How Freelance Writers Stack Up: New Research

You know what?
Perspective is a good thing.
Sometimes it’s interesting/important to know how the work you’re doing compares with your fellow writers.
So I wanted to share some new and new-ish data that sheds some light on the freelance writing world.
Work Types & Production
First, let’s check out the recently released data from my pal Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media. His team just wrapped up a survey of 1,000+ freelance writers.
Major findings:

  • The average blog post takes about three hours to write.
  • Almost half of all writers edit their own work rather than using a formal or informal external editing process.
  • The average blog post is about 1,000 words.
  • Posts that are 2,000+ words see the best results (when they’re high quality.)
  • Only 15% of writers are incorporating video, but more than 75% use images.
  • Most writers are only publishing weekly—down from the more frequent 2-6 posts per week in 2015.

If you’re intrigued, you can read the full report here.
Overall, this data shows that freelance writers (and content teams, for that matter) are publishing less frequently—and rather than churning out short-form posts, they’re shifting now into longer, more in-depth posts that take a bit longer to produce.
But what about average rates? That’s another arena we’re always curious about, right?
Average Rates for Freelance Writers
Rates depend on skill level, project scope, and a lot of different factors. But for the sake of perspective, let’s look at some averages.
Data from Venngage shows that at the high end of the spectrum, writers were charging up to $2 per word. However, the average freelancer makes about $.30 per word.
The math on that: a 500 word post = $150, or a 1,000 word post = $300.     
Not bad, but it’s going to take a lot of writing to pay the bills on that pay scale.
What really shocked me, however, was that 72% of writers were making less than that average. The data showed that the majority of writers make about $.17 per word. That’s $170 for a 1,000-word post.
Think about the time and research that goes into a 1,000-word post. We know that the average post takes about three hours to write, so that’s about $57 per hour. That sounds like a baller rate, right?
Sure—but you’ve got to have a wide open calendar and a lot of work coming your way for that to be a livable wage (if freelance writing is your full-time gig.) If you’re only getting three to five 1,000-word assignments per month, the average writer is only making $680 per month. This is far below the poverty line, in fact.
So what can you do with this data?

  1. Raise your rates. Charge more per word for your services. Think about the ROI of the content you’re creating—it’s helping businesses get new customers, drive sales, and generally make more money. That’s a value proposition for you.
  2. Increase your efficiency without sacrificing quality. I wrote about my process for that if you’re interested.
  3. Increase your pipeline for new, relevant work. Make friends with fellow freelancers. Reach out to ideal clients on Twitter. Participate where your ideal customers are spending time.

If you can tackle these three things, you’ll be starting down the path to a more sustainable writing business.

P.S. If you're interested in another read, I just published a new post over on Copyhackers about how I find my ideal clients!

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