Condé Nast: Freelancer contract change is not what you think

Photo by Malbonster, via Flickr

Condé Nast briefly riled its corps of freelance reporters and photographers this week with an updated contract that allows for quicker payment in exchange for a discount on the agreed-upon rate. The memo’s language called it a courtesy option for vendors in need of cash fast.

But the magazine giant—first called out on the change by the fashion blog Fashionista, then assailed on social media by agitated freelancers—tells CJR the language was not intended to apply to individual writers, photographers, and models who work for the company.

Spokesman Joseph Libonati says the standard agreement will be updated to clarify the new language, which was meant for larger vendors such as Staples and FedEx. He added that freelancers who need rushed payments for any reason can just ask and will be accommodated and paid in full. They normally are paid on a 30-day cycle.

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Fashionista reported the updated vendor memo was shared with contractors alongside an explanation on the change to payments: “At the top of our project list is an accelerated payment option, which will allow you to get paid more quickly when a small discount taken off the invoice is accepted. There will be more news coming out on this enhancement over the next few months.”

In an email to Condé Nast finance staff today, Chief Financial Officer David Geithner wrote:

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I wanted to take a moment to clarify and expand on a website communication to our vendors yesterday (which included our community of independent contractors/contributors) that has caused some confusion.

In an effort to provide added convenience for enterprise corporate vendors who are on a 90-day payment plan, we are introducing a flexible option that includes a modest fee for accelerated payment.  We are not changing payment terms of existing contracts, except to provide those vendors with a new benefit.

This new practice does not apply to our independent contractors/contributors; our policy is to pay them within 30 days from invoice date or pursuant to any agreed upon terms, or as otherwise required by law.

It is not uncommon in other industries, such as real estate development, for companies to offer quicker payment for work in exchange for a fee or reduced payment. But it would have been unusual to offer similar terms to freelance reporters and photographers.

Fashionista’s article has been shared 8,000 times across its social platforms, drawing plenty of Twitter commentary.

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Carlett Spike is a CJR Delacorte Fellow. Follow her on Twitter @CarlettSpike.