Posted 06 November 2018

The New-Starter Glossary: Get to know your office jargon from your tax terminology

So you’ve entered the world of working creatives...and there’s a whole lot to learn; from navigating the right internships and taxes, to understanding office jargon. We’ve all been that new-starter, discovering that a simple Google search raises even more questions, or feeling too embarrassed to ask a colleague to explain something yet again. So we’ve decided to create a glossary that might help in these situations. You’ll also find this glossary available as a Google Doc, as we are treating this list as a work in progress – so do let us know your suggestions and feedback!

Usually found in advertising, this is an abbreviation of associate creative director; but in some cases it might also be assistant to the creative director.

An abbreviation of art director, or in film this is more commonly used for assistant director.

Office jargon and abbreviation of ‘any other business’.

An official and regular review of how someone is getting on at work – including their targets, progress, responsibilities and fit within the team. This is often an annual occurrence, and is used as a way of measuring someone’s professional performance, and whether their salary is matching up to their output and level of seniority. An appraisal will often affect a promotion or increase in income, and is usually carried out by a worker’s line manager.

According to the government’s guide to apprenticeships by, “An apprenticeship is a genuine job and under all circumstances you should be employed from day one. Apprenticeships combine practical training in a job with study. As an apprentice, you’ll work alongside experienced staff, gain job-specific skills, earn a wage and get holiday pay, be given time for study related to your role (the equivalent of one day a week).”

Legal pay bands exist for apprenticeships, and are calculated according to age. For example, as of April 2018 in the UK, those aged 18 to 20 are required to be paid a minimum of £5.90, while those aged 25 and over can expect £7.83.

An asset (in a creative sense, rather than monetary) is an element produced for a project or campaign. This can include an image or photograph, text content, graphics, videos or audio files.

An abbreviation of ‘business as usual’. This might refer to day-to-day work, or repeat jobs undertaken by a team, as opposed to a one-off or special project.

An amount of money awarded to a worker in addition to their salary, as a gesture of good work, or to reflect a good financial year.

Casual worker
Freelance workers who aren’t part of the permanent staff, but will be known to a company and come int to work as a freelancer when their services are needed. See also: Freelancer, Contractor.

An abbreviation of creative director.

As in, “Come in for a chat.” When you’re starting out, it’s good to be prepared for when someone invites you into a company or studio for a chat, as in some cases these meetings are treated as very informal interviews – especially if you don’t know them well. It’s a good idea to take something to show, and prepare to be asked about your work and current working situation.

In plain terms, a contract is a signed agreement between two parties, setting out terms of work, usage or ownership. In terms of creative work, contracts will be made for positions undertaken with a company, including full-time, freelance and contracted work, or even for a one-off commission. It’s always advisable to read all contracts thoroughly and discuss or negotiate terms you are unhappy with, as they can range from fair and protective of workers, to damaging and exploitative.

If you are writing your own contract, it’s good to bear things like your IP rights and potential changes in mind. Here is some advice on that from 99U and Creative Bloq. And for employee contracts, this article from The Guardian lays out some good ground rules.

A freelancer or self-employed person. In terms of taxes, there is no difference between a contractor and a freelancer. Where they do differ, is that ‘contractor’ is usually used for freelancers who are hired to work for a longer, set period of a time at a company (see more on that here). For example, a contractor might come in for six month to complete a particular project. See also: Freelancer, Permalancer.

Copy refers to writing usually created to raise brand awareness with a persuasive tone. In contrast to journalistic or creative writing, copy produced by a copywriter might be snappier, with commercial gain and brand renown as the primary objective. A designer might also refer to ‘copy’ for any written content to be added to a design.

Core hours
The hours that workers or freelancers must be present at the company; for example, 10am to 5pm. See also: Flexitime.

A piece of work that a company delivers, usually as part of a client agreement. For example, “These are the key deliverables for the project.”

