The Professional Copywriters’ Network has put together responses from 600 of its members throughout the UK to reveal a comprehensive picture not just of pay rates but also regional variations in earnings, specialisations, approaches to freelancing, types of recognition and aspirations for the future.
Respondents to the survey ranged in age from 19 to 75, with an average age of 40: 56% of respondents were female. Most were in London and the south, “presumably reflecting the distribution of the creative industries,” the PCN says.
73% of respondents who gave information on it worked full-time with 27% part-time. The average length of experience in copywriting was 10.5 years.
The majority of copywriters who responded to the survey – 66% – work as freelancers. Fourteen per cent work in agencies, while 8% have founded agencies themselves. In-house writers account for 7%, and the remaining 6% are employed in agencies but do some freelance work on the side.
More than half (51%) say they don’t specialise in any type of work. The rest concentrate on digital and SEO (18%), marketing materials (15%), PR/journalism (7%), advertising (7%) and technical writing (3%).
Freelancers say they spend 64% of their time actually writing, with the rest of the time spent on admin, meetings etc. On average, they had 5.6 years copywriting experience before going freelance.
In terms of finding new clients, word of mouth works for 90% of copywriters, while 58% use a website and 53% social media. Only 37% leave the office to go networking.
Given the choice, most freelancers would prefer to be paid a fee for the entire project rather than working to a day rate or fee per word written.
On pay, the PCN say “we saw a huge range of responses, from low three-figures well into four. The average daily rate across all freelancers who provided information was £337….there was significant regional variation. London, unsurprisingly, topped the table with £426, suggesting a London weighting of £89 per day (26%) compared to the average rate overall.
Pay rates vary with age: Copywriters under 30 can charge £244 a day on average, reaching a peak of £415 in the 50–59 age bracket.
The average annual income across all full-time respondents was £39,850. Stated earnings varied very widely, from a few thousand pounds up to substantial six-figure totals. Again, pay varied widely by region.
And by age
“One of our most surprising findings came when we looked at income against level of education,” the PCN says. “While we might have predicted that more educated freelancers would earn more, the actual picture was very different. Graduates came out bottom with £37,992 on average, with postgrads and also A-level holders only slightly ahead. Meanwhile, the 17 respondents who ended their formal education after GCSEs had average earnings of £58,474.”
Agency founders earned the most, followed by freelancers, agency employees and those mixing the two. The lowest paid on average were those working in-house.
The PCN’s survey data suggests a gender pay gap that varies between different types of copywriting employment.
Feedback from employers or clients was by far the most valued form of recognition for copywriters, at 70%. Financial reward was insignificant by comparison, at just 13%.
As for motivation, the PCN asked copywriters what they most enjoyed about their work. The simple pleasure of ‘being paid to write’ came top with 36%, followed by ‘being creative’ at 28%.