Last week, we walked through the sad economic state of affairs in science journalism and the impact it has had on writers’ and editors’ ability to do our jobs.
It isn’t pretty. Freelance rates for science writing have not increased in the last three decades, and yet in 2014 it took $227.29 to purchase what cost $100 in 1984. And after examining your own year-end numbers for 2014, you might be in a post-holiday, pre-tax funk. But now, I’m offering some hope and empowerment for the New Year.
How can full-time freelance science writers—who, according to the most recent survey conducted by the National Association of Science Writers, comprise 22 percent of the organization’s members—pull our collective earnings out of the toilet?
The first step is getting some high-quality data on what science writers’ words are truly worth. Luckily, that’s already been partially tackled by the NASW Freelance Committee, which surveyed NASW members about their compensation in 2013. (Disclosure: I am co-chair of the committee and Siri Carpenter and Jeanne Erdmann, co-founders of The Open Notebook, are the previous co-chairs.)
The committee hired a scientifically trained surveyor, Gary Heebner of Cell Associates, to help design a survey that would return the kind of granular data many freelancers thirst for: What are the going rates for different types of science-writing assignments? We wanted breakdowns by the word, by the hour, and by gender.
The survey yielded responses from 618 currently employed NASW members, 55 percent of whom identified as freelance writers or editors and 42 percent of whom said they earned their income solely from freelancing. Two-thirds of the respondents had worked in science writing for 10 years or more. For each respondent, the survey only collected pay rate data about the top five types of assignments that made up the bulk of their income. In other words, pay rate numbers by and large came not from hobbyists or dabblers, but from journalists whose majority income flowed from freelance assignments…
Read the rest of this post, published today at The Open Notebook.