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2015 Freelance Writing Stats – What Do They Mean To You?

2015 freelance writing statsContently sent over some 2015 freelance writing stats.

I’m really in Samuel Clement’s (Mark Twain) camp. He is reputed to have said “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”

It’s so easy to see something that says, as the Contently article does, that “The median income for all respondents is $10,001–$20,000,” and decide there’s no hope of earning a real living with freelance writing, even though the author, Jordan Teicher, aso reports that “five percent who earned six figures.”

That five figure statistic is drawn from all freelancers – look a bit deeper and you’ll find that 7.7% of full time freelancers make that magic six figure or more number. And it turns out the survey is based some 643 Contently readers who responded between May 28 to June 10.

Fun to compare

Which isn’t to say the survey is worthless or the article uninteresting. I mean who doesn’t love to compare themselves to others for good or ill?

Based on the poll, most freelancers, including writers, work fewer hours than the 47 hours recent studies show for people who have full time jobs. I always want to know exactly what was asked… if they asked about time actually spent writing, then yes, it’s going to be significantly fewer hours than in a regular job. If they asked people to count the hours they spend doing work that supports their writing, like marketing, bookkeeping, creating and maintaining a website, then I doubt it.

I find the entry about how many freelance gigs are completed in a week totally worthless. For example, I ghostwrite books and have never had one take less than six months to do. I also contract with one company for eight blogs a month – does that count for 8 completions or only one? Every writer I know is writing and getting paid for something different. Some jobs get completed in an hour!

But I’m nitpicking – or maybe not. Putting together decent survey questions is both an art and a science. Google writing good survey questions and you’ll find more information than you can possible use, much of it in conflict with other entries in the same class or category.


One thing that really puzzled me was Teicher’s statement that unions for freelancers are illegal. After all, we have the National Writers Union, the Freelancer’s Union and the Author’s Guild. Then I realized he was probably talking about a more typical union’s ability to bargain collectively with employers. These groups don’t do that, and maybe they can’t, but I do know they’ve gone to bat for writers legally with issues like rights, and they offer benefit packages that can help replace full time employee benefit packages, and in many cases these days, exceed them in terms of real value.

My suggestion is…

My suggestion is you read his article or at least scan it until you find the stat that most interests you. Keep in mind, however, that this is a tiny sample and even if they had managed to survey even half the freelance writers in this country, each one of us truly is different in many ways. We don’t need to use stats to do anything but mildly inform us. We are not locked in, or locked out in any way by statistics. They may be interesting, I doubt they are helpful.

What’s your take on stats like these?

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