Guide for freelance contributors
We love working with freelancers — what could be nicer than having a multitude of voices? But as a tiny team, unfortunately, we do not have time to email everyone individually with instructions as to our house style, our editorial process and how to invoice. Deliciously, the internet exists. As such, we’ve compiled a list of tips, both in terms of our editorial process — and house style — plus how to get paid.
Still — if after perusing this with a fine toothcomb, you have further questions, do drop the editor you’re working with a line.
Below we’ve written some details about:
Our editorial process
Our house style
How to invoice
1. Editorial Process
How we edit
Sometimes, when we have time, we go back to a writer with comments and questions on their draft and ask them to re-file (a process used by some larger magazines). But often, because we have a small team, we don’t have time for that, so we go ahead and make the changes we need to make, and then publish the story. If you’re a writer who likes to have approval for every sentence, it might make more sense to approach a larger publication.
We have a strict policy of never offering interviewees copy approval — this compromises editorial integrity. If an interviewee asks you in advance to have “quote approval” i.e. that they see their quotes, and there is no way to secure an interview without this (which should be rare), we will agree. But it should never be offered by us without prompting, and should only be agreed to in exceptional circumstances — and in this case, only to correct mistakes or misunderstandings rather than to change the meaning of the quotes.
Filing your story
Please make sure that when you file your story, you send us:
Your copy, ideally in a Google Doc in which we have editing permissions (a Word Doc is also fine).
Photos to illustrate your story, with a numbered list of captions and credits. Please leave a note about the photos and where they are in the Google Doc.
Confirmation in your email that you have offered all the key people mentioned in your story a full right of reply.
2. Reporting standards
Right of reply
Right of replies offer people or organisations we are writing about a chance to give their side of a story — whether that’s correcting factual mistakes, offering context that changes how a story is perceived, or helping us to avoid very serious legal risk. They are absolutely critical in avoiding lawsuits against us and upholding our responsibilities as a high-quality news organisation committed to facts and high levels of integrity.
If in doubt, give someone the right of reply and try to do it as early as possible so we are not waiting for the reply just before we publish. Here are some basic guidelines for your right of reply:
Publish time: Make sure that you specify the date your article will be published, even if it might be pushed back, or at least the earliest date it might be published.
Deadline: Specify very clearly — both at the start of the email and the end — the date you need your right of reply to be answered by.
Time offered: Give people at least one full working day to reply to basic stories. The more serious the allegation, the longer the time you need to give them. If the story will require a person to consult documents or will require a press office to get hold of multiple individuals or recall events that are way in the past, give them a minimum of two days. For stories that involve complex financial allegations, give them a week.
Details: Ensure that every detail you plan to report is in your email. It is very important that your subject is not surprised by any detail in the story. If you omit something by mistake from your initial email, it is fine to send another message asking your subject to respond to an additional claim.
The Mill is committed to very high standards of journalism. We adhere to the Editor’s Code or Practice, which all of our writers must be familiar with. Please read it if you haven’t before, because it forms the basis for our official Complaints Process.
One of the worst mistakes a media company can make is to publish work that is plagiarised, intentionally or otherwise. Plagiarism can creep into a story if a writer is careless about copying and pasting quotes into their notes and then into a piece. Please make absolutely sure that what you file to us doesn’t contain a single phrase that has appeared elsewhere unless it is properly quoted and attributed. A simple rule helps: unless you are explicitly quoting a person or a written source, write every word of your story yourself.
Gifts and freebies
None of our journalism should be influenced by a writer receiving free gifts, tickets or services from someone who we are writing about. Please make sure that you flag to your editor if you have received any freebies from organisations or people you are writing about. The same goes for personal ties that you may have to anyone in your story.
It’s essential that you fact check your work before you file. Please go through your piece and mark everything in bold that needs to be checked: the spelling of locations/people’s names, dates, distances, numbers, and any other facts that don’t fall under these categories. When you’ve checked it is correct, please change from bold to normal type. Unfortunately we do not have a large enough team to fact check freelancers’ work for them, so this step is crucial. It can be very embarrassing for a piece to be published with the same mistake dotted throughout.
Note and records
The trust we have with readers is one of our most important assets and in order to preserve it, we need to be absolutely sure that what we are publishing has been properly reported and checked. In our editing process, we will sometimes ask a writer to send over their reporting notes, interview recordings or numbers for people they have spoken to. Please make sure that when you are reporting on stories for us, you make extensive contemporaneous notes and keep recordings for as many interviews as possible so that you can check quotes afterwards and have a record.
3. Our house style
If you have read lots of our stories, you will probably have picked up most of our house style, but to save lots of time in the editing process, please do read over this very brief list before you file.
Numbers 1-10 are written “one, two, three” etc. Numbers 11+ are written in digit form.
Dates are written like this: 6 September 1973.
Art exhibitions, book names, film names, TV show names are italicised.
Song names, short story names and poem names are put in quote marks. “Yesterday” by The Beatles.
Newspaper names do not need to be italicised, but the t should be capitalised in The when appearing mid-sentence. So: “Anna is a journalist who used to work for The Independent.”
Dashes should be em dashes (—), not hyphens (-) when used in place of brackets.
In general, we try to avoid capping up words that don’t need to be capped up, to avoid our stories looking like official reports produced by a council or think tank. So don’t cap up Council or Government or Mayor.
We never run consecutive paragraphs of quotes, nor do we run full blocks of quotes. As such, please break them up by paraphrasing and keeping the strongest (most colourful/emotional/funny/interesting) parts in quote marks.
After initially citing the full name, please use the person’s surname for all subsequent mentions. Please try not to overuse the name — revert to he/she/they wherever possible unless necessary to clarify who you’re talking about.
4. Invoicing for your work
Please follow the following simple steps to get paid for your work.
Create an invoice addressed that includes the following details:
The date you are submitting the invoice
Your name exactly as it appears on your bank account
Your postal address
Your bank account details (please double-check they are correct)
The name of the publication you worked for (The Mill, The Tribune, The Post etc)
The story headline or one sentence describing the article you wrote, with a link to the online version if possible
The fee we agreed for this work
The name of the editor who commissioned the work
Our address: The Millers Publishing Company Limited, 537 Manchester Royal Exchange Offices, Manchester, United Kingdom, M27DH
Send the invoice as a PDF attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wait for us to pay you. We aim to pay all invoices within 4 weeks of publication, often sooner. If you haven’t been paid after 4 weeks, please email email@example.com again. If you don’t get a response, it might mean your account is being blocked, so then please cc your commissioning editor on that (third) email.