It’s the question you have always wanted to ask, and never did, because you felt like it was rude. What does Brutal Pixie pay its writers?
Well, I’m going to tell you. We pay them $50 AUD per hour.
We pay them $50 AUD per hour if they are in Australia. Or if they’re in New Zealand (our brilliant Steff is a Kiwi). Or in Taiwan (our amazing Joe is in Taiwan). Or even in England (the magnificent Claire is in England).
It’s $50 per hour, but I really wish it was more.
I wish I could pay them more, I really do, because they are incredible professionals. Each one is at the top of his or her game, and each has 10+ years experience writing high quality work under pressure.
Writers like these — who also do great research — are incredibly hard to find. I know. I looked for 4 years without success.
The other reason why I wish I could pay them more is because I am a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance here in Australia. The industry standard rates — baseline rates — for freelance writers begin at $1014 for up to 1000 words, and then proceed at $0.93 per word thereafter.
You could argue that I could just pay them more. Well, yes I could. But I’d be out of business in about three months if I did that. This is because the agreements we have with clients right now are pre-existing my own MEAA membership, and as such are not built on industry standard rates. Ignorance is never an excuse, though sometimes (as in my case) it is a fact. I was not aware until earlier this year that there are industry standard rates. I think that’s because I was never a journalist employed by major media.
So how do we charge them out?
First of all, I really hate the term ‘charge out’, like the Pixie team aren’t people but are products that can just be shipped around the place without regard for their feelings. Yuck.
Secondly, we don’t charge per hour. We charge by a combination of word count + expertise + experience + personal time.
As a rough estimate, the hourly rate if you wanted to work solely with me (such as in a consulting role) is, for example, $330.
How it plays out — an example
One example is a standard packaged offering that we have, which is comprised of:
- strategic review and rework to define outcomes with you
- production calendaring
- writing and delivery of minimum of 1 blog for organic rank per month (so, 2500 words), with 1 iteration if required
- 1‑hour long review call
- continuous communication throughout the month
- tracking of performance over time
- tracking of all content components — headings, keywords, excerpts, categories, tags — so we know quickly what needs to change if you change direction
If we were to cost out each line of the above, per piece, here’s roughly how it would look:
- strategic review and rework to define outcomes with you — $660
- production calendaring — $800
- writing and delivery of minimum of 1 blog for organic rank per month (so, 1000 — 2500 words), with 1 iteration if required — $2,000 — $4769
- 1‑hour long review call — $330
- continuous communication throughout the month — $100
- tracking of performance over time — $50
- tracking of all content components — headings, keywords, excerpts, categories, tags — so we know quickly what needs to change if you change direction — $330 per month
Making a total of about $4,270 — $7,030 per month.
The reality is that we have been charging about $1470 per month for that kind of work. Which means that our writers, who can research, write and deliver an incredible piece of 1500 words in 3 hours, are paid $150 or 9.8% of the incoming on every job.
Where does the rest of the money go?
Aren’t you lucky that I work almost entirely on percentages! 🙂 Here’s the answer.
If we take our $1,470 example above, this is what it looks like:
- 9.8% to the writer
- 40% to me for all remaining activity (strategic planning, production calendaring, account management, client relationships, as well as running and building the business)
- 20.2% to cover operational costs (like SaaS, rent, utilities, travel, and all business development and marketing costs)
- 30% to the tax man
- 1% to our Plan B beneficiaries
- 1% to our profit account, which is disbursed every quarter to me as part of my holiday/sick leave fund, which I also save for personally.
Now, where this gets tricky for some people is that the surrounding work is a smooth, frictionless, just-happens-and-exists kind of experience. That’s by design. So, you only ever feel the the article itself, and equate that $1,470 with just the words.
Is it any wonder that investing in content feels expensive sometimes, when you only see 9% of what goes into it?
Other companies purchase writers much lower, in my experience.
One memorable example I have was of making some queries to marketing agencies and PR firms, about their need for writers.
They all want and need writers. They all want and need good writers.
They ‘buy’ writing talent in (on average) at $30 AUD per hour.
When I learned this, I was actually gobsmacked. This rate is what I expect to pay someone who is an extremely talented entry-level writer; not someone who’s been doing the work for more than a decade.
And in the US, it’s even worse.
There is a company that advertises for content writers in such a way as you make you think that they are the cream of the crop. I’m sure that this is how they sell it to their clients, too.
Out of curiosity, I began their application process. Then I hit a page that said:
‘At [company name] we pay our writers $12 per hour.’
It went on to say that the best of their team — which I took to mean the ones that did the most hours, dropped everything else to be at the beck-and-call of the company — can earn up to $4,000 per month.
But what percentage of the money off any job actually goes to the writers? You know, the people who are manufacturing your product?
That $12 per hour seems like absolute minimum wage to me. My first job, which was putting petrol into cars (and basic retail customer service), paid me $15 AUD (the equivalent of $7 USD), in 1995. That’s unskilled labour, right there.
So, you pay a talented writer, with experience and education (that they’ve paid for), $8 more than a 15-year-old who puts petrol into cars?
Wow. I’m not quite sure how that is ethical. Maybe someone can tell me in a comment.
So how long will it be until we can give our writers their real due?
The brutal, honest truth of this is going to depend entirely on how good I am at selling it. 😉
The truth is, all of our current clients pay below our required thresholds for improving how compliant we are with industry pay rates.
A good example is one long-term client who is on a grandfathered price point of just $680 per month.
It’s true that it’s an awkward thing, to start a company alone and then strive to scale it. At some point — like, this year — significant pricing and client reviews will be necessary to see if growth is actually feasible.
Ultimately, if the market won’t or can’t pay the required fees, then I won’t be able to employ writers in the ways I want to, which may limit the capacity of the business to do amazing work in the world. It may also fundamentally change the direction of Brutal Pixie. Hell, you never know. I may just end up ‘freelancing’ again. Like, officially.
But until I know with certainty that this is the case, from here it’s onwards and upwards.
I want to thank you for reading this far. Here’s why:
Many people have told me that I am insane for being so open about things that make people’s hearts flutter — like baring all on finance and direction. The fact that you have read this far means that you’ve gotten something out of it — and I’d like to thank you for your support.
At Brutal Pixie, one of our values is default to transparency. It means accountability and brutal honesty.
You can expect to see more in the Pixie Open blogs about the inner workings of our company. So if you enjoy them, please share and comment, or WhatsApp us at +61 434 094 250 to let us know what you think. 🙂