Direct report
If someone refers to their ‘direct report’, they are referring to the person they manage within a team.

Abbreviation of director of photography, also referred to as a cinematographer.

Dress code
The way a company expects its staff to dress. More often that not, creative companies will have a relaxed attitude to dress code, with very few occasions for formal attire.

A permanent member of staff at a company, working under an employment contract. Unlike someone who is, in legal and tax terms, classified as a ‘worker’ within a company, an employee has extra rights and responsibilities. Their rights include: sick pay, paid maternity or paternity leave, minimum notice periods if they leave, protection against being fired unfairly, the right to flexible working, time off for emergencies, and more. See the full details here.

Employment rights
Your employment rights will vary according to the agreement and contract you have signed with your employer. Some rights, for example for interns, have been shared in this glossary, but for detailed information, see the Citizens Advice website, which includes your rights on contracts, pay, hours and more.

Entry-level job/position
A job undertaken by someone as their first professional position within industry.

An abbreviation of ‘end of day’.

An abbreviation of ‘end of play’, which also means ‘end of day’.

If you spend money on items needed for work, these can be recompensated by a company as an expense, and are often tax-deductible.

Flexitime / Flexible working
A company might choose to have flexible working hours, which means an employee can decide their own hours, within reason, or according to agreement or ‘core hours’.

For example, if core hours (the times all in-house workers must be present) are 10am to 5pm, and a worker is required to work 8 hours a day with 1 hour for lunch, they might work 8am to 5pm. Employees of a company are entitled to make reasonable requests for flexible working. You can read more about that here.

Someone who works independently as a self-employed worker (or ‘sole trader’ by official, tax standards), rather than being employed as a permanent member of staff at a company. They could be working for multiple clients at one time, and might work from home or in-house at a company, sometimes for months at a time.

A freelancer will have a day rate, or project rate, that increases with experience and skills, and can vary from company to company, or by project and budget available. They will often be required to sign a contract when working for a company, but are entitled to few company benefits.

While companies might have set budgets for what they expect to pay freelancers, the freelancer themselves will be responsible for calculating and negotiating a rate they are happy with, and that pays enough to live on. You can read some advice on this from studio owner and designer Craig Oldham.

The General Data Protection Regulation is a legal regulation brought into effect in the UK in 2018. As a result, many companies updated a lot of the data they held about their customers, readers and clients. If companies do not comply with the new regulation, they can end up paying large fines for mishandling information. You can read more about it here.

Graduate position
Similar to ‘entry-level position’, but a role that is for recent graduates.

Graduate scheme
Unlike a graduate job, applicants for a graduate scheme will usually be involved in the application process for a graduate scheme ahead of graduating. Although these are less common in many parts of the creative industry, graduate schemes can be found in much larger companies – in big ad agencies, for example. They can also be an opportunity for graduates who studied in a different field to enter a new sector, and can include a rigorous and competitive interview process.

These schemes should be paid positions that can last for anything between one and three years. The programme itself will vary from business to business, but should involve training, hands-on work in a few areas of the company and mentoring.

This refers to a document or guide that an employee will send or create for someone replacing or filling in for, or taking over, them in their current position. It might take the form of a printed document, email or notes that contain instructions, information and guidance on how their job is done, a list of contacts and associated information.

HR (Human Resources)
A human resources department in a company will help with everything from recruiting and to updating policies, overseeing company culture and, in smaller companies, most of the day-to-day financial matters.

An introduction to a company, which will often include getting to know the location, company culture, facilities, health and safety and codes of conduct.

Informational interview
This is an informal conversation where someone who might be thinking of joining, or applying to, a company will ask a current employee questions about their role and the employer, as a way of gathering information.

Sometimes called a work placement or work experience, an internship is a chance to experience the work and working life of a company without being a permanent employee. It should be a rewarding period of learning, and if it is also beneficial to the company, it should be paid. Any future opportunities for the intern should be made clear, including whether it may lead to work on a more permanent basis.

