers are often flexible with their work hours. Time keeping is not as relevant when being a freelancer as you are your own boss who chooses your work hours, however it is more significant to manage time effectively. For example for a small fashion shoot it can take around an hour, however the photographer may need three hours to edit and process the images depending on their skills. Photographers manage their time through meeting times, photo-shoot slotted times, editing, and processing the photographs. Issues any photographer may face is setting aside personal time for leisure and family. Because the work hours can become really long and draining the professional may not have time for leisurely purposes. Furthermore some photographers may face issues with time management such as managing and overlapping more than one project at a time if not organised effectively, this could put stress on meeting deadlines on time. Many do this because projects may not come regularly and would need to take on more on for extra income and experience.

The most effective way to manage time in my opinion would be to set personal deadlines and time slots in order to manage time effectively and evenly within each set project. This would then enable the photographer to clearly organise effectively and meet the projects deadline on time. I contacted a professional photographer Ikenna Mokwe and asked for his views on time management when being a freelance photographer. He discussed that “I find it difficult to have a good work life balance because I'm obsessed with work and I love it so much that I don't even see it as work. I tend to overdose on work.

Risk management

When working as a photographer it is significantly important and necessary to consider the risks that may occur within the contract before they are signed for agreement. The freelance photographer would require to carefully examining the whole contract in order to see the requirements and to see what may not be included, plus including seeing whether the risks and hazards are covered within the contract. For example Safety measures that can affect photographers include ensuring that they travel to the location and back safely and securely, especially to if it’s a new location and carrying lots of highly expensive equipment, especially when shooting outside. Carrying a large amount of equipment potentially makes the photographer stand out more, as a result becoming a target for tourist fraud and even theft. The best safety measure solution for this would be to plan ahead the locations, plus to get insurance coverage on the photography equipment. Risk assessment is important to ensure the photographer knows and understands what to do if a situation occurs and who would be held accountable.


Sub-contracting is where a main contractor employer hires additional clients as sub-contractors in order to contribute to a foreseeing project. An example of when a freelance photographer is employed as sub-contractor can be when they are hired in order to capture promotional photographs for an upcoming television series.


When looking at copyright with a freelance photographer, under law it is stated that any images captured by the photographer will own copyright unless if the photographer is an employee of a company as they will be capturing on behalf of the employer. Another case can include where the photographer has a signed agreement with another company. The copyright to the photographs will remain to the photographer who captured it. Because of this, some contracts state that the images captured is for the clients, as a result you are unable to use the content for other purposes Issus photographers can face If images were reproduced without the owner’s permission this would be a severe breach within the copyright. Photographers employed and signing over the rights to the client inherit the copyright because the photographer is being paid for their time and services. Photographers whose copyrighted works have been used in violation of the law are able to sue the copyright violators in federal court.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) is having the right to protect and preventing people from staling work. This can include brands, products, inventions, produced design, and productions. Copyright, patent, trademarks, and designs are all forms of intellectual property protection. Intellectual property enables you to gain recognition or financial benefit from what has been created. An example of intellectual property can be the case between Mattel Inc. and MGA Entertainment Inc. When the Bratz Dolls came out in 2001, placing tension on Barbie’s profits, seizing about 40% of it. In 2005, Bratz creators MGA Entertainment filed a lawsuit against Mattel Inc., claiming that their new line of dolls “My Scene” had copied the appearance of the Bratz dolls physique, using big-headed and slim-bodies. In 2008, a jury ruled in favor of Mattel Inc., which as a result MGA Entertainment Inc. where required to pay them $100 million and to remove Bratz from retail stores. However the dispute continued for another three years and the court proved that it was Mattel that had stolen trademarked appearance and design. Issues a freelancer may face with intellectual property, to prevent any issues occurring where a photographers work is stolen, they would need to protect it through registering for copyright, trademark, patent or design rights. However as a freelancer this may be seen as rather difficult, as they may have a signed contract stating they do not own any of the images captured, resulting in them unable to claim their work as its for their clients.


