What Are The Current Freelance Writing Rates In The TTRPG Industry?

Results of a survey of over 1,000 freelance writers!

Several years ago in 2015 I gathered information on industry freelance rates. Recently, I put out another pair of surveys intended to update that information to current rates. I did not ask respondents to identify themselves or the companies they worked for, although I (optionally) asked them to categorize the type of publisher.

We had over a thousand respondents. Thank you to those who provided the data. Here are the results for freelance writing rates. Artists and other rates will be covered in a separate article.


Respondents

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Definitions: Single (one staff member/owner), Small (has 1 or 2 full-time staff), Medium (has multiple full-time staff, well known brands), Large (has offices, lots of staff, departments, etc.), Industry Leader (we're talking WotC or Paizo size here). Size was self-reported by respondents.

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Note that time in industry was only reported by about 50% of respondents.​


Overall
  • The mean rate for writers was 8.5 cents per word. The mode is 10 cents per word.
  • In 2015 the mean rate was about 3 cents per word. However, that was a much smaller data set, based on published word rates for a couple of dozen companies.
  • The highest (with a single occurrence) is 40 cents per word, and the lowest (excluding unpaid work) is under 1 cent per word.
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Note that time in industry was only reported by about 50% of respondents.

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Notes By Size

Industry Leader - we're talking WotC or Paizo size here
  • Mean rate 17 cents; mode 12 cents (21% of jobs)
  • 20% under 10 cents, 20% over 20 cents
  • All work for hire
  • 57% paid within one month, 29% within 6 months
  • 14% did not get contributor copy
Large - has offices, lots of staff, departments, etc.
  • Mean rate 9 cents; mode equal 6/10
  • 64% under 10 cents; none over 20 cents
  • 99% work for hire
  • Varied payments schedule -- fairly evenly spread
  • Less than 1% did not get contributor copy
  • 57% were full time, but only half of respondents answered that field
  • Average industry length was 12 years, but only half of respondents answered that field
Medium - has multiple full-time staff, well known brands
  • Mean rate 8 cents; mode 10 cents (22% of jobs)
  • 51% under 10 cents; 6% over 20 cents
  • 92% work for hire
  • 54% paid within 1 month; 24% immediate; 5% on publication
  • Average industry length 12 years but only 20% of respondents answered that field
Small - has 1 or 2 full-time staff
  • Mean rate 7 cents; mode 5 cents
  • 77% under 10 cents; under 2% over 20 cents
  • 80% work for hire
  • 58% paid within 1 month; 16% immediate; 6% on publication
  • Average industry length 9 years; 64% of respondents answered
Single - one staff member/owner
  • Mean rate 9 cents; mode 10 cents
  • 57% under 10 cents; 13% over 20 cents
  • Rights varied -- 24% licensed, 50% work for hire
  • 50% paid immediately, 30% within 1 month, 8% on publication
  • Average industry length 5 years; 54% of respondents answered
 

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Sacrosanct

Legend
It's interesting that as soon as you have staff (going to the next step beyond single) you see a dip in pay. No surprise there, as then you have an actual staff to pay for.
 



Von Ether

Legend
When I was a freelance copywriter/journalist with friends in the industry, two things stopped me from trying to get into game writing. One is obvious, even in my lean years, the pay AND the time to get paid made no sense (3 cents a word AND months to get the paycheck?)

But more of challenge was that my industry friends needed all the gigs they could get and writing is a catch 22. To get better at writing, you need to practice. But you can't get practice if you don't get the opportunities.

So when they saw an opening for some writing, they took it as compared to passing it the freelance writer they knew. I had no layout skills and the few tiny d20 things I made didn't stand out and faded away.

Lean years became the norm and I'm a nurse now and community content popped up. My portfolio of 5 star reviewed community content got me a few professional gigs but it's all a sideline. Community content-wise I've been more successful in non- 5e stuff. My 5e stuff has 5 stars but the DMs Guild's sheer amount of content drowns everything out.

It seems the best way to be creative in any industry, though, is to be your own boss and create your own gigs instead of trying to chase them down.

This article is great! Newbies are asking me all the time what the "standard" rate is and now I have a link to show them.
 



timbannock

Hero
Supporter
Glad to see things improving. It's unfortunate with how much growth the TTRPG field has seen over the past two decades that pay is still so low, and creators in this field are still largely seen as such niche hobbyists that it doesn't translate to considerably more pay. It's still a weirdly cottage industry vibe in a space where millions of dollars are flying around on the regular.
 

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