One of the reasons why unpaid internships are still such a tricky grey area, is there is currently no legal status attached to internships, work placements and work experience. They can only be judged on legal terms when it is clear as to whether the intern is classified as a ‘worker’ (must be paid), volunteer (an unpaid position) or employee (must be paid) by the company. It is generally understood that if you provide work that benefits a company, you should be compensated at least the minimum wage. This means that simply receiving expenses, or less, is unacceptable. The exceptions to this are in the case of genuine volunteering positions and certain student internships. A student internships can be unpaid if it is endorsed by the university or college as being useful to their coursework.

Unpaid internships are widely regarded as an abuse of power and damaging to social mobility, and this is something that the government is now cracking down on. Earlier in 2018, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) wrote to more than 500 firms reminding them that interns classed as workers must be paid the minimum wage. Read more about that on The Guardian and the BBC.

If you’re unsure of what a beneficial and fair internship looks like, we recommend this article on It’s Nice That, in which Graduate Fog’s Tanya de Grunwald outlines these ‘Golden Rules’: An internship should be paid; an intern should be managed; an intern’s workload should be structured; an intern should be interviewed for the role.

Plus, see this article and for more on your legal rights.

IP / Intellectual Property
This refers to all creative ideas and products. You can get a full introduction to the associated terms and rights attached to intellectual property here.

Limited company
When you are self-employed, you can operate as ‘sole trader’ or ‘limited company’. This has to be set up with HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) to ensure that you pay the right amount of tax for your work. While setting up as a sole trader (operating as an individual) is generally understood to be the simpler option, becoming a limited company can be a better option once you are earning more money and are running as a business. You can read more information on setting up a limited company here; and set yourself up here.

Line manager
Basically a manager – this is the person an in-house employee will report to. The line manager will not always be a senior member of staff, especially if there are a few levels of seniority in a company, but they will always be more senior than the person they manage.

Living wage
See: National Living Wage.

Mentor / Mentorship
Think of a mentor as a professional friend who offers you advice and guidance. This could be someone whose work you admire, or working in an industry you are interested in. While mentorship schemes are available to help match you with a partner, you can also initiate this yourself on a more informal level, by simply emailing and asking.

A abbreviation of managing director.

Minimum wage
Having only taken effect in 1999, the Minimum Wage Act ensures that all employers must pay workers above a certain amount. As of April 2018, the lowest amount an employer can legally pay a worker over 25 years is £7.83 per hour – see all the current rates here.

However, you might also want to take into account the National Living Wage (an initiative set up by the Living Wage Foundation), which varies according to which UK city you live in. This is not a legal requirement, but voluntary on the part of an employer. You can also work out if you are earning the correct legal amount using’s calculator tool.

See also: National Living Wage.

National Living Wage
Created in 2016, the National Living Wage is the legal minimum a worker aged 25 or over must earn in the UK. This is reviewed each year, and is currently set at £7.83 an hour, and will increase to £8.21 an hour in April 2019.

The minimum wage is the minimum you can pay workers aged under 25, and the current rate is £7.38 per hour (rising to £7.70 in April 2018). This is lower for workers under the age of 18 and apprentices.

In addition, the Living Wage Foundation is a platform that is working towards fair payment according to a worker’s living costs. Their scheme suggests that, due to the high cost of living, workers in London should currently be earning £10.20 per hour, and those in the rest of the UK should be earning £9 per hour. Though it is voluntary and not a legal obligation, many businesses have signed up to the scheme (around 4,700 in October 2018). A good, ethical employer will pay this rate to workers aged over 25 where they can.

See also: Minimum Wage.

An abbreviation of ‘non-disclosure agreement’. This is a contract that is produced and signed by teams working on secretive or sensitive work for a brand, to ensure the information isn't shared outside of the job, or even with fellow colleagues.

