By CHRIS ROUSH ,SABEW research director
Nearly two-thirds of freelance business journalists who responded to an informal online poll said that their compensation has risen in the past 12 months.
That’s up from a year ago, when it was nearly half of the freelancers surveyed stating that they had seen a compensation increase, according to the survey conducted by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.
“After five years in business, I think I’ve figured out the right mix of clients to allow me to do the projects I love and maintain a steady income,” said one freelancer surveyed. “I’ve weeded out some unprofitable clients and focused more on those who appreciate my work and have the ability to pay me a fair rate — on time.”
Other freelancers said they raised rates, found additional clients, or received more work from existing clients in the past year.
The survey received 45 responses during the past two months and examines the conditions of working as a freelance business journalist. SABEW, which is headquartered at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, conducts the survey annually.
“These results clearly show that freelance business journalists are in more demand now than ever before,” said Jill Jorden Spitz, president of SABEW and assistant managing editor at the Arizona Daily Star. “More business publications are using freelancers to fill the increasing need for content.”
More than half of the freelance business journalists who responded have been working for themselves for more than 10 years, and five of them, or 11.1 percent, report making more than $100,000 annually. Nearly 90 percent of them worked full time before becoming a freelancer.
The survey found that the average freelance business journalist made between $30,000 and $35,000, in line with the survey’s results from 2011. While ten said they made less than $20,000 a year, another 11 said they made more than $60,000. Three-fourths said they make less than when they were a journalist working for a media organization.
Of those who stated they make more freelancing than working for a media organization on a full-time basis, sixty percent said that they are making more than 50 percent more.
For some freelancers, being out on your own presents problems. One respondent expressed the need to know basic business operations. “I still have no idea how to calculate the quarterly estimated taxes since this is my first year as a freelancer,” said the freelancer.
Another freelancer wanted help in learning how to syndicate a regular column. Others needed help in finding health insurance and libel insurance.
The typical freelance business journalist received 75 cents to $1 per word if they are paid per word, according to the survey. If they are paid per hour, the typical business journalist receives $50 or more per hour.
Those paid by assignment typically receive between $250 and $500 per assignment, unchanged from last year.
More than three out of every four business journalists said they would not return to full-time work at a media organization, citing their flexible work schedule (54.5 percent), working for multiple organizations (18.2 percent), and working from home (15.2 percent) as reasons.
Freelance business journalists were asked to respond to a confidential, online survey that asked for their geographic location, their compensation, the type of media outlet where they worked, and length of time in their current job and in business journalist.
The 2011 freelance survey results can be seen here.
(Chris Roush, who teaches business journalism at the University of North Carolina, is SABEW’s research director.)
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