Results of the BAEF 1998 Freelance Rate Survey
September 22, 1998
Members of the Survey Committee-including Ken DellaPenta, David Featherstone, Heidi Garfield, and Heila Johnston-presented the results of the first Bay Area Editors' Forum Freelance Rate Survey. Ken, a freelance indexer, parsed the distinction between reporting and setting rates. "The survey's purpose is to report rates members currently charge. We do not say what to charge."
Heidi, a full-time staffer and part-time freelancer, saw conflicts. How could it be, she asked, that most respondents set their own rates yet most don't charge for rush jobs?
To Heila, a freelance editor, "The company categories held no big surprises. Rates are highest in corporate technical and computer areas. Rates are lowest in trade and academic publishing and substantially higher at technology publications."
David, a freelance editor and project manager, notices that a small number of BAEF members advertise successfully. Some find jobs through former employers and colleagues. The category includes "those who are laid off and hired back for less money."
Some find jobs through Editors' Forum e-mail job listings. Employers also find editors through the Editors' Forum directory, which features contact and other information about our members.
The survey reveals that part-time freelancers charge less for their services than full-timers, especially when relying on other income. Ken said, "Those who work more charge higher rates. Those who rely on other means of income tend to charge less for their editorial services."
"When we saw how many set our own rates, we remembered the first person in a negotiation who mentions a rate loses. If you always set your own rate, you may not be getting the best rate." Ken said freelancers should consider more carefully their net income: gross minus expenses. Some freelancers gross quite a bit, but their out-of-pocket expenses tend to offset take-home pay.
Other realities worth appreciating:
Sixty-nine of BAEF's 150 members responded to the survey, a 46 percent response rate.
A freelancer who had earned $20 an hour at a full-time staff job needs $30 or $34 an hour to compensate for the cessation in benefits. "A benefits package is worth 30-40 percent," David noted.
Freelance pay rates at newspapers and legal books are among the lowest, our members' revealed.
Those with more experience are paid more, although jumps in income occur more often in the early years.
The "good stuff" is listed on pages 7-11 in the survey booklet. The grids contain dollars per hour for many functions our members perform. A glance at the pay ranges provides a better idea where individual members fit within the range.
Copies of the survey will be mailed in the next two weeks to absent members. Nonmembers can obtain a copy by sending $5 to our box address.
A note from Jill Fox:
According to the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, "The Job Outlook" for editors and writers is good. By their measure there were 272,000 people employed in the field in 1994. By 2005, there will be 59,000 more of us, a change of 22 percent. "Employment is expected to increase faster than the average," says the report. "Employment will be by newspapers, periodicals, book publishers, nonprofit organizations, and advertising and public relations agencies." So nice to know we'll be wanted.