How low is too low when it comes to wages?

Last week, I noticed a job listing on the GeekUp Job Board. The employers were looking for a freelance web editor with "excellent writing skills" but the wage was a mere £6.25 per hour.

Here is the job posting in question.

In the past, I’ve written about the low wages people can realistically be expected to earn during their first foray into web professionalism, but I can’t help but believe £6.25 to be an insulting figure which will ultimately harm the employer as much as the employee. Whilst, I do appreciate that there is a recession going on I also think that copywriting/editing is worth more than that amount. UK minimum wage is currently set at £5.73 an hour so this job pays a mere 52p more than manual labour.

Ultimately, I think the employer is operating under a false economy. It looks as though they have presumed they cannot afford more than this wage but I think this low wage will cost them more in the long term because they will have to:

  • Use the below par work of a £6.25 per hour member of staff, or
  • Go through this recruitment process again in three months time when the person they’ve hired turns out to be brilliant but leaves for a better paid job

There’s also the likelihood that they’ll miss out on good quality applicants who are put off by the low wage or they may sift through a multitude of applications from people who think the low wage means that their low skill quota will be sufficient for them to get the job.

In defence of the employer

At least this company are actually advertising their rates of pay for this they can be commended – for one, it has allowed for this debate to start. Sadly, many companies in web world neglect to put a salary on their job adverts and this invariably means the salary is low.

Whoever gets this job may make little money but, potentially, could gain a raft of experience which could effectively kickstart their writing career.


So what do you think? Is this wage too low or does the opportunity it represents more than make up for the low wage?

16 responses to “How low is too low when it comes to wages?”

  1. That works out at around 12k a year, which is probably the bare minimum anyone in a specialised profession would work for.

    I think if that wage was offered for a first time writer or graduate then it isn’t massively off, but if they expect to get anyone with a decent amount of experience and knowledge then they’ll be shocked at the lack of quality applicants.

    • Actually it’s even less than that because it’s a freelance role there would be no lunch hour or holiday entitlements, pension, etc so pro rata we’d be looking at under £11k. Grim.

  2. It’s too low, by a lot. The company are obviously a bunch of charletans who produce low quality work… Although if it was a choice between working for them and picking cabbages I think I’d go for them?

  3. I think its crazy how many of these companies do this. When I was starting out as a web designer I was offered several different figures one was £35 for a lead position and then the very next day I had a graphic designer senior tell me I was only worth £11,000 and that should would just discount half of my skill set.

    At first I was in shock thinking, “why do they vary? Am I wrong to be asking for £20,000 +” thankfully I stuck to my guns but it really goes to show there are some people out there trying to find student grads and abuse them and replace them when they move on .A high turn over. Mental if you ask me, good post.

    Problem is they know people need to experience its very hard to get in with little or no experience. They are a plague . . .

  4. It can depend what context the job spec is in. If you’re looking for an intern or part-time position the money is acceptable.

    However this particular offer is for a skilled freelancer. No self-respecting freelancer in the right mind would, or could work for such a low wage!

    I’m sure you’ll agree Phil that for those poorly paid hours, there is extra, unpaid time that goes towards managing accounts and hunting for new work etc. So £6.25ph effectively becomes a lot less.

    You pay peanuts – You get monkeys.

    • Nathan – very good point. A good internship should offer a host of benefits that often make up for a low wage – not just work experience but the time of a mentor who can guide you through the work.

  5. Shockingly low wage.

    Someone who is “proficient in Microsoft Office applications” will earn more than that doing admin work.

    The web industry wants to take itself seriously yet some of the wages I see are so poor.

    I was contacted about a web designer/front-end developer role in Altrincham a couple of weeks ago.

    They wanted 3+ years experience and a good portfolio etc. Wage offered – £18k. I laughed at them. I asked how long they had been looking – 6 months. There is your answer right there.

  6. Crazy – I’m not sure they will achieve their expectations like that. With the volume of freelancers visible online these days and looking for work, some clients seem to think this means they can pay very little. Let’s move on to the ones who are serious about quality work.

