The 2009 Wordsworth Salary Survey

Back in 2005, we ran a survey to find out a bit about who we are, how we started in the writing business and what we earned. Now we’ve done the follow up. (We honestly hadn’t realised it was that long ago!)

A small note on statistical validity

In this survey, some people asked us why we hadn’t asked a question specifically about life in a recession. It’s a stats thing; we didn’t ask it last time and we want to be able to make direct comparisons with 2005 and future Wordsworths. We have around 260 members and about 25% replied each time. We’d have loved a complete census (100% of us), but the best we can do is to extrapolate from the data we’ve collected.

Here are some of the interesting bits, and we’ll have a presentation of the results – and a heated debate – soon. Please email if you’ve got something you’d like to say. Or go here to fill it in and make it even more statistically valid.

The headlines
61 people filled in our survey, compared with 64 four years ago.
92% earn their living writing full time or over half their time (87% in 2005).
74% said that all their income comes from writing (66% in 2005).
Of course, that doesn’t tell us that the writing world has changed, just that our membership is probably made up of a slightly higher proportion of writers than it was.

What else do we do for a living
lots of consultancy, strategy and management (and just the one yoga teacher).
account management, more web design, project management, office admin, training, coaching, facilitating, branding, design, a bit of consultancy and yoga (that’s still me, of course).

69% were self-employed, 28% had a proper job.
53% are self employed, 39% in full time employment.

On anecdotal evidence from members, it looks as if a bunch of people who were trying their luck as freelances have jumped at the chance of full time work, but it might just be that our membership has changed. We need to investigate the stats a bit more carefully.

Spare work?
40% of us subcontracted to other writers


Still 40% but the percentage of people who subcontract regularly has fallen from 21% to 6%, so it looks as if the people who get work are hanging on to it.

Our earnings

Highest – £100-200K (We did ask for the previous year’s taxable income; I hope that whoever you are, you’ve now got a better book-keeper.)
Lowest – 32p (That wasn’t very helpful, was it?), or £12K, freelance just setting up.
Average: £43,000

Highest – £100K
Lowest – £18K (although slightly bemused by someone who wrote N/A: must have won the lottery.)
Average £45,000

The going rate
Calculated on the mean of all the figures given by freelancers for their day rates.
Then: £424 a day.
Now: £420 a day

So there you have it; over the last four years our rates have gone down by 1%.

Except what’s really happened is that the spread has narrowed so there are fewer people saying they earn more than £750, and only one no-one saying they earn less than £200 sometimes. Hoorah!

I’ll also have a look at the mode and the median and the standard deviation and all the other interesting stats stuff that amuse data nerds like me. I’ll get back to you.
It looks as if we really are working towards a decent “going rate” for a bit of decent writing.

Some of the interesting extra bits at the end:

“Chasing up invoices is the bane of my life. Very few companies pay within the month. Many, if left to their own devices, would leave all invoices to decompose in their in-trays.”

“also writing a novel in my spare time about pr agencies, research science and big business – maybe we could see who else is writing a novel on the side …”

“I like posters.”

And an excellent piece of advice (thanks to the anonymous writer):

“There seems to be a going rate for certain types of work, so writers shouldn’t be afraid to quote it and stick to it. Almost never has a client queried my rate. I never give fixed budgets or costs by word length (it can be far more difficult, time consuming and valuable to the client to write five words than edit 1,000!). I always estimate for the job by time, and never give a fixed budget – but I specify very carefully what the time covers including meetings etc, so that when clients want extra things or muck about with extra proofs etc I can charge for them. I always include contingency so that I can go over without busting the budget a client has had approved, and if I don’t use the time, I don’t charge for it (they particularly appreciate that!). I always advise clients before doing additional work outside the original estimate, and I have never had an invoice queried. Works for me!”

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