One of the most common questions I get asked about freelance writing for magazines and newspapers is, you won’t be surprised to learn, “How much do publications pay?”
The answer is that it varies — hugely. In the UK, glossy big name magazines can pay £1 a word or more, especially to big-name writers. Small or local or hobby magazines might only pay 5p a word. More typical for the average publication is around 15-25p a word. In the US, rates are broadly higher than this.
Some publications are happy to disclose their rates; others are more cagey. Many pay different rates depending on who the writer is, or what the work is. Most are open to negotiation, if you don’t mind haggling.
Some would argue that you should always ask for a higher rate, within reason. Even if you don’t get it, in so doing you make it known that you value your own work, and most commissioning editors will not look upon you unfavourably for asking for more, providing you can support your request, for instance by outlining the work or research involved, or numerous interviews you may need to undertake.
Two books which are decent sources of writing rates (both worth buying as writers’ bibles in their own right) are The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook (UK) and The Writer’s Market (US) (above right) — the latter of which is far more detailed in giving information about what magazines, especially, are looking for and what they might pay.
Here are two online sources of freelance writing rates in the UK, should you wish to check out what the typical going rates are before you pitch your idea to editors. If the idea is suitable for a number of potential outlets, start with the highest payers … and work your way down.
Journo Resources — Freelance Rates
Newish resource for up and coming journalists, with recently reported rates for work.
National Union of Journalists — Freelance Fees Guide
A rather sprawling and messy but data-packed resource, not always the easiest to navigate, of rates reported to the NUJ by its members, going back many years. See newspaper rates here; see magazine rates here.
Furthermore, some more modest magazine rates — which may be good targets for beginner writers — are provided in the UK & Ireland Markets page on this site.
Finally, there is also a lot of information in all the ‘Money’ Mistakes in the vaults on this blog, going back many years. Have a browse here, to learn what to do (and what not to do) when it comes to negotiating, billing, accounting, writing for free, and much more besides.