Congratulations – a magazine editor is interested in publishing your article! But when do you ask about pay rates? These tips for freelancers are inspired by a reader’s question…

When to Ask Magazine Editors About Article Pay RatesOne of my favorite freelance writing books is The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success – it’ll get you away from the “rules” of publishing and help you feel your way.

“I’ve read several articles on this topic (pitching query letters) and am almost good to go,” says Laura on How to Pitch a Query Letter to Magazine Editors. “But, I’m a little unsure about when the pay rates discussion comes in. If the editor is interested, will they reply with their rates? I know how much to charge for articles but am unsure how much more valuable accompanying photos make the piece. Can you please help?”

I’ve read more freelance writing books than blog posts, because I find books more efficient, less distracting, and more educational than online articles. Isn’t that crazy, coming from a writer who blogs for a living?

And here are a few thoughts on discussing pay rates with magazine editors…

When Do You Ask Editors About Pay Rates for Your Articles?

It depends on the situation – I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” answer. Sometimes pay rates are published on the magazine’s website, in the writer’s guidelines. Other times, you need to ask what they pay per word during a phone discussion, after the assignment has been offered. And still other times, the editors send their pay rates along with the assignment, deadline, and contract.

Generally, I don’t ask about pay rates until I’m fairly confident clients or editors are hooked. If they bring up money first, I’ll certainly tell them my rates! But I won’t initiate a money discussion until I’m sure they want to hire me. It’s easier to get what you want when editors know you have something they want. 🙂

By the way, the most popular book on freelancing on Amazon is The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less.  If you’re a freelancer, you need to read books about freelance writing.

Here are a few more things to consider…

Discuss money before you write the article

Is the magazine editor gushing over your work and can’t wait to publish your article? Yay! Now’s the time to say, “Let’s talk about money. I normally charge $50 per hour, or $1 per word. Does that work for you?”

Remember that freelance writing is a business – and business always involves negotiation. The more you negotiate your pay rates, word counts, deadlines, etc, the easier it’ll get.

Here’s a tip for freelance writers who are reluctant or scared to negotiate with editors: have fun with it! To learn how, read How to Convince People to Say Yes – 5 Persuasion Techniques. If you can inject a little humor or lightheartedness into your discussion, you’ll increase the chances that you get what you want.

Always get your agreement in writing

You don’t need a long, detailed contract that specifies your pay rates; you need only a short, one line email. “I’ll write X article for Editor at Magazine, 5,000 words, and for a pay rate of $2 per word. I’ll invoice at the end of the month, and get paid within 10 days.”

In reality, you’ll get paid within a couple of months. But, getting your pay rate agreement in writing increases your chances of getting paid by some really high percentage.

Don’t be afraid to talk about money

When to Ask Magazine Editors About Article Pay Rates

When to Ask Magazine Editors About Article Pay Rates

It seems that I’ve had to ask about pay rates more often than I’ve just been told them. I now find it a piece of cake to ask how much I’ll get paid, and to talk about how much I charge.

Also – don’t be afraid to turn down assignments because the pay rates are too low. The Vancouver Sun wanted me to write an article for 20 cents per word and take photos, and I said no way ho-say.

Be prepared to give reasons for your writing pay rates

I charge $50 an hour to write freelance articles and blog posts. A potential client said her other writers are getting paid quite a bit less than that. I said no problem, and asked if I could send her a sample article. I also gave her a few reasons I believe I’m worth $50 an hour. Now, she’s one of my regular clients – and she sends me paycheques every two weeks.

It’s one thing to know what the current freelance writing pay rates are – but it’s a whole different ball game to actually deserve to make $2 a word or $50 an hour.

Fellow scribes, Laura also asked about photos – how much do they add to the value of the article. Can you answer this for her? I’ve never submitted photos with my work.

For more freelancing tips, read How to Handle a Payment Upon Publication Offer for Your Article.

What do you think – when do you ask editors about the pay rates for your articles?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

10 thoughts on “When to Ask Magazine Editors About Article Pay Rates”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks, Elise, I’m glad this was helpful. Congratulations on moving forward in your career! It’s always good to figure out what’s right for you.


  2. While I didn’t end up writing for the magazine that approached me, and actually decided that magazine writing is really not for me, your article really helped when I did entertain the option. This and this particularly: “Discuss money before you write the article” & “Don’t be afraid to bring up money” REALLY helped. Gave me the courage and knowledge to know that it was okay to ask before anything real went down. Thanks for this!

  3. Lauran,

    Thanks for being here – I hope your pitch was successful, and you gain a new client! I’m surprised you’re still faxing contracts back and forth – I thought pdf files overwrote fax machines 🙂

    All good things in your writing career,

  4. Thanks, I’m a ghostwriter and about to pitch a magazine for the first time today, and the thing I found most useful in your article was;

    “I’ll write X article for Editor at Magazine, 5,000 words, and for a pay rate of $2 per word. I’ll invoice at the end of the month, and get paid within 10 days.”

    I’m also negotiating with someone who wants me to write an ebook and articles for them today and I wish I could write something so easily in an email. Usually I do a contract and that requires faxing back and forth if we don’t meet in person.

    Thanks for your blog, I look forward to reading more of it!

  5. Hi, I have a question for you. I have been freelancing for a local magazine for awhile, and I have a contract with them that I get paid a certain amount per word. The editor will assign an article at a certain word count, say 1000, but before publication and with edits, I am told my ‘final’ word count, and am paid that. So say my article was turned in at 1100 words and kept at that amount, I would get paid my per word rate at 1100. However, if it was cut in half, I’d get paid per word for 500 words. I was just informed by the assistant that they have started paying by the ‘assigned’ word count, which sounds like they are combining the word count with a flat fee. However, all it says in my contract is ‘X cents per word, unless a new/alternate fee is negotiated in writing prior to publication’. Can they ‘decide’ to pay for the assigned word count, regardless of the actual length of the finished piece? And if so, which is better situation for the freelancer? Thanks!

  6. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments! Asking magazines editors for a raise in pay – or even to get paid for writing an article! – can be tough, especially for new writers.

    But the more you do it, the easier it gets 🙂

  7. Wow! $50 for an article that’s like “I’m bowing to you”

    Well, it shows anyways. It’s really your passion to write that’s why your work is great and you deserve that. Most freelancers actually settle at a rate on per-word basis.

  8. Yeah, it is true that it could be tough to ask for a better rate. Some writers might think their articles are not worth such a high rate to their clients.

  9. Manjusha@English Grammar

    Beginners can’t demand bigger rates. I have been freelancing for a while, but the truth is that I am still writing for the same rates I started with. I have regular clients and I sometimes think about asking for a raise but I am yet to do that. Can’t say exactly what is preventing me from asking for it, though.

  10. That is some pretty solid advice. I think many people write for low rates, not only because they feel that is the actual going rate, but because they are afraid to ask for more.

    Off to read your article on 5 techniques to persuade clients to pay your desired fee… Thanks!