Costs - who pays for what?

Updated:September 2013

Make sure you are clear about what you will and won't be expected to pay for - and draw up a budget of all costs related to your assignment.

Every organisation has its own rules and ways of working with freelancers - including who pays for what - so it's vital that you know what they will and won't pay for, what your responsibilities are and what their systems are for payment.

You may need to prepare a budget for approval. If the costs are substantial, try to agree whole or at least part payment in advance, otherwise you could face a serious cash flow problem. And get clarity on the rules regarding unforeseen or emergency expenses: what's the protocol?  And who will pay for them?

Our budget downloads can help you to consider, plan and prepare for the various additional costs you may need.

The following are key things to consider:

A potentially huge expense, depending on the assignment. Some organisations will have a company travel agent, but on the ground costs can really add up.  Consider everything - especially petrol, which can vary considerably from country to country.  If you are using a locally hired driver, you will almost certainly be responsible for covering his petrol costs. In cash.

If you are covering this, research rates carefully. Hotel rates can vary considerably from country to country and may be more expensive that you thought. Try and get recommendations. And remember not all places take credit cards.  It may be cash only. Also check if you are responsible for paying the hotel costs of any other team members, such as a driver, fixer or translator. 

Visas & Accreditations

Costs for these can add up.. Check if you will need these to travel - and if so, who's organising, and who's paying.

Communications - telephone / internet / satellite
Again, a potentially huge expense, especially if you are working in an area with little communications infrastructure.  Research your options carefully and discuss with your editor.  What's the coverage like? Will you need a satellite phone or modem. If you'll be relying on the local media centre - even if its basic - you may be charged a hefty sum, especially if it's the only place around. Investigating your options will also force you to think about a realistic communications plan with your editor - which can only be a good thing.

Equipment and Kit
Depending on your client or sector, you may be able to charge a 'rental' for your equipment, especially if you need additional or specialist kit especially for the job.

Medical and Safety Kit
If you are going to need safety equipment and medical supplies (including vaccinations), find out from your editor / commissioner what they will and won't cover. You should always be properly equipped for the situation and job that you are doing, especially with regards to health and safety. 

Safety vests, helmets, vaccinations and medical kits can be expensive.  Some media organisations will have their own stock of equipment, but make sure what you get is in good condition and fits properly.

If you don't think you will be able to afford what's needed because of lack of funds, you should discuss this with your editor/ commissioner.

Local Hires - fixers, drivers, translators
It's important that you discuss who's responsible for hiring local staff early on and what the rules and protocols are for hiring and payment.  How will they be contracted and will they be insured?  Potentially a big responsibility and expense, so make sure you are happy with the procedures and what's expected before you leave and have all the information and contacts that you need.

If you are on a foreign assignment, away from your home base, your medical insurance should be covered by the company who is commissioning you - especially if you are travelling to a hostile environment. But never assume that this is so and make sure you discuss insurance early on.

If you are travelling to a high risk area, some companies will insist that you have up to date Hostile Environment Training order to qualify for their insurance., even if you have years of experience working in conflict zones. You may also have to complete a company Risk Assessment (and if you are not required to, ask why not!)

If you are being added to the company scheme or cover, make sure that someone has remembered to add you to the policy.  Make sure you have a claim number and test it. Ensure you have all of the details and know exactly what you are covered for.  Company policies vary considerably so you need to know if it is enough for your needs.  If it isn't you may be able to top it up.

If you are responsible for your own insurance, shop around early on to find the right cover for you and include this in your budget / negotiations.  This may be a considerable expense so you need to know what you are liable for.

RPT urges all media organisations and commissioners to cover the cost of insurance for freelancers who work for them, and at the very least help them to find affordable cover.

Also be aware that some organisations - mainly broadcast - may expect you to have Public Liability insurance. Check if you do. And if you are being commissioned as a company, you should think about Production Insurance to cover your production.

Our insurance pages can help companies and freelancers with information on sympathetic brokers and finding the right cover.  We recommend that you shop around as prices can fluctuate and vary considerably, depending on where you are travelling to.

Photo for this page by by Wendy.

Back to Professional Development

Created: August 2013

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