Survey on freelance business journalism raises more questions than it answers

Are journalists who write about money making more of it than they used to? According to a recent survey, the answer is: maybe?

The Society of American Business Writers and Editors has conducted its second annual survey of freelance business journalists in the U.S., and the results tell us….well, not much. The online survey asked business journalists about their location, compensation, the type of media outlet in which they worked, how long they have held their current job and how long they’ve been in business journalism. The results say a lot, but do they provide any valuable insight into the industry?

First clue that something is off: The headline reads, “Half of freelance biz journalists saw increase in pay in 2011.” The lede clarifies, “Nearly half of the freelance business journalists who responded […] said that their compensation has risen in the past 12 months.” Nearly half, meaning just as many or more of those journalists surveyed made the same or less than the previous year (see the 2010 results here).

The next paragraph reveals that “A third of those whose salaries have risen say that they have been more aggressive in finding new clients.” In other words, trying harder to find work results in getting more work and making more money, which makes sense, but it doesn’t indicate that biz freelancers were actually better off in 2011 than 2010.

Other results:

Despite a comment from Kevin Noblet, SABEW’s president and a managing editor at Dow Jones Newswires, that the survey “confirms that industry conditions are improving,” it really doesn’t tell us much of value about the state of freelance business journalism (apologies to SABWE; we sympathize). However, it does raise good questions. How much more would a full-time job have to pay you to outweigh the benefits of freelance writing (such as a flexible schedule and variety of work)? How many people become freelancers by choice and how many after losing a full-time job? Is pay for business journalism work increasing or decreasing? How does that compare with pay for freelance journalism gigs in other areas? How does pay for freelance business journalists in Canada compare to rates in the U.S.?

If you have any anecdotal evidence or general impressions (or even survey results of your own) related to these issues, please share in the comments.

Hat tip to Media Jobs Daily (Media Bistro).

Posted on January 9, 2012 at 10:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

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