How did I earn $35,000 my first year as a freelance writer? Not by writing articles for free! These freelance writing pay rates reveal how it’s possible to earn a good living as a writer. I also list several writing jobs and pay rates for freelance writers who work for magazines, newspapers, editors, and publishing houses. And finally, I share eight ways for writers to increase their pay rates.
“If you’re a beginning freelance writer, or don’t know many other freelancers, you may wonder how anyone manages to earn enough to eat and pay the rent by writing,” says Lynn Wasnak in Writer’s Market. “Yet, smart full-time freelance writers and editors annually earn $35,000 and up – sometimes into the $150,000-200,000 range.”
Here’s a warning for freelance writers who are curious about pay rates for magazines and newspapers: “As a profession, freelance writing is notoriously insecure,” said bestselling author and journalist Gloria Steinem. “That’s the first argument in its favor. For many reasons, a few of them rational, the thought of knowing exactly what next year’s accomplishments, routine, income, and vacation will be – or even what time I have to get up tomorrow morning – has always depressed me.”
You don’t have to be a famous published author or established journalist to make money writing for newspapers and magazines. But, you do have to be professional. Freelance writers who can support themselves by writing for media outlets are self-employed entrepreneurs, not flighty artists. Successful freelancers are constantly learning and improving.
For example, one of the ways I learned how to become a freelance writer was by reading almost every edition of Writer’s Market. I was curious about everything: How did freelance writing pay rates change over the years? How much did freelancers earn two years ago? What were the pay rates five years, ten, twenty years ago? I learned that newspapers and magazines still pay writers for articles, but writing for other outlets (big companies, small businesses, online entrepreneurs, and even nonprofit organizations) is more profitable.
Writer’s Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published is an essential writing tool. Not only does it list the most current freelance writing pay rates, it offers information for also has thousands of magazine, newspaper, e-zine, and blog publishers who pay freelancers to write. Writer’s Market also lists the most up-to-date, current freelance writing pay rates.
How Much Do Newspaper and Magazine Writers Get Paid?
Pay rates for freelance writers are not the same for different magazines and newspapers. Inexperienced writers or content creators earn different amounts than experienced or established journalists and bestselling authors. Plus, different newspapers and magazines in different cities, regions, and parts of the world pay writers different rates. The best way to find out how much a newspaper or magazine writer gets paid is to contact specific writers and editors at specific periodicals. Get the inside scoop! That’s your job as a writer, after all.
Here’s what the professional freelance writers say about writing jobs and rates for magazines and newspapers. Some writers charge by the hour (I charge $50/hour). As A. A. Milne says, “Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.”
In Writer’s Market, Wasnak suggests a formula for figuring out your hourly rate: “Begin by choosing your target annual income – whether it’s $25,000 or $100,000. Add in fixed expenses: social security, taxes, and office supplies. Don’t forget health insurance and something for your retirement. Once you’ve determined your annual gross target, divide it by 1,000 billable hours – about 21 hours per week – to determine your target hourly rate.”
Fellow scribes, take your experience and education into account before setting your goals for earning money as a writer. A new freelancer can’t charge as much for an article as an established journalist.
Freelance Writing Pay Rates for Magazine and Trade Journals
My pay rate for alive, which is a health magazine I write for, is fifty cents a word. I started writing for them in 2009, and have stopped pitching article ideas to them. The editors send me assignments regularly. The beauty of establishing yourself as a writer is that you develop relationships with various newspaper and magazine editors. If you’re a reliable, professional freelance writer then you’ll be busy.
These freelance writing pay rates depend on many factors – including how much advertising the newspaper or magazine sells. How much you get paid to write doesn’t always depend on your skills, experience, or creativity.
- Article feature writing: $40-$122 per hour, or $.20-30 per word
- Reprint articles: $20-$1,500 per project, or $.10-1.50 per word
- Magazine column: $75-$2,500 per project, or $.37-2.50 per word
- Ghostwriting articles: $30-$200 per hour, or $.60-10 per word
- Arts review: $60-$95 per hour, or $.08-1.20 per word
- Book reviews: $25-$900 per project, or $.15-1.50 per word
- Rewriting: $20-125 per hour, or $50 per page
- Content editing: $25-125 per hour, or $.06-.16 per word
Reading the Writer’s Market books is a good way to get an accurate feel for current pay rates for freelance writers.
Freelance Writing Rates for Newspapers
These writing jobs and rates are compiled from voluntary surveys from members of numerous professional writers’ and editors’ associations and specialty groups.
- Article feature writing: $40-$79 per hour, or .10-$1.60 per word
- Local column: .38-$1 per word; $25-$600 per project
- Self-syndicated column: $4-$35 per insertion
- Investigative Reporting: $2,250-$10,000 per grant
- Proofreading: $15-$45 per hour
- Arts review: $30-$69 per hour, or $.06-.60 per word
- Book reviews: $45-$69 per hour, or $.25-.60 per word
- Obituary copy: $35-$225 per project
Are you new to newspaper and magazine writing? Read 8 Things You Need to Know About Succeeding as a Freelance Writer.
