Leif Kendall

3 November 2016

Is self-employment making you broke?

Research suggests self-employed people are earning less than in 1995

Record numbers of people are now self-employed. But is this good news?

The Resolution Foundation, an organisation that researches living standards, claims that, on average, self-employed workers earn less than they did in 1995. They blame the financial crisis and the rise of the ‘gig economy’ – including companies like Uber and Deliveroo – for creating more low-paid jobs.

Flawed research?

The research, which suggests that self-employed people are earning an average of £240 per week, does not seem to differentiate between full-time freelancers and those who just do a few hours – or who use their self-employed income as a boost to their salary.

This means that the average weekly income of £240 may be dragged down by people who sell crafts in their spare time, or people who give a few lifts on Uber each week – quite different from full-time freelancers or business owners who rely entirely on their self-employed income.

Copywriting and the gig economy

Our recent inquiry into freelance job sites does suggest that freelance copywriters aren’t immune from the perils of the gig economy.

Job sites and content mills reduce copywriting to a cheap commodity, which drives down quality and lowers pay to sub-minimum wage levels. Of course, it may be possible to make a living from these services, but it’s a hard fight when you get paid £0.02 per word.

Good businesses demand good copy

While freelance job sites may meet the needs of some businesses, there will always be organisations that require more than these services can deliver. Few good businesses would trust their most precious words to a writer that they could not meet, or at least talk to.

We’ve heard from our members that freelance job sites can be useful; they offer accessible jobs and the promise of immediate payment.

For writers in need, they can be a lifeline.

Build your own life raft

Unless you’re completely delighted with the work, pay and conditions offered by freelance job sites, we recommend that all copywriters invest time in building their own presence so you can secure better quality clients independently.

Finding your own freelance work isn’t easy – but it’s achievable.

Building your own freelance identity takes time. So start now.

Getting better clients doesn’t just mean that you earn more money for your work; it also means that you have direct relationships with your clients, and you have the freedom and flexibility to give those clients the words they need. We believe this kind of direct relationship is better for copywriters and it’s clearly better for any organisation commissioning copy.

Read our advice on marketing for freelance copywriters

PCN survey suggests freelancing works

At the beginning of the year, more than 600 copywriters completed our first survey. The average pay for freelancers that responded was £39,883 – more than the average of £31,481 for employed copywriters. This is surely a positive sign that self-employment is not only feasible – it can also be more lucrative than traditional employment.

Is freelancing financially viable?

What do you think? Is freelancing still a good way to make a living? Is the gig economy driving down the price of copy? Or is the research flawed?


What do you think?

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