EPUK Editorial Photographers United Kingdom and Ireland. The private mailing list and public resource for editorial photographers


14 May 2001 - Neil Turner

Invoicing:There is no law about what an invoice should look like or about what it should contain (unless it’s a VAT invoice), but there are certain conventions that it is advisable to follow if you want to get paid.

First, some assumptions:

  • You want to get paid, you want to be paid quickly, you want to be paid the correct amount.If your answer to any of the above is “no”, you are in the wrong job and you can stop reading now. Those of you still with me need to know the following:
  • The people on newspaper and magazine picture desks responsible for passing your invoices are not evil (well not many of them)
  • They have budgets to protect in today’s macho management world and they are the front end for a staggering bureaucracy
  • Very few of them have ever been truly freelance, so they have no idea of the pressures that cashflow problems place on an independent photographer.

With these point in mind you quickly come to realise that there are a few tricks you can use to insure that you are not contributing to the slow payment of invoices

What should an invoice contain?

  • The date that the invoice was issued (the date you actually typed it). This is for tax reasons – the date of issue is the date that the Inland Revenue are interested in, you pay tax on income (even if you don’t receive the cash for months) from the date of issue.
  • An invoice number. This is helpful for your own record keeping and vital if you want to chase a payment. It’s no good saying to an anonymous accounts clerk that “it’s the one for the job in London that I did”.
  • The name of the organisation to whom you are sending the invoice. It’s important to get this right and to get their address right, especially if you are sending the invoice to a department who don’t know you.
  • The name of the picture editor or researcher who commissioned the work in the first place. That way if there’s a query it’s easy for the accounts people to speak to them.If they gave you an order number that should be there too.
  • The date(s) that the work was actually carried out and any edition date(s) that you are made aware of. If the invoice is for reproduction fees then you should include edition dates and page numbers wherever possible.
  • A description of the work undertaken, which might be “Commissioned portrait of Nelson Mandela at his home in Cape Town” or “Reproduction fee for photograph of Keith Chegwin”. Different clients may well have ways that they want you to phrase this, but you always need to put it concisely.
  • A breakdown of the work you have done, the expenses that you have incurred and the fees that you are charging. Unless previously agreed you charge for everything.

What do you actually charge for?

As I said – EVERYTHING. Remember that time spent traveling or spent taking work to and from a lab is also chargeable. Here is a list, it’s not comprehensive but it will give the idea.

  • Your time. This could be in the form of a day rate (x number of days at £xxx per day) or an agreed commission fee (agreed commission fee £xxxx).
  • Traveling. You charge for mileage (xxx miles at £0.42 per mile), taxis (keep the receipt), rail fares, air fares where you have had to pay out of your own pocket.
  • Film/processing/prints. List how much film you have shot (xx rolls 35mm transparency @ £xx per roll) and include the cost of the processing. Equally list any prints and charge for those individually adding a small percentage for handling (15% is common), although you don’t list the handling charge.
  • Scanning/wiring/digital capture. These fees are under attack, so agree the amounts before you accept the work. Writing images to CD should also be charged for, including the time taken to do it and an element for the fact that you have had to buy the equipment in the first place.
  • Bikes/couriers/postage. The cost of delivering your work to the client is often overlooked, avoid the temptation to deliver it in person unless you actually want to see the client.
  • Telephone calls. 99% of jobs require a couple of calls to be made, and these should be charged for – especially if they are on a mobile.
  • Other out of pocket expenses. These might include meals,hotel bills, toll bridge charges, car hire or any other (reasonable) expenditure to do the job.

And the most important things…

I have left the three most important things to last:

  • The rights assigned. Your invoice should make clear what rights to reproduce the photographs are included in the total amount you are charging. Normally you are selling the client a license to use your work to which you retain the copyright. Make this clear.
  • The bottom line – the ex VAT total. If you are VAT registered you must separate out the total amount of VAT being charged, and then you have the final TOTAL AMOUNT DUE.
  • The terms of the invoice. Normally this should be 28 days, you are giving the client 28 days to pay. This will often be ignored by clients so you have take the judgment whether to chase payment or not. Once you have worked for a client a few times you will establish a payment routine.

To state the *@!&$*™ obvious, getting paid is vital. Issuing invoices promptly with all of the right information on them really helps to make sure that you get paid promptly and without your invoices being returned for clarification (a favourite trick of some accounts people).

© Neil Turner, 2001

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