Professional Activities and Salary Survey

American Society for Indexing
2016 Professional Activities and Salary Survey—Executive Summary

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Every five years, ASI conducts an in-depth survey of its members to take a snapshot of the industry in terms of its demographics, financial trends (including pricing and salary data), areas of growth and overall strength. Using this type of data, members can see how their individual skills, interests, and goals can fit into the existing industry structure and how they might be able to leverage emerging trends to their advantage.

In general, the industry remains strong with many salary figures holding steady or increasing compared to those cited in the survey conducted six years ago. Looking exclusively at full-time indexers, the average gross income is around $52,000, which is a modest increase from the 2009 results when the average range was $51,000.

For those indexing on a part-time basis (not as a supplement to other employment), the average gross income is $13,900, nearly a 16% increase from the average of $12,000 reported in the previous survey.

Length of time in the industry is still the biggest influencer on salary. Looking at gross income, the first 2 years are financially challenging to those starting an indexing career. The average gross income for those who have been indexing less than 2 years, both full and part-time, was about $7,000, a significant increase from the $4,000 reported in 2009, but still a small figure.

But if indexers could make it over the two-year mark, then things begin to look more positive. For those who have been indexing between 2 and 5 years, the average gross income is $23,125, an increase of over 300%. The gross income increases again, to $29,200, for those who make it to the 6–10 year range. Finally, those full-time indexers longest in the business (more than 20 years) have an estimated average gross income of $47,800.

Per entry rates average about $.74, a 6% increase from 2004. Hourly rates appear to have increased from 2009 when the indicated average range was $31–$35 and fully 40% of indexers reported charging in the $21 to $30 range. For 2015, only 20% of indexers charged in the $20–$29 range, with over half charging in the $30–$50 per hour. Per page rates (the most frequently implemented) appear to have climbed somewhat and stabilized since 2009 when a rather large average page rate range of $2–$4 was reported. The estimated average rate for 2016 is $3.88 per page, close to the top of that rather broad average range for 2009.

A plurality of indexers (42%) have not raised their rates, a slight reduction from 2009’s figure of 45% who had not raised rates. Of those who have, a plurality did so more than 2 years ago.

While the industry attracts new indexers, there is a clear shift in length of tenure compared with the previous survey. In 2009, it was reported that “there is nearly equal distribution of indexers in all tenure ranges.” That has now changed dramatically. Only 5% of respondents have been indexing for less than 2 years, while fully 30% have been indexing more than 20 year. In addition, 9% of respondents indicate that they are “cutting back/moving to retirement.”

As in 2009, full-time indexers dominate the landscape, representing over 40% of the industry. Part-time indexers with no other employment account for about 24%, while part-timers who take on indexing work in addition to other employment represent 16%. The bulk of the respondents, more than 60%, identify themselves as independent contractors. Over 30% of respondents said they were company owners, compared with 21% of respondents in 2009.

Indexing companies

Most companies (85%) are sole proprietorships.
Nearly half (47%) report billable time of 20 to 39 hours per week.
28% work with subcontractors.

Independent contractors

Most independent contractors focus solely on indexing rather than diversifying their service offerings.
Repeat business is still the number one source of business.
Average billable time per week is generally in the 20 to 39 hours per week range, with 48% of respondents reporting that billing range.

Teachers of Indexing

Of those who teach indexing, most do so through live workshops, although nearly as many mentor new indexers.
While the vast majority teach back-of-book indexing, at least half teach software applications and non-marketing business issues.

Demographic snapshot

Most indexers are female (90% of respondents), aged 50-69.
A plurality live in the East, followed by the West and the central part of the country.
69% work in either urban or suburban areas, a reduction of nearly 10% from 2009, which the gainer being rural areas.
62% have master’s or doctorate degree.