Increase your freelance earnings

Grow your earnings by syndicating abroad

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If you are a freelance journalist writing for UK publications, have you ever considered syndicating and selling your features abroad? This guide explains the legalities, what type of stories sell, what you can expect to earn and the first steps to take.

That's the perk of being a freelancer and if you own the rights to your material, it's something you should doPeter Veenhoven, IFA
For example, if you have written a feature and sold it to the Mail on Sunday you could potentially syndicate your work and sell the same interview to magazines in several countries for little or no extra work.

Peter Veenhoven, owner and managing director of the Amsterdam-based International Features Agency, said it is something that journalists should be doing.

"That's the perk of being a freelancer and if you own the rights to your material, it's something you should do.

"If you write a book you would try to get it published in as many countries as possible," he told

"And depending on the type of features you write, it can be very lucrative."

Know your rights

The first step is to understand what your contract (if you have one) with the UK publication allows you to do.

Veenhoven advises to check you are selling "first UK rights".

"If you freelance and you sell your features in the UK, only sell first UK rights so that you have the freedom to syndicate your material abroad.

"Otherwise it is that publication's copyright for a long period of time.

"And if the UK magazine wants the worldwide rights they should be paying more."

Know what content sells

Overseas magazines, news sites and newspapers will only be interested in buying content that they cannot get for themselves.

Access is what it's all about and freelancers in countries like the UK, Germany and America, have a lot of accessPeter Veenhoven, IFA
Indeed, 80 per cent of the articles sold internationally by the IFA are interviews with celebrities such as actors and musicians.

"It is a good idea to focus on things of interest to a large group of readers," Veenhoven explained.

"So trying to syndicate an interview with a UK soap star or a judge on X Factor is not such a good idea. But to interview Ewan McGregor, for instance, is a much better idea," he said.

There are lots of British names who are good to interview and offer international appeal, he said, meaning resulting interviews would be of interest to magazines in countries as wide ranging as Russia, Japan, Australia or even Chile.

"Access is what it's all about and freelancers in countries like the UK, Germany and America, have a lot of access," Veenhoven said.

Veenhoven cited Lady Gaga as an example of a celebrity who would prefer speaking to journalists in one of those countries first.

There is a demand for such interviews in "smaller countries such as Belgium or Denmark, or countries that are far away like Japan and Australia" but publications frequently rely on buying stories written by journalists in the UK or countries with access to stars.

The interviews Veenhoven and his colleagues find sell abroad most readily are those where the celebrity gives a limited number of interviews. The more exclusive the content, the more easily it can be sold. Press conferences and "round tables" are less likely to sell than a one-to-one where the celebrity has granted only a handful of interviews.

Veenhoven gave the example of Noel Gallagher discussing his new album. "He may have given 10 interviews and on a worldwide scale that's not a lot."

"If Richard Branson does interviews, he will only do a few, so someone like Branson is always interesting to us.

"Most successful syndicating freelancers have relationships with PR people or someone who they have interviewed in the past and will interview again and again, and that's really valuable."

It seems like when the recession deepened, the demand for big names grew and there was a lesser interest in other featuresPeter Veenhoven, IFA
The IFA previously syndicated more news and reportage, Veenhoven explained, but there is an increasing demand for interviews with film stars and pop artists.

"It seems like when the recession deepened, the demand for big names grew and there was a lesser interest in other features."

Asked if real life stories sell abroad, such as those published in women's magazines, Veenhoven said: "People always tell me there's a market for that but it's not something I've had a lot of luck with."

Understand what you can earn

The International Features Agency has a simple formula: the journalist and agency get a 50-50 split of the revenue generated.

If the IFA commissions a writer, the split is 80-20 in the favour if the journalist.

Veenhoven gave the example of a Japanese magazine looking for an interview with Lily Allen. The IFA will commission a journalist it knows has the contacts and can get the interview. The journalist gets 80 per cent of the amount paid by the Japanese magazine and will then earn 50 per cent of any additional sales of that article, for example if the IFA then sold it on to Hong Kong and Germany.

"We represent writers and publications. The journalist or the publication is our client. It's in our interest to have a good relationship with our clients as that's where we get our material," Veenhoven said.

Asked for figures, Veenhoven said what you can expect to earn varies a lot between countries.
Smaller countries pay less than larger countries with stronger economies, he said, "especially now in these difficult times".

For example, an interview may be sold to a publication in Portugal for €250 (£220) whereas the same article could fetch €1,000 (£881) from a German news outlet, Veenhoven said.

The fact that the Euro and Sterling have become much closer than they were a few years ago works in favour of UK-based journalists.

And the more exclusive it gets, and if the timing is right, the more valuable it gets.

"We have a few writers who have a feel for what to offer when. They file their features on a regular basis and some are sold twice for not too much money but others, which are pretty similar but filed when that person is more in demand, can sell 10 times.

"On an average of €350 (£308) to €400 (£352), if you sell a feature 10 times it becomes really interesting. I'm not saying it will make you incredibly rich, but it does help."

What about bylines? International publications will give you a byline followed by an IFA credit. For example, J
oe Blogs/IFA.


Generally you do not need to worry about getting photos - although you could earn considerably more if you do.

"Of course it's nice to have photos, but generally text and pictures are sold separately. Ideally we have the package, but mostly we only sell text," Veenhoven said.

The first steps

The first thing to do is pitch your story by email. "Explain how it was done, give a short synopsis with a highlighted quote, then the full text.

"A lot of my day is spent selecting what we offer on a particular day", Veenhoven said.
So the answer is to make it as easy as possible for agencies such as his.

Contact details for the International Features Agency.

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