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How Much Freelance Writers Get Paid

No big surprise, small circulation magazines have tight budgets. Some pay in copies only, no money changes hands. Vanity publishing does not put food on the table.

$100 bill paid to freelance writers • Some smaller magazines pay from ten to 25 cents per word.
• Other pay 45 to50 cents per word.
• Most national magazines pay from 75 cents to $1.00 per word
• The bigger magazines pay two and three times that rate.
• Most of the magazines pay between forty cents to a buck a word.

Here’s an interesting strategy worth considering. Sometimes the price paid per word is irrelevant. What's really important is how long it actually takes to write a magazine or newspaper article juxtaposed against the fee. For example, let’s say you’re offered a paltry .25 cents per word to write a 500 word article, one that you can easily knock out in about an hour. Consider the fact that if you write the article in an hour and get paid $125 then your hourly rate is $125 per hour. Not bad money, and an easier than heavy lifting. Conversely, you already know that the articles that pay a high per word fee take significantly more work to turn out. Think days, not hours. Those guy’s bylines may be in the bright lights, big city, but you might be making more money per year.

So how much money can you reasonably expect to get paid per month? That amount depends on how much time you can devote to your craft. Most of the articles you’ll sell and write in the beginning of your career will pay between $250 to $1000. So the salient question becomes how many of them can you sell.

Also keep in mind, if you are a shrewd negotiator you will only sell one time rights. That means you can sell the article to other magazines and the web. Though usually you need to separate publication by at least three months. Also keep in mind that after an article has been in the drawer for a couple of months, it can be rewritten in about an hour and read like an entirely different article. In other words, sell it again, and keep your hourly rate high, versus your per word rate.

So exactly how much should you charge per word? The answer is that it depends. Most magazines have established rates based on the editorial budget. For example, a magazine may have $1000 to tens of thousands of dollars to buy and fotos for each issue. The amount has to be divided up between all the stories. Editors will tell you how much they pay up front. If they are evasive and won‘t commit, then walk away.

No matter what’s offered, always ask for more money. Be nice. Don’t get greedy or you will offend the editor. I always ask for more money. Sometimes I get it. Sometimes I don’t. They understand that you have to ask. Finding out the top pay can be like trying to move Jell-o with a toothpick. Your best bet is to develop a relationship with a magazine editor over years of working together. Keep in mind editors don’t often spend an entire career at one publication. They move around. Make sure you name is on the editor’s rolodex and when the editor moves up, you gain a new profit center.

TIP: Pay rates listed in the Writers Digest are often lower than the amount you can expect to actually be paid once you’ve paid your dues. In other words, once you’ve sold a few stories to a publication, they raise the rate of pay. This valued status comes from turning in work on time. Do that and you become golden. Editors need copy to fill space, copy that comes in on time.

How Much Should You Charge an Editor For a Story You've Written?

The question would more properly be phrased as: “How much money do I want to earn this year as a freelance writer?” Consider the following scenario, one wherein you target an earned income of $52,000, or the rough equivalent to what you were making at your day job. At first blush, that looks like $1000 per week. But in reality you need to bring in more like $60,000. Just like the US Dollar to Euro exchange rate, the freelancer dollar is worth less than the dollar a salaried worker is paid.

That’s because as a self-employed worker bee you must pay your own medical, dental and optical benefits. That’s hundreds of dollars out of pocket every month. And as a self employed worker you have to pay all of you social security tax, whereas, as an employee your employer pays half of it.

You also need to offset home office expenses, which include the space used exclusively for your office, phone and fax bills, the internet connection, the desktop and laptop computer, camera equipment and other incidentals like postage that add up to a lot of money over the course of a year. So add 30 percent to the $52,000 and go for it.

How Long Will It Take for the Publisher to Cut a Check?

The answer is that it depends. Some magazines pay on publication, some on acceptance. Theoretically, at least, on acceptance means once an editor agrees that your article is on the mark, the necessary paper work is filled out and the process begins. Sometimes you get your money in a week. More often it takes a month.

Some magazines pay on publication, which means once the magazine is printed and mailed to its subscribers, only then does the paper trail begins. The bottom line, all these things mean it can be from three to six months from the time you turn in a magazine article before you get paid. On the brighter side, it also means that 90 days from now you could be cashing a check for a magazine article you've written. Think positive.

The bad news is some magazines are horrible about paying writers, and not just for articles written but for out of pocket travel expenses. Get used to it. These days many magazines have been bought by huge conglomerates that only care about the bottom line and they see writers as easy to bully around. For self defense, consider joining NWU, the National Writers Union, it can help mediate problems with bad boy magazines. - next -