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What to do when work in progress is cancelled

When it comes to knowing your rights, most freelances have learned that we're owed a 100 per cent kill fee if we deliver our work in line with the brief and on deadline and it's not used. It's contract law, and it's enforceable as long as we've put it or got it in writing. And emails count, etc...

But what if a client cancels a job when only part of the work has been completed?

It not being our fault, contractually we might be able to jump up and down and demand full fee, especially if it's near completion. But if we have an existing long-term relationship with the client, or hope for one, a reasonable compromise can be looked at.

It's not unknown, but pretty damn rare, for the client to complete the cancellation sentence by saying somehing like, "So we'd like to negotiate a fee for what you've done so far." That would mean we have to get right in there and bring it up - assertively, but politely, despite the frustration of the moment.

A nice example just came the Freelance's way. A member was commissioned to write a magazine profile feature for £450. They did the prep, did the interview, then immediately got the oh-sorry call.

This fast-on-feet freelance starts talking of compromise fee at once, works with the editor - who never cancels normally and hadn't thought it through - to conjure up a way of getting something civilised through the books. A payment by the hour works for his accounts department it seems and they come up with a notional "three hours' editorial work" (listed as "interview and travel") and a fee of £225 (yes, £75 an hour: "Why?" is not an important question at these moments: money is the subject in hand).

Whatever works is good.

And the tailpiece here is: the interview's done; whatever the contract said about usage doesn't apply because the company didn't stick to their end; but the writer said out loud (in an email) to be clear and sure, "No worries about me using the interview somewhere else I presume? Good, pleasure doing business with you."

Last modified: 05 Jul 2011 - © 2011 contributors
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