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Earning Your Crust, Part One
Have you ever wondered how much you should be getting paid as a writer? This question comes up a lot and I've had to argue for proper compensation for writers and literature activists in all arenas

With blogging and digital content so easily (and freely) available, there has been a downward trend in some areas. There are many people who write for a hobby, or as a side-line, and that's fine. These people should be able to publish their work for free if they so wish. But it's essential that if we want to have a free, unbiased media and a dynamic literature scene that offers a range of diverse voices, we need to support those writers who write full time. Journalism and literature should not be entirely the product of part-time or hobby work. That way lies the path to poor quality, lazy journalism and a lack of thoroughness and understanding that comes from a full-time commitment to writing.

The Arts Council used to list its suggested rates for artists of all tropes here. However, you will now notice they duck out of this issue by referring artists to the relevant professional societies and guilds instead, quoting the Office of Fair Trading's competition rules.  

Here is a brief summary of what I could find on the internet, and what I know from personal experience:

A base rate for freelancers/the self-empoyed is [expected annual salary/100]. So if you expect to earn £20,000 p.a., you would charge a minimum of £200 per day, plus expenses. However, on long-term contracts you might be offered the equivalent of a pro rata wage. Bear in mind that you may have to pay for your own expenses, do your own accounting, and won't get paid for holidays or training. Therefore I would strongly recommend going with the salary/100 calculation instead, or asking for expenses to be paid, at the very least. Research suggests an employee actually costs a business twice what their wage is (because of the costs in doing taxes, admin, training, holidays, sickpay, etc). So in essence, they're saving that money by using a freelancer. They can therefore afford to pay you more.

Schools, Colleges & Universities/Festivals
Day rate for an appearance/reading/workshop: £350 (full-day), £250 (half-day) + travel (Society of Authors)

Alternatively: £150/appearance (less than one hour) when touring multiple schools/venues in one day.

For residencies and commissions: pro rata, based on annual fee writer expects to earn. 

Freelance rates are available, in detail, at the NUJ website here. Here you can compare what different publications have offered, to see what you should be asking for. However, there isn't a simple 'ask for x amount', as there is with the Society of Authors.

Poetry - £1 per line (min. £30)
Prose - £83 per 1,000 words

BBC Rates
Often paid per minute, but these vary based on the writer's experience and the medium of publication/broadcast. Full details are given here.

The Writers' Guild of Great Britain
There are some differences in rates suggested by the Society of Authors and The Writers' Guild, but the two organisations have broad agreement on rates for writers. The Writers' Guild seems to offer per day or per project guidelines, giving broader figures, whereas the Society of Authors suggests per word, per minute or per hour rates, making them more complex.

Editing & Proofing
The Society for Editors and Proofreaders has suggested hourly rates here.  These fall between £20-30 per hour, as a minimum.

In Practice
In practice, I have seen writers offered £200-300 per day for appearances, and £100-200 for half days. However, this is generally seen as the lower end of the scale by the Society of Authors and The Writers' Guild. A friend of mine who books writers suggested charging £300 for a reading or workshop, and £400 for a reading and workshop, regardless of whether it's a full or half-day.

For plays and big commissions, taking up several months, I have generally seen £6,000 offered. In terms of days' commitment, this is usually 20-30 days, spread over a longer period of time (say, a day a week for six months).

If anyone has any experiences they'd like to share, please do!

Adam Lowe is a writer and publisher based in Manchester. To visit his website, click here