An abbreviation of ‘out of office’. If someone says they will set ‘an out of office’ (or have received one), this will refer to the automated email sent out to let people know when someone is away. Usually this email will include the date of expected return, and contact information for a colleague, or their phone number, in case of urgent enquiries.

This is time worked as part of your job that runs outside of expected, and agreed, working hours. This doesn’t apply so much for freelancers, and payment for this time depends on the company’s policy. You can read your legal rights on overtime here.

This is the form you receive from your employer when you stop working for them. You usually need to present this to your next employer in order to start a new contract of work (read more here).

As an employee, you receive a form called a P60 at the end of each tax year from your employer (read more here).

Part-time work
This is contracted work that makes up less hours than a full-time position (usually less than 30 hours per week). Hours can be worked in shifts, which can vary from week to week. Read about the rights you have as a part-time worker here.

Pay bands
These are the levels of pay a company rewards its staff. These levels are separated in terms of seniority and experience, and can also be impacted by location – for example, in London income might be higher due to a higher cost of living.

As an example of these levels, a junior pay band could be £18,000 to £23,000; midweight £24,000 to 29,000; senior £30,000 to £35,000.

Pay review
A review of the income of a company’s staff, according to individual and overall performance of a workforce. A pay review will often take an individual worker’s achievements into account (usually as a result of an appraisal) and can result in a promotion or pay rise.

An abbreviation of ‘pay as you earn’. This is a tax term and applies to in-house, permanent employees at a company, whose taxes come out of their wages each month (i.e. are paid as they earn, with taxes handled by the employer). This is in contrast to freelancers, who need to claim their income to the tax office, file and pay their own taxes accordingly.

This is a company's list of its employees. If you are ‘on payroll’, you are within a group of permanent staff who are paid each month.

Performance review
See: Appraisal.

Permalancer / Permalance
Described in the Urban Dictionary as “A freelance position that turns into a full-time job without benefits,” permalancing is an unofficial term for people who freelance with a company on a more permanent basis. These freelancers remain self-employed, but are more committed and loyal to a company for an extended period of time, rather than days or weeks.

A company’s set of rules, set out according to law, and in line with their own cultural and ethical standards.

Pro-rata salary
A pro-rata salary is usually stated for a part-time job, where the salary has been calculated according to what the job would pay to a full-time worker. This means that where a pro-rata salary is stated, the worker will earn less, which can be worked out according to the days expected to work. For example, if the pro-rata salary is £30,000 (calculated for a 40-hour week), and you’ll be expected to work 20 hours a week, the actual salary will be £15,000.

Probation period
After a job offer is accepted by a new permanent member of staff (or worker) and a contract is signed, a probation period serves as a trial period. This is a set amount of time that the job is carried out, when both the employee and employer get to know each other and decide whether to continue with the working contract. This is usually between three and six months in the UK, and if someone ‘passes’ their probation, their position is then secured. If an employer has reason to, they are entitled to extend the probation period, to further identify whether someone is a good fit for the job.

Real Living Wage
See: National Living Wage.

The annual income for a job, or the calculation for what a freelancer earns in a year.

Salary expectations
When applying for a job, you may be asked for your salary expectations. In this case, it’s always advisable to do your research on similar roles, and ask around for advice from others who might have experienced a similar job, company or department.

Although we cannot guarantee its reliability, LinkedIn now has a new salary function, where you can compare what others are earning for similar positions. Another way to check, is by looking at similar job ads where salary is listed. It’s worth looking into tips on salary negotiation online, as much has been written on the topic – for example, it’s often said that you should ask for more than you expect to earn, in case the employer comes back with a lower offer.

Someone who works for themselves. See also: Freelancer, Sole Trader, Limited Company.

Most companies or studios will have various levels of seniority in a company, usually comprising junior, midweight (or middleweight), senior, director. This also goes for freelancers, who might refer to themselves a ‘senior creative’ once they have a certain number of years’ experience. The various seniority levels are equivalent to different levels of pay (see: Pay Bands).

