How bad is £50 for a 1000-word article?

Research Features

Just a quick followup on yesterday’s post (“Those beautiful Research Features articles? The authors get £50.“). If you could write two such articles a day, five days a week, you would earn around £26,000 ($35,000) per year:

£50/article x 2 articles/day x 5 days/week x 52 weeks/year = £26,000/year.

At the end of a year, you’d have written around half a million words, a bit more than The Lord of the Rings.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    Indoor work with no heavy lifting, making about the same money as my wife does working night shifts and weekends as a degree qualified nurse in A&E. Sounds great.

  2. jazzlet says

    Except that from what has been said you couldn’t do two articles a day so there is no way you could make that much money.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    Fair enough, but then how many people do you know who make a living purely from writing do so on an income from a single source? I know quite a few “writers” and “journalists” and every single one of them is constantly juggling multiple gigs. I doubt any individual one would feed and clothe them, but that’s the job, isn’t it?

  4. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Okay, but the thing is we judge the fairness of a wage by the pay per hour, not per job. Cohen got paid a million dollars by the pharmaceutical company. If he earned it over 20 years of 40 hours/week no one would think that was lavish or even generous for someone with a law degree. Instead he got it and did almost no work, so on a per hour basis, the pay was extraordinary.

    An article like this requires more than 10 hours of research before writing can begin, and that’s assuming that you have a strong background in the appropriate field so that you can absorb information readily. Then the writing process begins, and depending on how demanding your editor may be, it might take anywhere from an hour to 40 hours to turn out a single polished article. i’d guess that it probably takes 6-10 hours on average, given my own writing.

    Then, of course, you’re writing freelance, so you have to advertise your services, negotiate with potential employers, and do the relationship building work that allows you to get gigs in the first place. Depending on how much writing you do, very successful writers might do 30 minutes to 2 hours of this overhead work per job.

    Then there’s the fact that you’re buying your own tools (computer, internet access) and paying for your own access to journal services that allow you to do the background research that allows you to do such a piece efficiently. You get your own benefits from owning your own computer and you get personal value from your internet access, so these aren’t big factors, but they’re there.

    Then, of course, there’s the increased expenses that come from working independently. In Canada there’s a basic level of health coverage that is guaranteed, but you’ll pay a lot more for prescription medications and certain services if you don’t have additional employment-based health benefits. In the US the situation is worse. I’m not sure about the UK.

    So that 50 pounds per article ends up being 50 pounds per 2 days, with more expenses than a staff writer might have.

    25 pounds per day = 3.33 pounds per hour and no benefits. The no benefits is important for other reasons as well, since the particular level of pay “per day” now means actual working days, no sick days, no vacation days.

    With holidays ( a bit less than 1/month) and two work-weeks of vacation, you end up with about 48 x 5 day weeks. That’s 240 work days.

    240 days * 25 pounds = 6000 pounds per year + expenses that staff employees wouldn’t have.

    Now, okay, you say that no one makes all their writing money from a single job, but I don’t care. The perspective we should be taking is this: Is the employer paying a fair wage for the labor? I think the answer is clear that the employer is not.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    the thing is we judge the fairness of a wage by the pay per hour, not per job

    The thing is that may be how you choose to judge the fairness of a wage. It’s far from the only reasonable way, however. Nobody is entitled to be paid at all for doing anything, unless it’s something someone else wants – and then the fairness or otherwise is about how badly what they can supply is wanted, and how easy it would be for them to get it elsewhere.

    Consider: if yer man Cohen turned up to the office every week for twenty years and sat in his office sorting paper clips and keeping his head down and hoping nobody noticed he wasn’t actually doing anything, I’d say the million dollars he pulled down over those two decades was lavish to the point of obscene. And you know there are people out there doing just that.

    Conversely, if he turned to the office for just one day and plunked down the formula for the next Viagra – or given that he’s a lawyer, spent, say, a month drawing up the contracts and patents that allowed the company to make a couple of billion dollars from the product, then a million dollars for that brief stint of work would seem positively mean.

    It seems to me this employer is paying the going rate, and anyone who is unhappy with it is free to write for somewhere else that pays more. If you have a complaint, it’s probably better directed at the people who are doing the work so cheap.

    you say that no one makes all their writing money from a single job, but I don’t care.

    Why should I care that some writers are prepared to work for less than what you personally consider a fair rate?

    I understand it’s frustrating to find that what you want to do for a living doesn’t pay a living wage. Personally I’d love to be able to paraglide for a living, but you know what? Nobody will pay me to do that. So I have a job, and do my hobby on my own time. Is that fair?

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