Mission impossible for travel writers?
DORLING KINDERSLEY Eyewitness travel guides, the largest UK-based travel guide publisher and a branch of Penguin Group, has recently been contacting freelances offering work revising the hotel and restaurant listings in their guides. This is apparently part of a major renovation of these sections in the whole series, with a new format, and so a large-scale operation.
Previously this kind of work was paid for on the basis of a planning fee and then a rate per listing entry. For the new work DK are offering flat rates of £100, or £130 per double page spread, all planning included.
At the same time they have increased the required content of each spread by well over half.
Comparing the two systems of payment exactly is difficult, but overall this represents a cut of 30 per cent to 60 per cent on what DK paid for comparable workloads two years ago. In time terms the new spread rates represent hourly rates of roughly £6 to £11 per hour - so they may even be below the UK minimum wage.
It's very hard to see how work at these rates can even be viable - covering costs - let alone worthwhile for any freelance working legally, paying tax and social security, anywhere in the EU. If DK are offering these rates they appear to think they can find people to do the work.
Anyone contacted by DK should check their figures and the exact amount of work required, very carefully, before taking these jobs on.
And all DK freelancers who'd like to discuss the situation and what they think about their work being graded at below minimum-wage level, please get in touch. It would be useful to discuss these issues on the email list at www.londonfreelance.org/Flipper - or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to convey information in confidence.