Freelancing

Survey Says? 735 Copywriters Share How Much Money They Earn

… and the results may surprise you. 🙂

But before we get to the results, a little context is needed.

On October 30, 2014, we launched the Copy Hackers Copywriting Survey (using our fave survey product, Typeform) and collected responses until January 16, 2015.

No monetary (or equivalent) incentive was offered for people to complete the survey.

So why, when the survey closed in January 2015, has it taken us 22 months for us to share the data?

Let’s just say we had some data analysis issues.

We hired 2 people to help us pull the data together… and twice we ended up with a mess.

As a result, we put the survey on a shelf for a later date.

Until now…

Freelance Copywriter Month here on Copy Hackers has given us the motivation to clean up the survey analysis and get the results in front of you. We’ve had them analyzed, reviewed, turned inside out. Even though the results are late in coming, they are incredibly telling – and hopefully very useful to you, Dear Copywriters.

We had a 40% completion rate and the average time to complete the survey was 7 minutes 26 seconds.

People who responded to open-ended questions with nonsense were removed from the dataset. (Luckily we didn’t see too much of this behavior, probably due to the length of the survey.)

And one more thing to note…

The numbering system I’ve used in this post does NOT represent the order of questions in the survey. The numbers are here for you to more easily reference the charts, should you wish to comment on them at the end of the post. We hope you will! (And don’t forget to take the 2016 freelance copywriter survey.)

The Story about Copywriter Salaries

When it comes to what in-house and freelance copywriters make, what’s the story? Are you charging what others are? Should you switch from freelancing to in-house copywriting or vice versa? Here’s the summary of what we found…

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway is the difference in average annual income between freelance copywriters and in-house copywriters. The majority of freelancers and in-house copywriters make less than $50,000 a year on average, and a small percentage of them (10%) make more than $100,000. But while nearly 40% of in-house copywriters earn “middle ground” income of $50K to $99K per year, only half that number of freelancers make $50K to $99K per year. Essentially, you can be broke or rich as a freelancer – if you want to earn a middle-class living, in-house seems to be the better choice.

44% of freelancers have absolutely no interest in going in-house. (Tweet this)

The #1 reason freelance copywriters are freelance is “flexibility in my schedule.” (Tweet this)

The #1 reason in-house copywriters are in-house is “predictable pay.” (Tweet this)

Most copywriters are satisfied with their income. (Tweet this)

The vast majority of copywriters see a bright future for the practice of copywriting. (Tweet this)

Specifically Regarding In-House Copywriter Income…

The majority of in-house copywriters get 2 weeks’ vacation – and nearly 40% get 4 weeks or more. (Tweet this)

The majority of in-house copywriters earn less than $50,000 a year. (Tweet this)

A healthy number (38%) of in-house copywriters earn between $50,000 and $99,000 a year. (Tweet this)

Nearly 10% of in-house copywriters earn $100,000 or more a year. (Tweet this)

Specifically Regarding Freelance Copywriter Income…

If you charge between $50 and $99 per hour, you’re in good company – that’s the average. (Tweet this)

If you charge less than $1000 per project, you’re like most (61%) freelance copywriters. (Tweet this)

The majority of freelance copywriters earn less than $50,000 a year. (Tweet this)

Few freelance copywriters (21%) earn between $50,000 and $99,000. (Tweet this)

More than 10% of freelance copywriters earn $100,000 or more a year. (Tweet this)

Other Quick Facts

  • Most copywriters focus on marketing copy or content (tweet this)
  • The most common copy jobs are writing web copy, emails and blog posts (tweet this)
  • The #1 way freelance copywriters find clients is from referrals (tweet this)
  • Most freelance copywriters charge by the project, though about a third charge by the hour (tweet this)

Nearly 70% of respondents had fewer than 5 years’ experience at the time of the survey. Approx 42% of respondents are in-house copywriters, and 58% are freelance copywriters.

SECTION 1: Demographics

So, who took the survey? Overall, we saw more male copywriters submit the survey than female copywriters, with the vast majority of respondents in their late 20s and early 30s. More than half of the respondents were American. And most hold a bachelor’s degree, with 25% holding a graduate degree.

Q1: GENDER (n=735)

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Q2: AGE (n=735; median=31-35)

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Q3: EDUCATION (n=735)

We had a fairly well-educated bunch respond to the survey.

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Q4: COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE (n=735)

These numbers are in line with the locations of people who regularly read Copy Hackers content.

  • United States: 50.34%
  • United Kingdom: 12.84%
  • Canada: 9.12%
  • India: 3.60%
  • Australia: 3.49%
  • Other (41 countries represented): 20.61%

SECTION 2: Copywriting experience

Q5: Which of the following are your areas of expertise? (n=735)

A decent balance here. Not surprisingly, marketing copy and content strategy lead the pack.

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Q6: What types of copy do you regularly write? (n=735)

This is a more tactical view of our respondents’ experience.

