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Freelance writer salary report: Freelance journalists earn an average of EUR 22.50 gross per hour

Who is responsible for the report?

Freischreiber, a professional association for freelance journalists, has been collecting via the site since October 2018 anonymous fees and salaries. After all, 1,443 information on around 580 media had been received by the end of December 2018. These include 1,005 freelancers (69 percent), 321 permanent employees (22 percent) and 117 flat-rate lists (8 percent). The data was collected in two ways: 1. According to the length of a contribution, i.e. characters or audio or video minutes, and 2. According to the estimated hourly expenditure.

In cooperation with the science and data journalist Haluka Maier-Borst from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) and corrective editorial member Michel Penke as well as the freelance journalist Katharina Jakob, the association a first interim report has now been published.

How much do freelance journalists earn?

The result is not surprising, but it is no less relevant: You have to be able to afford to be a freelance journalist in Germany, the report concluded. That group earns an average of just 22.50 euros per hour - gross, i.e. without deducting taxes, work equipment and vacation or sick days. According to the report, a third of this goes into taxes, another third goes into work equipment such as office rent and research, and the last third remains as profit. In this calculation that would be 7.50 euros per hour. For comparison: For flat-rate lists, the gross amount is 25 euros and permanent employees earn 21.88 euros in one hour.

“In general, freelance journalism is underpaid in such a way that we ask ourselves what the colleagues out there actually live on. And above all: how, ”states the freelance writer team. Carola Dorner, chairwoman of the association, says about the situation: "Many freelancers leave journalism because they cannot or do not want to permanently fight for something that should actually be taken for granted: fair contracts and fair fees."

Further findings: The income of flat-rate operators is more unevenly distributed than that of permanent employees, while the fees of freelancers are even more diverse. And: perseverance pays off. Because those who work longer in journalism earn better fees or salaries. This applies above all to freelance journalists.

Which media pay the most?

Media such as “PM History”, “Geo Knowledge” and “BrandEins” have values ​​well over 100 euros per 1,000 characters. Other clients such as “Welt”, “Epd”, “dpa” or “WAZ” cost low amounts between 12 and 31 euros.

In the audio and video sector, it comes as no surprise that the public broadcasters pay the best per minute, as a table in the report shows. However, the data basis there is so far hardly meaningful.

Is the survey representative?

No! However, the evaluation does not claim to be representative, as the makers emphasize. The random samples, distributed among the publishers, editorial offices and broadcasters, are “simply too small.” Therefore, one cannot say: “We always pay decently here and never there.” However, the interim report gives first indications as to the salary freelance journalists, generalists and editors in Germany.

In addition, there are possible distortions due to “digital only”, so that there could be a distortion towards younger, digital-savvy journalists. Nor can the correctness of the data be guaranteed beyond doubt. "We have [made] plausibility checks, but we cannot say with certainty that all the data donated by users - and processed by us - are correct," the report says. In addition, the participants may have incorrect memories and have given inaccurate data as a result.

The journalists also provide insights into the methodology: NZZ editor Maier-Borst explains in a post, for examplewhy the team opted for the so-called moving median, which works on the basis of the "most central values". His explanation: "Because we look at the values ​​in the middle and do not calculate an average of all values, individual outliers up and down cannot distort our analysis too much."

What does the freelance writer association require?

In connection with the publication of the interim report, the association calls on the client to pay decent fees if they want "quality, the egg-laying woolly milk pig as a reporter, tangible documentation of our way of working, all rights to our works."

An appeal is also made to politicians: "Finally create framework conditions that protect us freelance journalists from being exempted: implements a ban on total buy-out contracts, prevents us from returning the distributions from the collecting society Wort have to share with the publishers, ensures that we can jointly take action against copyright infringements. "

And to the many freelance journalists who work for low fees, they recommend: “Leave these booths, don't work for them! No longer support publishers who look like Christmas geese. "