What are your words worth?

In Autumn 2012, we ran the latest edition of our Wordsworth survey, where we asked 26 members to talk about money. Here Sarah McCartney reveals what you said about day rates, how business is going and how you feel about the future. Warning: contains maths…

We run our Wordsworth survey to find out what our words are worth. We’d all love to find out what others are being paid, but you can’t just walk up and ask, can you? So we used Market Research Society rules; all the responses are anonymous and we combine them to get a general view of our world. We had 57 answers, which gives us a good general picture.

A note about averages for people who don’t do much maths but would like to know the difference.

I calculated the mean, mode and median of our day rates because it gives a better view. When non mathematicians talk about ‘the average’ they generally mean the mean. That’s the one where you add each answer up then divide by the number of answers. For example, if you want to find the mean height of ten people you add up their heights and divide by ten.

But if you’ve got one person who’s seven feet tall and the others are all five feet tall, the answer will be five feet two and a bit inches, and it’s obvious that one unusual person has skewed the results.

To get the mode, you look at the most popular figure, the one that turns up most regularly. This would be five feet exactly.

To get the median, you’d line them up in order of height and pick the one in the middle. So we’d look at numbers five and six; they’re both five feet tall so the median is also five feet.

With all three answers (and the standard deviation which we don’t do this time) you get a clearer picture of what’s really happening.

So when you see our mean, mode and median, it’ll be clearer where you fit.

The mean is much higher than the mode and the median because a small group of people earn a very high sum, bless ‘em, and the rest of us are somewhere around £350 ish.

Our average day rate

Mean: £423.33 (influenced by a small number of very high day rates)

Mode: £300 (the rate mentioned most)

Median: £350 (the one right slap bang in the middle of the range)

High: £1,200

Low: £100 (not in the UK)

Are day rates relevant?

We might need a discussion about this one. 26er Mike Reed has written a blog post about day rates and how he’s not going to quote them to clients any more.

Read it, because it’s good.

This topic came up. Day rates are great for film crew who have to be somewhere for a day, then go home. They’re great for when we’re running workshops. But perhaps they aren’t so good for copywriting. How much work can you do in a day? That’s always the client’s worry.

In practice, how many of us quote per project, not by day? We didn’t answer that one, but it popped up as something we need to look at more closely.

Has your day rate gone up or down since the recession started?

76% said that their day rate is the same or down since the recession.

24% said it’s up a bit, or lots.

So a quarter of us have been fortunate, and courageous enough to stick to our guns. Who knows, maybe the 24% are the best writers, but they give us hope.

Are people who hire freelancers able to negotiate rates more easily?

Hiring: 27% of people who hire say they pay the same as they always did.

No one said that they pay more now. The other 73% said they pay the same or less.

The mean was £316 per day for hiring writers.

How much work is out there?

62% of us are working the same number of days or fewer.

You could look at it another way and say that 70% are working the same or more.

(Do you see what I did there? I counted ‘the same’ twice, which is how you mess up people’s head with statistics.)

30% of us are working less.

38% of us are working more.

How does the future look, workwise?

36% of us said that the future looks good or fantastic.

26% think it’s OK.

38% think it’s worrying.

No one ticked ‘terrifying’, which is a good sign.


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