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The State of Freelance Writing 2014 [Infographic]

Avatar of Kerry Jones

Online content has changed a lot in the last 10 years. While it has changed for the better, writers and marketers are still at odds with one another when it comes to compensation and quality.

Marketers are demanding higher quality but most still want to pay the low rates they became accustomed to during the early days of online writing. Writers are demanding better rates yet many struggle to shed the bad habits they adopted from writing low quality, high volume SEO content. The result is a confusing — and at times frustrating — online writers’ market.

So we surveyed 247 writers from around the web (both from within and outside of our Community) with the hope that our findings could help writers and marketers alike better understand why the market is where it is, where things are heading, and how the two sides can meet in the middle to reap the benefits of producing high quality online content.

We uncovered some interesting insights regarding the State of Freelance Writing, and now we are ready to share the story with you via the full State of Freelance Writing White Paper and Infographic.

The past decade has taken freelance writing on a wild ride. The decline of print, the introduction of online writing, and the fluctuating value of words has led marketers, publishers, and writers to a new, lawless market you could almost compare to the Wild West.

It’s a place where polarized views on the quality, cost, and value of writing have made setting appropriate expectations on writer rates and content quality a complete free-for-all. It’s a place where both sides of the market are confused, sometimes frustrated, and unsure of how to meet in the middle. It’s a place stuck somewhere between the old and new world of writing.

Now it’s time to put the pieces back together, look at how we got here, and decide where we need to go so we can bring order back to the complicated and wild writers’ market.

                 — Except from The Current State of Freelance Writing

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Our survey data shows that making a stable, lucrative income from freelance writing today is rare, but the story shows that the future of freelance writing isn’t as bleak as it sounds.

There’s growing potential for both writers and marketers to benefit from the shifting online content landscape, thanks in part to search engine and human intervention.

Through algorithm changes and penalties, Google has forcefully eliminated many of the unsavory practices and bad habits of both writers and marketers. Furthermore, the prevalence of social platforms has empowered online audiences to decide which content deserves recognition.

Now high-quality content that truly informs and engages is rising to the top while the keyword-stuffed SEO dribble of yesterday’s Internet is no longer rewarded. It’s all creating an interesting and promising State of Freelance Writing.

Get Your Free Copy of The Current State of Freelance Writing 2014

If you are Community member, you can grab your free copy now. If you are not a Community member, register to get your free copy along with access to all of our other blogging guides and resources. Registered members also get access to our user directory, job board, and free certifications/training programs.

Avatar of Kerry Jones About Kerry Jones

Kerry helps awesome new people find and join CopyPress Community. She's been writing on the Internet since before it was cool. You can connect with her on Community, Twitter and Google+.

Comments

  1. Thank you

  2. I’m not sure which 270-some writers these were, but making a living as a freelancer is certainly not rare, or the sector wouldn’t be huge and growing. But if most respondents are brand-new or wannabe writers, I would expect this sort of result.

    I’d say this is a pretty small sample to draw any big conclusions from.

    • I agree with you; there are certainly many people out there making full-time, fulfilling salaries freelance writing. The paper is in no way meant to show that making a full-time living in writing is impossible or improbable. In fact, it is meant to show the opposite.

      While our sample size wasn’t substantial, it was interesting that the findings didn’t change much from the sample we had at 100 and the sample we had at 250. I’m looking forward to getting a large sample next year, and seeing what that data shows then.

      • I think your survey is very indicative of the current state of affairs for many freelance writers. For so long, quantity over quality was the norm. There were so many writers willing to write for a few cents per word and many customers weren’t concerned with the quality of writing. Fortunately, that is slowly changing. The top writers are demanding higher pay and the quality companies are realizing it is to their benefit to pay more for original high quality material. Freelance writing is not an easy way to make a financially lucrative living, but I do believe the opportunities are becoming more and more abundant for talented writers.

  3. Now this was an eye-opening post. Nice to see it all laid out like that. I’m just getting started with a blog of advice and tips for freelance writers, so I’ll be sure to share this with my followers.

    I agree that it’s important to balance reality with optimism. We all have to be just a bit crazy to take that initial step and work for ourselves instead of depending on benefits, a steady salary, etc.. You can definitely build a successful career in this industry, but it’s going to take time and it sure won’t be easy.

    • I totally agree. Getting started with freelance writing, particularly online freelance writing, is a little crazy because the market is so varied. But when writers put in the right amount of work and passion, they will be rewarded with higher rates and better careers.

      I’m excited to hear you are planning to promote on your site. If you need any more information about this, please feel free to reach out to me directly. Rperilli[at]copypress.com. Thanks!

  4. Thank you for this.

    I’m shocked to see the results in that infographic, and I’m a freelance writer myself. I had to really struggle to find myself in that statistic.