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Q7: How many years of copywriting experience do you have? (n=735; median=3-5 years)

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Q8: Are you an in-house or freelance copywriter? (n=735)

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SECTION 3: In-house copywriters

Only people who selected the middle 2 responses above (Q8) saw the following 5 questions.

Q9: Have you always worked as an in-house copywriter? (n=298)

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Q10: What are your top personal motivations for being an in-house copywriter? (n=298)

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Q11: What’s your current annual salary, not including bonus? (US dollar equivalent) (n=298; median=Less than $50,000)

Salaries for in-house copywriters improved year-over-year (i.e., there were fewer people in the lowest compensation tier this year, shown in Q11, over last year, shown in Q12).

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Q12: What was your annual salary last year, not including bonus? (US dollar equivalent) (n=298; median=Less than $50,000)

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Q13: How many weeks of vacation do you receive per year? (n=298; mean=3.39; median=3 weeks)

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SECTION 4: Freelance copywriters

Only freelance copywriters (shown in Q8) saw the following 12 questions.

Q14: Have you always worked as a freelance copywriter? (n=437)

According to the following chart, if you’re currently freelancing, there’s a high likelihood that you didn’t start out that way.

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Q15: What are your top personal motivations for freelancing? (n=437)

Interesting that 1 of the top responses from in-house copywriters about their motivations (Q10) was “Predictable work schedule”. Freelancers feel strongly about choosing what they work on, with whom, and when.

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Q16: How do you typically find new clients? (n=437)

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Q17: What’s your #1 source of new clients? (n=437)

Referrals FTW. 🙂

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Q18: Do you typically charge clients an hourly rate or by project? (n=437)

We’d love to see this gap widen over time…

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SECTION 4a: Freelancers who charge hourly

Q19: What’s your hourly rate? (US dollar equivalent) (n=138; median=$50-$99)

Hourly rates have increased nicely year-over-year based on the next 2 charts. Hallelujah.

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Q20: What was your hourly rate this time last year? (US dollar equivalent) (n=138; median=$50-$99)

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SECTION 4b: Freelancers who charge by the project

Q21: What is your average project size? (n=299; median $501-$1,000)

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SECTION 4c: Total income for freelancers

Q22: What is your total estimated income from copywriting in 2014? (US dollar equivalent) (n=437; median=Less than $50,000)

The year-over-year earnings story is consistent… everyone is moving in the right direction!

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Q23: What was your total income from copywriting in 2013? (US dollar equivalent) (n=437; median=Less than $50,000)

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Q24: In the past year, how has the demand for your services changed? (n=437)

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Q25: How likely are you to leave freelancing to work in house (in the next 12 months)? (n=437; mean=2.35)

The end points for the scale on this question were 0=”Not at all likely” and 10=”Extremely likely”.

While a good number of respondents are on the fence, the large majority will be freelancing for at least another year.

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SECTION 5: Job satisfaction (in-house and freelance copywriters)

Q26: How satisfied are you with the type of work you do? (n=735; mean=6.74)

The end points for the scale on this question were 0=”Not at all satisfied” and 10=”Extremely satisfied”.

Lots of room for improvement here, with a “7” dominating the scale.

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Q27: How important to you is having the opportunity to learn new things? (n=735; mean=8.33)

The end points for the scale on this question were 0=”Not at all important” and 10=”Extremely important”.

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Q28: How important to you is having a low-stress environment? (n=735; mean=7.10)

The end points for the scale on this question were 0=”Not at all important” and 10=”Extremely important”.

Some respondents thrive on a little stress.

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Q29: How satisfied are you with your current compensation? (n=735; mean=5.54)

The end points for the scale on this question were 0=”Not at all satisfied” and 10=”Extremely satisfied”.

There’s some work to be done here! (And hopefully Copy Hackers can help.)

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Q30: How do you feel about the future of copywriting in general? (n=735; mean=7.71)

The end points for the scale on this question were 0=”Dark days ahead” and 10=”Future is very bright”.

We couldn’t agree more.

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Any surprises for you?

The Copy Hackers team would love to to see those hourly rates, project fees, and annual incomes grow.

So to keep a finger on the pulse of freelance rates and incomes, we’re going to run a similar survey every 2 years.

And given that the data above are based on our 2014 survey, we need to start collecting data about 2016 rates and incomes right now!

Will you contribute to the Copy Hackers 2016 Freelance Copywriting Survey? We’ll leave the survey open until December 31st, 2016 and then start crunching numbers right away. (NOTE: The 2016 survey is tailored to freelance copywriters only.)

There won’t be a 22-month delay in sharing the results, either. Look for a follow-up post to this one in mid February 2017.

If you respond to the survey, we’ll share the results with you directly via email in late January.

We hope you’ll participate!

~Lance

About the author

Lance Jones

Lance Jones is a CRO and SaaS growth expert.

  • Really nice to share this with us team Copyhackers! Lance, I am assuming someone like you and Joanna would be considered freelance even though you have a business and serve as copywriters for your business. Is that correct? Freelancers basically are business owners, so, sometimes the line seems blurred. BTW, loving Airstory!

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