The act of learning about someone’s role by observing them as they go about their day-to-day work. Shadowing is generally unpaid, and should therefore not involve any kind of structured work or attendance requirements that could be construed as a contract. You can read more about it here.

Sick leave / Sick pay
As an employee, if you have been sick for four days or more, you will no longer be paid in full for more days off, but you might be eligible for statutory Sick Pay (£92.05 per week). You can read more about it here.

Sole trader
A tax term used for a freelancer. When you work for yourself, you’ll be required to state what kind of freelancer you are to HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) so you pay the right amount of tax. Most freelancers operate as ‘sole trader’ (trading as an individual) or ‘limited company’ (trading as a company). Becoming a sole trader is generally understood to be the simpler option, requiring less steps to get started; but it’s also good to know that whichever option you choose, it isn’t final and can be amended. You can read information on setting yourself up here; and set yourself up here.

Stand-up / Stand-up meeting
An informal, often brief, meeting to update a team on a project’s process, new information, or to share what everyone is working on. As you might expect, this will usually see everyone standing up rather than sat in a meeting room, or at desks.

Student internship
Internships undertaken while still in higher education. While unpaid internships are often illegal and unethical, one exception is for when an intern is still a student. According to, “Students required to do an internship for less than one year as part of a UK-based further or higher education course aren’t entitled to the National Minimum Wage.”

Supported internship
This kind of internship has been created for young people aged 16 to 24 with special educational needs, in order to achieve sustainable employment, through learning in the workplace. Supported internships are generally unpaid, last a minimum of six months, but often support the young person to move into paid employment at the end of the programme. You can read more about it here.

Temp / Temporary worker
A term usually used for a freelance worker who is employed by a company through an agency for a set amount of time (this can range from days to months). This type of agency will often have a roster of companies and freelancers, and they will match them according to timings and skills needed. Also referred to as ‘temping’.

A form filled out by workers to record how much time was spent on each task in a working day or week. Often used by advertising or design agencies, this is a way to calculate how much work has been done for a client, to be able to charge accordingly. They can also be used by project managers to be able to estimate how long certain tasks will take, and plan with foresight.

An abbreviation of ‘time off in lieu’. TOIL is time taken off by a worker when they have worked equivalent overtime, and can be anything from a few hours to multiple days. This often has to be pre-arranged and signed off by a manager.

Unpaid internship
See: Internship.

To learn or teach further skills, as an employee or employer. This might help a worker gain a promotion or simply become more skilled within their current role.

Volunteering / Voluntary work
This is an unpaid position, and an employer is not obliged to issue an agreement or contract around the terms. Due to the fact that a volunteer doesn’t have legal status, and doesn’t require a contract, they will not necessarily receive training, or protection from a company.

That said, a voluntary experience can be a great opportunity to get insight into a company’s work, structure and team. ldeally, volunteering within a company would be limited to a short timeframe and include an agreement that states the expectations from both sides.

Work experience
While an internship or placement will generally involve real tasks that could benefit the company, work experience tends to rely more on shadowing, watching and learning. Work experience can vary greatly in length, with payment terms dependant on whether the employer decides to make that person a worker. Read more on this here and here.

Someone who works for a company under a contract (which actually doesn’t need to be a written one), but does not have the same rights as an employee.

Workers can include interns, both paid and unpaid, in that their work is to be rewarded either by money or benefits such as the promise of a contract for future work. While workers don’t have the rights and responsibilities of an employee, they are required to turn up for work – it is not simply a voluntary set-up. Read more about workers’ right on

Working from home
Exactly what it says on the tin! An in-house worker might arrange to work from home on a certain day of the week, which can crossover with flexitime. This can also apply for freelancers, according to arrangement with the employer.

Please note that many of these terms are UK-specific.

Illustration by Jiro Bevis