Personal pay arrangements

Through conducting research, I discovered that a professional freelance photographer can arrange a payment through PayPal, check, debit/credit card, bank transfer, and even in-hand cash. Each type of payment can depend on the type of contract assigned. For example it would be a high possibility for an informal brief contracted brief to be an in-hand cash job. The payments are arranged and stated in the brief, or within the consultation meeting before the shoot. There can be many pros and cons for each type of payment also. The check option can be seen as a con as it requires you to wait for the check via post, which could have the risk of theft, plus it involves having to wait at a bank as well as the payment to clear in their account.


An invoice is used as a bill for goods or services provided, containing individual prices, as well as the terms and total charge. These are highly important because Invoices are used for requesting money owed for a job, plus an effective way to track the earnings and documentations made each month. An example of this can include stating how many hours worked on the job and stating how much needs to be paid to the worker. Invoices are really useful to organise earnings, and seeing which payments have been processed and which are pending. Issues that could be faced by a freelance photographer is that some clients may be punctual and send payments late.


I believe that for a freelance photographer, it is necessary for them to obtain a savings account. This is because as a freelancer work can become irregular at periods of times, and this would enable them to save money as well as gain money through interest in the bank account.


An overhead refers to an ongoing expenses which needs to be paid, this does not include the payment of direct materials or labour. An example of an overhead can include rental fees and insurance. These are significant to a freelance photographer as it enables them to calculate and determine an allowance and limit on how much can be spent in that month. Overhead costs can be considered and analysed though adding up all the total payments of how much would be spent. For example, if professional photographer Ikenna Mokwe where to spend £300 on overheads each month through rent, tax, and insurance it enables him to determine to save that month each month for these purposes, as he knows the exact amount.


Additional expenses a professional freelance photographer may accumulate can be the price of travel, insurance, and photography equipment. For example, a photographer may be hired for a wedding shoot that is far from their headquarters and requires them to pay more than usual on transportation. This is a common occurrence if the photographer captures their images outside. Furthermore, equipment expenses can occur depending on the type of photoshoot, for example if working with studio photography, the photographer may need to rent a studio, soft boxes, and lighting. I found that essential equipment for a photographer, such as a DSLR can cost around £250-£800 depending on the model, plus an Apple Mac can cost around £1000. For the photographer to perchance all the equipment would be very costly, and it is significantly important for them to keep the equipment safe from damage and when travelling. This can be done through insurance. Due to a independent freelancer generally not being funded by companies they may need to apply for a loan for these expenses which can be repaid when the photographer has earned the money back. This can be seen as a con though as the loan would generate interest on top of it, requiring the freelancer to pay more which could easily get them into dept. if the loan is not paid on time. As a result this can make the photographer pick up much more freelancing jobs, causing stress through overworking and possibly effecting the quality of work being created.

Income tax

Income tax is a form of tax in which is imposed and collected directly on personal earnings. Once earning exceed over the personal allowance the photographer must pay tax on sources of income including employment, pensions, savings, rentals, and benefits. It is important for a freelancer to pay the income tax in order to avoid government penalties such as fines, which can result in the freelancer doing in to debt as they may not be able to afford it. Due to the fact that freelancers are independent and is not automatically taxed it must be done individually through each client. A freelancer can pay tax through self-assessment, which is a system through HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) used in order to collect income tax. This can be done by filling in a tax return form which needs to be filled in annually. Furthermore, in order to fill these out correctly, it requires the freelance photographer to keep proof of records such as invoices, bank statements, or receipts in order to fill in the tax return correctly. This also covers you if the HMRC challenge you on your income and overall tax payments. Consequences faced if the tax return is not filled in by January 31st, HMRC state a penalty, taking ‘enforcement actions’ against them to receive the money. On the other hand, if the freelancer has a reasonable excuse for missing a payment, they can appeal against the HMRC to not receive penalty actions against them.


VAT stands for Valued Added Tax, which is levied on the sale of services or good within businesses situated within the UK and other countries in the European Union. VAT is collected on behalf of HMRC through other companies. VAT is already combined in the price of goods or services, such as a photoshoot or a loaf of bread in the supermarket. It is compulsory for a freelancer to register for VAT on the services or goods they are providing and generating a profit on. This tax is usually included in the self-assessment with national insurance and income tax. As a result this should be added to every invoice, receipt, or bank statement. Problems a freelancer would face if not paying for VAT include receiving a penalty or fine.

