Introducing Our Freelance Rates Database

By Jordan Teicher January 8th, 2015

When Contently Editor-in-Chief Joe Lazauskas and I discussed launching The Freelancer back in April, we kept coming back to the same idea: We wanted to create the publication we would’ve read religiously when we were freelancing full-time.

Putting that thought into action meant focusing our editorial efforts on a few areas—ideation, resources, accountability, and money. Eight months later, I’d say we have done a good job on the first three topics. But that last one has been the real challenge.

I always expected a struggle once we decided to try to make public how much different companies were paying for freelance work, but I didn’t realize exactly how much of a battle it would be. From the publisher side, very few people want to talk about how much they pay freelancers. The pubs that pay well are fearful of setting unrealistic expectations. The pubs that don’t pay a lot are worried about looking cheap.

Truth is, both of those concerns are overblown. You can scrape together basic information on rates if you know where to look. For example, Mediabistro keeps compensation information behind an affordable paywall, and Who Pays Writers offers valuable anecdotal data for free. But many freelancers, especially those who have only been active for a few years, may not know where to look.

After collecting responses since September, we’re ready to publish an extensive list of rates, which you can always access via the navigation bar at the top of the homepage. The Google form we used to collect the original data will remain active, and we encourage all of our readers to continue anonymously contributing this valuable information as we build out the list.

In terms of the big picture, we received over 500 entries from freelancers in just about every creative field you can think of. Based on the results of the survey, the median flat rate for a freelance writing gig ranges between $176 and $200, while the median per-word rate stands somewhere between 76 cents and $1.00. The contrast between flat and per-word rates is to be expected. There were three times as many entries for flat rates as there were for per-word rates, which is unsurprising considering most digital outlets work with flat rates compared to print publications that traditionally run by the word, have a more limited number of bylines and space, and are much more expensive to produce.

On the visual front, designers who responded to our rate query seem to deal in the range of $50 per hour. Photographers were a bit more scattered: Some provided personal rates that we won’t include in the database—since they’re not client specific—but the data was still helpful painting a broad stroke about the going rate for photography, which breaks down to between $100 and $200 per hour.

Overall, a majority of our responses came from writers, but we still received a healthy number of replies from photographers, designers, and other visual artists. Compensation certainly varies depending on factors like experience, scope, and familiarity. If specific publishers or companies want to provide their own pay rates, they are more than welcome to fill out the Google form with a note or email rates@contently.com.

An enormous thanks goes out to everyone who participated. We hope the results give freelancers of all levels an honest snapshot of the going rate for their labor in 2015. Click here to check out our Rates Database.

Image by i.j.
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