    The hourly rates and lack of knowledge of Google Authorship is boggling. I am not sure who these freelancers are but clearly they are not the ones I know.

    No byline at all? No idea how to publish a link? I think in this age, a writer’s job is not only to write but also to be tech-savvy. I take a lot of clients who eventually also hire me for a number of things like social media, WordPress updates and customisation and so on, and I love it.

    To be their go-to person, this know-how is necessary. It also saddens me that a majority are paid $10-$17 an hour.

    Pooja

    • Thanks for the comment Pooja. It was interesting that the data pointed out that too many freelance writers are focusing too much on just writing words and not enough on marketing themselves. I hope when we do the State of Freelance Writing 2015, we find way more writers doing more and making way more.

      I’m happy to hear your freelance writing business is treating you well. If you ever want to share some secrets with CopyPress readers, let me know if you want to contribute a post with some good tips.

  5. I am quite flummoxed by the results of this poll – it indicates that I am somehow both lucky and a minority. As a first-year freelancer, I can’t imaging that this is the case.

    Just curious – you mention “we surveyed 247 writers from around the web.” I am assuming that the data you’ve collected is not contained to any particular country. This can dramatically skew pay rate and satisfaction results between writers living and working in locations with dramatically different costs of living and pay standards.

    For example, my answers about pay and satisfaction would probably vary wildly depending on if I was currently based in Seattle, Chiang Mai, Honolulu, or Manila. Do you have any details on the considerations taken regarding writer geography?

    • Hi Loraine, thanks for adding to the discussion. Of the surveyed writers, 82% reported to be U.S. citizens and 93% speak English as a first language. We encourage you to download the white paper to see the full results, which goes into greater detail regarding the demographics of the survey respondents.

  6. I can’t really say it’s an inaccurate survey, nor that it really will help a new freelance writer to figure out the market. I’m in the top 3% income-wise, with around $80k last year from freelance writing. I do appreciate the effort and the published results.

    In reading posts in writing communities, I am inclined to think that too many are using the market and clients as an excuse for their own inabilities in defining their goals, setting up a business plan, and sticking to it. If more did that, there would be less need for faux unionization talk about trying to “get rates up.” When businesses find they can’t get quality writing at the prices they’re willing to pay, they’ll pay more. Supply and demand will always rule.

    I may be in a small minority, in that I’ve developed a niche as a ghost writer in the real estate and investing businesses. I am quite happy with $0.10 to $0.12 per word rates on most of what I write, as I am currently working on three books at those rates. I don’t know why a byline is that crucial, as I got a new ghost writing client today for a book via referral. My name isn’t that widely known as a writer, but I’m quite happy with my income for the generally half days that I work.

    Maybe it’s the nature of freelancers to over-analyze their situations, but I was in several businesses before I ever wrote a word for money. I’ve found that basic business sense prevails in freelance writing just as well as it does in doughnut shops. Perhaps we need to produce more data and information about creating a niche and becoming an expert in that niche. I’ve done that, which means my writing is a bit boring, the same stuff over and over for different people. However, that makes my writing faster, so I make a lot more money for less work.

    That brings me to the “hourly rate” thing. I NEVER work by the hour. I ALWAYS work by the word. On some projects I would compute my hourly rate to be well over $100, while on others it probably approaches $40. However, when you quote and work by the hour, you’re evaluated and paid that way. When you charge for your product, you will do much better. You don’t pay for Cheerios based on the cost per hour to produce the product.

    • Hi James, thanks for the comment and congrats on your successful freelance writing career!

      My favorite part of your comment is, “Perhaps we need to produce more data and information about creating a niche and becoming an expert in that niche.”

      I couldn’t agree more. Part of my long term plan at CopyPress is to create materials that show writers the value in finding a niche, and becoming an expert in that niche. Being a writer is being a talented wordsmith AND having something interesting and valuable to say. And becoming an authority in a niche market is how you get that second part of the equation (and higher paying assignments).

  7. I have to admit, as someone who is just starting to get her toes wet in the freelance world, this seems rather disheartening. I certainly had no dreams of making 6 figures, but I guess I was hoping I could pull in something in the $20,000 to $30,000 range. I realize I still have a lot to learn though, so perhaps with more hard work I can be part of that 5%.

    • HI Kristen, thanks for the comment. Please don’t be disheartened by the stats! This is by no means saying this is what freelance writers should expect or deserve to make. If you read the white paper you will see how these numbers came to be the norm for many writers and how there is a way out of this lower end market. You can absolutely be a successful freelance writing with hard work, dedication and the right training! There are many resources (CopyPress Community, Be a Freelance Blogger, Copyblogger) out there to help you accomplish your goal. Go for it!

  8. In order to answer some of the questions and feedback about the infographic, CopyPress has published a follow up post. You can find it here: http://community.copypress.com/what-reactions-about-our-infographic-say-about-the-real-state-of-freelance-writing/

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