What Rate Should Freelance Reporters Charge?

This is an interesting question for stenographers across the country. What rate should be charged? What is fair? What is a good amount of money?

I have often simply left the answer at: It should be more. I have a body of work on this site that talks about negotiation, inflation, and makes several cases for higher rates for New York freelance. It bears repeating that in New York, the current private regular rate mandated to be charged by officials is about $4.30 per page. If you’re a freelancer paying your own taxes, advertising, business costs, benefits, or workers compensation insurance, then you should consider trying to make more than that by any means necessary, including realtime, rough, daily delivery, and copy sales. The skills you bring to the table are as important as your ability to negotiate and seek out work.

Without more fanfare, let’s turn to what I did tonight. I designed a very small calculator program that takes the user’s input of how much annual salary they want to make, and divides that by all the different rates someone might charge per page to figure out how many pages you need to make that annual salary. It then takes the pages and divides those pages by 20, assuming that’s how many pages a person transcribes an hour. Then it divides  those hours by 7 to tell you how many 7-hour workdays you need to make that money. To tailor this to yourself specifically, you can either edit the calculator, do the calculations manually, or simply half, double, or triple your transcription speed.

I understand that most people do not really do anything with computer code, so I ran the program for several different salary ranges.

These are the calculations if you want to make:

$25,000 a year.

$50,000 a year.

$75,000 a year.

$100,000 a year.

$125,000 a year.

$150,000 a year.

$175,000 a year.

$200,000 a year.

The moral of the story is obvious: The lower your rate is, the more pages you need to make money. The higher your rate is, the fewer pages you need to make money. But to see this in action, let’s just take one point of data: $5.00 per page.

At $5.00 per page, you need about 35 days worth of transcribing to make $25,000 a year.

That’s about 70 days to make $50,000 a year.

That’s 140 7-hour days of transcription to make $100,000 a year.

Anecdotally, if we spend an hour transcribing for every hour we are on the machine, that’s 280 7-hour days of work. There are only 260 weekdays a year. That means to make that $100,000 a year you’re giving up 10 weekends a year at $5.00 a page. Increase the rate to 5.50 and you’re giving up no weekends. 50 cents makes that much of a difference.

Bottom line? Your rate is going to dictate not only your income, but your quality of life. Strive to be a good reporter, know your market, team up with a mentor, and make sure you’re getting paid enough to reach your goals.

 

 

A Word On Raises

The bottom line of this story is going to be, “you need to ask for a raise.” What was quite common in my New York freelance years was many of us accepted, year after year, what agencies handed out. It is time for us to step out of our court reporting skins and be business people.

There’s something called inflation. The really low level summary of inflation is that as more money is produced the value of existing money decreases, meaning item values go up. That’s why you could live off less money back in the 50s or 60s, and why everything is so expensive now.

The buying power of the money in the bank goes down every year, and every year, the services you provide need to be charged at a higher rate so that you have the same buying power.

Try it for yourself. Get an inflation calculator, type in your very first page rate or salary, the year you started, and the year it is now. A reporter told me that in 1989 they made $2.50. That’s worth $5.11 now. If they aren’t making $5.11, their buying power is shot.

I did it myself. I sat down and said what’s a good starting rate for 2018? I was given $3.25 in 2011. Inflation calculator says that’s worth $3.66 now. I had a few friends who started at $4. That’s worth $4.50 now. But who wants to work for the same exact money every year? No. We want a raise. So what would a raise of 3% a year look like? Year 1, you start at $4.00. By year 6, you should be making $4.60. Look at those numbers again. Just to have the same exact buying power 2011 to now, you need $4.50 a page. To give yourself a $0.10 raise after six years, you need $4.60. Your cost of living is going to go up, and unless you make more money every year, your quality of life is going to go down.

That’s really it. This is my case and my explanation for why we have to start talking about our rates. We have to start informing each other about simple business principles. We need to keep an eye on that inflation rate. We need to really take a close look at what we make on all our services and ask ourselves why our money for our associations, charities, and causes are so tight. We need to admit one thing: You need to ask for a raise.