The more networking, marketing, querying, and studying of magazines and newspapers that you do, the more money you can charge as a freelance writer.
“You’ll be surprised how far you can go, and how much you can earn, if you believe in your skills and act on your belief,” says Wasnak in Writer’s Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published. “Learn how to query, then query like mad. Take chances by reaching for the next level. Learn to negotiate for a fee you can live on…and then get it in writing.”
How Do Freelance Writers Earn More Money?
One of the most important things to remember about making money writing is that you need courage to ask for the freelance pay rate you think you deserve as a writer. When I asked for an increase in my freelance writing pay rate for my favorite magazine, I felt nervous. But the editor agreed to pay me 25 cents more per word.
That said, however, simply having the courage it takes to ask for a raise doesn’t guarantee you’ll make more money writing. If you are a professional freelance writer who works well with magazine editors, you will enjoy higher pay rates. One of the most effective ways to earn a good living as a freelancer is to specialize in a specific niche. It’s not enough just to learn how to be a travel writer, for instance. The most successful writers have a focus or a specialty.
8 Ways for Writers to Increase Their Pay Rates
1. Learn which editors prefer what pitches. One of my regular magazine editors prefers longer, more detailed pitches with most of my sources and information listed. Another editor prefers short, punchy pitches, about a half-page long, so he can share it with his fellow editors more easily. Find out how your editors like to receive their query letters. Pitch accordingly.
2. Avoid asking magazine or newspaper editors about pay rates. I usually wait until I’ve written at least one article for the magazine before I ask what type of query letter the editor prefers. I never ask when I’m cold-calling or cold-emailing — instead, I just send a catchy, thoughtful one-page pitch at first. Later, after the editor has emailed or called, I ask what types of pitches he or she prefers.
3. Pitch your best article, idea, and writing. It’s taken me a full year of full-time freelance writing to absorb this tip: line up your most interesting source or idea before you pitch the article. For instance, if I want to write an article about how the economy has affected feature article assignments, then I need to find a source with direct, unique, and fascinating experience. I’d try to line up a couple of freelance writers, perhaps a freelance editor or two — and definitely a magazine editor. Then, I’m ready to write the pitch that will hook my editor.
4. Realize that you may put more work into your query letter than your article. The more experience I get as a freelance writer, the more time I spend writing pitches that are flawless in terms of execution, sources, anecdotes, experts, and ideas. As I develop relationships and work more with editors, I can simply email ideas in a sentence or two. If they like the idea, they ask me to write a more detailed pitch.
5. Ask for another article assignment when you file or submit an article. When I submit an article and invoice, I ask editors if they have any leads or article ideas that they’d like me to write. I don’t mention magazine or newspaper pay rates when I pitch different ideas, but I like to show editors I’m open to writing most anything.
In 11 Most Popular Articles to Write for Magazines (Freelance Writing is Easier Than You Think!) share my tips for getting published in print and online magazines. It’s easy when you know what types of articles editors and publishers need!
6. Be grateful for revisions. Welcome an editor’s feedback. When editors ask for edits, be glad for the opportunity to become a better, more successful writer! I learned far more from revising and rewriting than I ever did from the editors who simply published my articles “as is.” One of my favorite Reader’s Digest editors would call me and we’d edit my articles over the phone. Every phone call and every edit made me a better writer.
Are you interested in writing for a national magazine – even if you don’t know their pay rates? Read 10 Things You Need to Know About Writing for Reader’s Digest.
7. Take opportunities to make personal connections with editors. If an editor makes a personal reference in an email — for instance, one of my health magazine editors recently referred to his use of the elliptical trainer — follow up on it. The more real you are to editors (and the more real they are to you), the better your relationship will be…and the more your chances increase for future assignments.
8. Know the current writer’s market. “An editor whose magazine offers 10 cents a word will rarely negotiate that fee with a newcomer,” writes Nancy Hamilton in Magazine Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide for Success. “Even seasoned writers usually have a hard time negotiating it upward…check magazine specifications in Writer’s Market to determine whether a magazine pays on a per-word basis or a blanket fee for an article of a certain length.”
Keep improving your writing skills. The best way to increase your pay rate as a freelancer is to be really, really good at your job. Larry King’s advice for writers is good: “Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read.” But just as important is to be a good entrepreneur. You, as a freelance writer, are a small business.
Instead of putting your energy into researching freelance writing pay rates for newspapers and magazines, focus on writing excellent feature articles and profiles. Read 11 Most Popular Types of Magazine Articles – Print & Online.