National insurance

National insurance’s purpose is to help pay for government benefits. This system is payments required from employees and employers in order to benefit people’s healthcare such as the NHS, unemployed, or retirement pensions. For example, National Insurance is required to be paid by each individual when aged 16 or over and earning over £155 a week, resulting to £5965 annually. The amount of National Insurance paid depends on how much you earn. There are two types of National Insurance when being self-employed and therefore in relation to a freelancer; class, 2, and class 4 depending on the freelancer’s earnings. Freelancers pay National Insurance through self-assessment. The class types depending on your profits can mean that for class 2 if their earnings are more than £5965, and class 4 if £8060 or more annually. Problems that may occur when making payments include filling in the forms incorrectly or missing the application form deadlines, which can result in penalty actions taken against your defense through the HMRC.

Personal insurance

Personal insurance consists pf providing cover for your life and your family’s. Types of personal insurance can include life insurance, income protection, total permanent disability, and critical illnesses. Personal insurance is important because it provides and covers protection financially if something was to happen to the individual or their family for their personal needs. When being a freelancer, they would need to take into consideration if an event occurs where they are a=unable to work through an injury or illness. This would need to be heavily considered due to freelancers unable to retrieve sick pay. Issues that may arise without having personal insurance as a freelance photographer can affect them greatly. For example if they were unable to work due to an illness they can get into a large amount of dept, through loans trying to cover the price of aspects of living expenses as well as illness expenses. Furthermore, if the illness is fatal and the freelancer dies, their family or next of kin would be left with the freelancer’s dept if not having the security of a form of personal insurance.


A pension is a consistent and regular payment of money distributed to a retied individual, which is important in order to cover day-to-day living expenses. In addition, a pension is formed though long-term saving throughout their career. When working as a freelancer this can be difficult to obtain as the job is independent and there is no company workplace schemes in which would offer pensions or help to their employees to contribute to forming a pension. As a result, a freelancer would have to join a private pension scheme. Examples of these include SIPP’s (Self Invested Personal Pensions), stakeholder pensions, and other forms of personal pensions. I discovered that a stakeholder pension is the best option for a self-employed freelancer, because it includes flexibility within its terms as well as low rates. This is highly effective as a freelancer dealing with inconsistent income. Issues that can arise if a freelancer does not have a pension can include becoming bankrupt.

Use of accountants

An accountant is where a person’s job role consists of monitoring and organizing financial accounts swiftly and accurately. Freelancers work for themselves therefore they would be their own accountant that keeps track of their own finances. An example of this can include a freelancer managing their overhead, retirement pension, annual income, equipment expenses, and taxes. However freelancers are able to employ and obtain an accountant to work for them due to the amount of work a freelancer does and could be really stressful organizing individually. This significantly shows why a freelancer would need an accountant. Accountants are useful as they can help build the business and assisting financial issues. This is through the accountant being a specialist in the field of finance, allowing the freelancer gain a better understanding of finance and how to manage it.

Business plans and projections

A business plan is a guide outlining goals, ambitions, and details on how to achieve and attain these goals. Freelancers may use a business plan in order to allow them to focus on their objective and how to reach these efforts in a particular timeframe. This is also effective for a freelancer to use in order to potentially discover any faults which can be prevented beforehand. I believe that creating a business plan as a freelancer is highly effective enabling you to organise and structure your business enabling you to follow its guidelines and directions step by step.

Funding and finance options

There are many funding options and opportunities which can cover expenses for a freelance photographer. These selections can include getting a grant through Prince’s Trust of up to £7000. This allows you to start up your business funding all the equipment required to be a photographer. I know that this is an effective option because after speaking a professional expert, the founder of Rewind magazine Dacre Bracey I found that this is an effective pathway to take. On the other hand, the requirements for these grants are very specific in order to actually obtain one, such as being in-between the ages of 18-30.

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