Lily Williams wrote an absolute banger of a post about inflation, arts education, and fair wages for freelancers this week.
If we take the average woman artist’s 1980 income of $24,153 dollars and plug it into the US Inflation Calculator, we learn that in today’s 2021 money that would be $81,073.47.
Funnily enough, when I sat down in 2018 to try and figure out what I really needed to be earning to maintain my quality of life at the time, the number I settled on was $72,000 a year. (This process deserves a whole blog post of its own, because it also dovetails with adopting Whiteboard Accounting and was fascinating and only possible thanks to having started keeping an actual budget the year before. DATA! It’s life-changing.)
Anyway, jumping back to my post from yesterday: if I were charging my standard freelance hourly rate for my work on this graphic novel, I’d likely earn somewhere around $78,750 for a year’s work. This feels bang on target with what Lily is talking about! Bingo! Amazing! Inflation adjustment accomplished!
But that’s not the reality.
[…] when we compare that $81,073 to what the 2020 Census numbers are for artists... we find that the average income in 2020 was only $52,340. Meaning, yes, artists income hasn’t adjusted for inflation since the 1980s. In fact, artist’s income is less than $30,000 more than what it was in 1980, which is about $30,000 under what it should be if it had adjusted for inflation properly over the last 41 years.
Am I surprised? No. No I’m not.
So what do we do with the information that artists are underpaid and that their income has not adjusted for inflation since the 1980s? We strike back in the ways that we are able. Freelancers are less likely to make a strike because of the individual nature of freelance work, unlike more organized fields in art like creatives in the film industry, who have the IATSE Guild information and network to help organize strikes. So, from an empowered standpoint knowing we deserve more… what we do is charge more and we do not settle for less.