New Publishing Tech
5 mins read

Q&A: Paydesk, the freelance marketplace for publishers

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Paydesk is a marketplace where publishers, broadcasters, and editors find, book, hire and pay fully insured media newsgathering professionals around the world. A key USP is that it also ensures freelancers are fully paid up for the work they have been commissioned for. WNIP caught up with Henry Peirse, the founder and CEO of Paydesk, to find out more…

Can you give us some background about your company?

Paydesk was founded by myself, a former freelance journalist, in October 2014. We now work with some of the world’s largest publishers of news from the BBC, Reuters, Euronews, CBS, Voice of America, Vanity Fair, The Independent, etc, to ensure freelance journalists don’t have to worry about chasing for payment for their work.

More than this, Paydesk shaves hours of time off workloads and keeps freelancers fully paid up for the work they have done. This is a vital service for a profession which people can often find themselves struggling financially. Since we founded, Paydesk has helped improve the lives of over six thousand freelance journalists.

What business problem is your company addressing?

Freelancers in the publishing space should expect to be paid for their work as soon as it is filed, wherever they are in the world. It’s no longer OK or acceptable to measure payment times in months as some publications do. This is a problem that has been around for years and is only set to get worse as publication budgets get stretched further.

At the same time, finding freelances quickly and easily who have the right skills for the job is a continual problem for publications commissioning work. It can be hard to track who has what skills as freelancers quickly change career path and develop their talents in multiple fields. With freelancers traveling more than ever – it has also become increasingly difficult to guarantee where a freelancer will be at any given point. The need for skilled, on-location work can spring up unexpectedly as and when news stories break. Being unable to locate talent in time can mean a news site or channel missing out on coverage which is relevant to their viewership.

What is your core product addressing this problem?

Paydesk’s core product is its app and web platform. To do away with the time-wasting frustrating nature of booking freelancers, Paydesk straight away gives you access to a map of the 6,000 freelances known to Paydesk, where they are based, what languages they speak and what skills each can offer.

Meanwhile, freelances can wait months for payment. Paydesk speedily pushes through payment behind the scenes by working with a number of challenger banks. For both parties, days of work just turned into a matter of minutes.

Can you give some examples of publishers successfully using your solution?

Sonya Laurence Green is Chief of Voice of America’s English to Africa Service. Talking about her job before Paydesk, she said: Commissioning was complicated due to Voice of America contracting rules stipulating the use of separate contracts for each freelance reporter, along with a “guesstimate” of how many stories each of them might write during any fiscal quarter. VOA rules also required Green to prepare each quarterly budget in advance, no matter what expenditures any breaking news​ might call for.

After learning about Paydesk, Green convinced management at VOA to let her do a “trial year” to test the service. Paydesk quickly became a vital resource for Green in identifying and assessing freelance reporters all across Africa and the world. “We no longer have to spend time trying to identify and cultivate reporters far away. This is a major benefit of working with Paydesk.”

Green’s trial year with Paydesk was a resounding success. Paydesk’s online platform saved her, and her team of producers and editors, several dozen hours of administrative work. Upon witnessing the time and cost savings that Paydesk provided Green’s team, other VOA language services soon began enlisting Paydesk’s services. Please see the full case study here:


Paydesk is completely free for the freelancers who use it, while the brands and work commissioners looking for talent pay a variable 10-25% commission fee on each batch of jobs being arranged. But it’s important to note that what the brand or publisher offers the freelance, that’s what they receive. Fees go on top for the commissioning party.

What are other people doing in the space and why?

There are many businesses offering services to freelancers, and job boards certainly aren’t new. But these are often just services addressing one part of a freelancer’s cycle of work from commissioning to payment. These services are also passive, just passing information from one party to another.

Paydesk is completely unique in its approach. We manage the entire process from talent acquisition to payment, all on one platform. We also work extremely hard to actively keep projects moving, matching jobs with the right freelancers and then paying those freelancers as quickly as we can. Nobody pays as quickly as we do or puts as much effort into supporting everyone involved in a project.

How do you view the future?

The future for Paydesk (and publishers) is opening things up to an even wider variety of freelancers and talents. Publications are functioning in increasingly creative and diverse ways, putting out content through a huge variety of mediums. The world has moved far beyond just written articles published online.

Publishing in today’s world can mean on-location podcasts, image essays, interactive experiences, or live television broadcasts. I could go on forever and the future options are limitless. Making Paydesk available to the content creators of the future from drone pilots and audio package experts to multi-talented fixers who can handle whatever is thrown at them is essential to future-proofing Paydesk and the creative industries going forward.

Part of this means connecting with an even broader range of people and talent. Those who might not think of themselves as self-publishers, writers or anything traditionally associated with publications.

With the rise of self-publishing from YouTube to Amazon Kindle, there’s a huge untapped market of talented people out there. These are people excited to produce content but maybe unaware there’s opportunities out there for them to put their skills into use with some of their most-loved brands.

Anything else we should know?

I should maybe add some context to why I started Paydesk. I was previously a freelance journalist myself, reporting for the United Nations from the conflict zone of former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It was well over a decade later, after having built a bespoke network of freelancers, that it became clear the value-add is to remove the labyrinthine financial departments at publishers and organisations from the freelance equation.

This realisation was the catalyst for Paydesk. As budgets are stretched, the calculation the freelance must make is why should I have to wait and chase for months when I filed my piece a long time ago? The quality of my work is being undermined by having to struggle to make ends meet in the meantime. Paydesk fixes this.

The experience Morgan Sowden, my co-founder and I bring to the Paydesk business comes both from technology and marketplaces, it’s a good combination. We saw the future and built it. Everybody needs to be paid and quickly.

Thank you.