  7. I am constantly stunned by some of the wages offered within the web industry, and think that the rate of £6.25 is to low for this type of work, they must appreciate that if they get someone, they will be looking to leave as soon as they can, will be job searching constantly and using the job as a stop gap just to get some money in.

    Being based out of Brighton, i find it tricky to get started within the web industry, there are no trainee or proper junior roles. There are junior roles paying £14k ish, requiring 2 yrs experience, good portfolio, excellent knowledge of html/css/php/mysql plus more. Hardly Junior !

    • Steve, your experience is not unique to Brighton. It’s a very similar scenario here in Manchester too and from the tone of the emails I get from impoverished junior web developers I suspect that it’s common across the whole country.

      Buy why?

      To start a web agency it’s pretty easy compared to other business ideas. If I were to set up a butcher shop I’d need the first 3 months of shop rent, money for stock and possibly money to convert the shop into a butchers from a shoe shop. However, a web agency can be started if you manage to convince somebody to make their website for them then outsource the work to freelancers which is a lot cheaper than setting up a butchers :)

      I think that with that low barrier to entry come a lot of poor business people who don’t understand how much websites and online services should cost – they set their margins too low and then have to pay their staff pittance.

  8. In response to Stevens post regarding the 14k junior position and the employer wanting them to do anything and everything, it’s pretty much the same in almost 80% of positions I see advertised.

    ‘Real’ web design jobs are few and far between, where the wage meets the expertise level and the employer has realistic expectations and an actual knowledge of the position he is taking applications for.

  9. You can understand companies wanting to pay less, as you say there is a recession on but £6.25 an hour I think is laughable. I would say a freelance web editor with excellent writing skills wage to start at the very least £7.50 an hr.

    This role being a web editors role meaning the applicant would also have to know some html and learning that in itself isn’t easy. I think you hit the nail on the head phil, Grim, Grim, Grim!

  10. morning all, hey Phil

    Bizarre that my first venture back to Phil’s site in a while references the last topic that I took part in.

    I’m gonna try a bit of devilish advocating here.

    Adverts always over-request on the skillset front, you’re not going to ask for “someone who’s cheap and inexperienced, who’s just looking for a job, who can read, write, and use microsoft word”.

    I’m sure this company knows exactly what they’re going to get (probably a school leaver or student who has a GCSE in English and Business Studies, who knows how to use Facebook!).

    Like Phil says, the barely minimum wage will mean a heavy staff turnover, especially when their mate’s cousin gets them that job at Burger King.

    I really don’t think this ad is seriously targeting any real talent, and I don’t think it reflects the industry as a whole. This appears to me to be either a very naive business, or a very untalented business. Whatever the case is, they’re no competition to you or me, and the people they hire probably wouldn’t get past the application stage for us employers, nor provide any real challenge to anyone of any worth.

    I ‘do’ think that rates of pay are reducing, but that (as I mentioned in the previous article) is indicative of the saturation in the digital recruitment marketplace. It’s more important for young talent to be meticulous in their research of the industry, hold out for a decent company, and learn as much as they possibly can from their peers and industry leaders. Once you’re in, you can only go up. Any employer worth their salt recognises AND rewards good talent, but you don’t get anything for ‘assuming’ you’re good.

    Cheers, Dave

  11. Well if you take a closer look at the job description – it doesn’t really require any specific skills apart from doing a bit of research and putting together some content. Could be done by anyone who has ever written an essay for school, so to me it seems more like a “every once in a while to make some extra money” job which is not exactly targeted at professionals.

    At least I wish it was.

  12. Even if this employer knows they are to get an unskilled worker – the pay is still crap. This isn’t a data entry job which would have a similar, if not higher, pay scale – they are looking for people with research skills and the ability to proof read and edit copy. That isn’t an unskilled job by any stretch.

    Whilst I accept, that the role may be for an entry level person/part time student I still believe the wages are too low.