Thursday, May 18, 2006

The freelancer's life and earnings

The Professional Writers of Canada (PWAC) have released a major study they did of the earnings of freelance writers in this country and the results are bracing:
  • Real earnings for freelance writers in Canada shrank in the decade between 1995 and 2005. In 1995 respondents to the PWAC survey indicated that their average annual income before taxes was approximately $26,500. "A decade later, that figure has dropped to $24,035. Allowing for 10 year’s worth of inflation, the effective purchasing power of the average freelancer writer’s income has clearly dropped – and significantly." *
  • Membership in professional association such as PWAC apparently pays off; on average, PWAC members earned nearly $5,000 more than non-members in 2005. And the longer a writer is a member of PWAC, the higher their pre-tax income.
  • In 2005, the highest average rate per word was charged by writers living in British Columbia (99 cents) while the highest average rate per word charged in Quebec in 2005 was 81 cents per word, the lowest rate in the country. PWAC posits that this may be because Quebec hosts fewer national magazines, so most writers in this province tend to do more corporate and government work. Or fees in that province may be depressed by the low rates paid by Francophone publications, which have a smaller potential audience than English.

  • Women still earn a word rate lower than men, but the gap has narrowed steadily between 2002 and 2005. "However," says the study, "it appears that women are also willing to work for less than men. Although the average lowest rates per word earned by men and women have increased overall, the lowest rates are still consistently paid to women."
*[In fact, according to the Bank of Canada, that $24,035 in 2005 is the equivalent of $19,709, 10 years ago. Which means that, measured in constant 1995 dollars, the average freelancer lost almost 26% of his/her purchasing power over the past decade. That's not a significant drop; that's a catastrophe. [The magazine industry cannot avoid the implications this news has for fees; the quality of their publications depends on quality writing and, at some point the erosion of income will be such that the best and the brightest will leave the field. Some say this is already happening.]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think our whole industry must accept the blame for this shameful and shoddy state of affairs.
Our publications somehow find the money to pay for increased postage costs, higher rent and utilities, and heaven knows most of our staff (including editorial) manage to get raises every year.
And yet the freelancers, lacking unity and clout, have not received a raise in 15 years.
It would be interesting to plot the growth in ad rates that magazines have charged over the past 15 years against the growth in freelance rates.
We oppress you because we can.

4:06 pm  

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