June 27, 2023
It’s no secret that freelance magazine writing rates are on the decline in recent years. Many freelancers wonder if they can earn a living freelance writing for print publications and editorial websites.
Freelancers in our industry often struggle to make a living, especially as freelance competition heats up and editorial publications often offer pennies per word.
Stories of editors ghosting writers and outlets taking far too long to pay for finished work are, unfortunately, a common tale amongst freelance magazine writers who work for digital outlets and print publications.
But if you’re wondering how much writers get paid for magazine articles and freelance magazine writing rates for online articles, as well as how to get paid to write magazine articles, this freelance rate guide can help as you start doing research into magazines that accept freelance submissions.
Make sure you’re charging clients enough for each assignment and always negotiate the rate.
Oh, and here are some things to consider when you’re wondering how much to charge for a 500-word article as a freelancer.
Learn how you can earn more money working from home and freelancing with my freelance writing online courses.
(Original copy from freelance writer and editor, Carlett Spike.)
In 2017, I wrote a series of freelance articles for Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) where I asked freelance writers and photographers about their favorite outlets to write articles for, magazines that pay for articles, and why they enjoyed working with these freelance clients.
The following year, some writers pushed back on the premise of the story, arguing that working with great editors and getting paid good freelance rates should be the standard.
AGREED! (Here are freelance writers’ number-one pieces of advice for beginners.)
“What have we come to as an industry where we’re saying, ‘Oh well, it’s okay that we’re being poorly paid and can barely pay our rent and barely feed ourselves because they treat us nicely,” Erin Biba, a freelancer who has written for various outlets including BBC and Scientific American, told me.
“We should be treated nicely. That’s not something that we should be writing an article about–that we’re excited that we’re treated nicely. To me, that’s just not an acceptable trade. We should be getting paid good freelance rates and treated nicely.”
This discussion inspired me to explore freelance magazine writing rates and how much freelancers get paid, which included freelance writing rates 2017 and freelance writing rates 2018, this time focusing on the media outlets that writers said pay best amongst magazines that pay for articles and how to find magazines that accept freelance submissions.
(This Get Paid to Write course will walk you through EXACTLY how to do that.)
For some writers, that means these are the media outlets where they made the most money, while others focused on the per-word rate for freelance assignments. A few freelancers examined the larger picture, explaining that a mediocre rate was sometimes more valuable if the outlet also covered travel expenses. Several other freelance writers focused more on the overall time it takes to complete a story and calculated a per-hour freelance rate. (Here’s how many hours freelancers work each week.)
“They’ll pay you a $1 a word and it’s a 500-word freelance article, but sometimes the hoops you have to jump through to get the story idea approved and then it goes through three or four rounds of edits isn’t always worth it to me. You’re submitting notes and transcripts and doing a lot of other work,” said freelance journalist Diana Kelly Levey, who also teaches freelance writing online courses.
She added, “If I can turn in a story that takes me two hours to write it, type it up, research it, turn it in, and they don’t have a lot of back-and-forth edits that change the scope of work and I get paid $400 for it, that’s a $200 hourly rate.” That’s a nice freelance journalist rate for a writer.
After speaking with two dozen freelancers and asking them how much are freelance writers paid to write magazine articles, a list of “best paying” freelance writing jobs did emerge when I searched for magazines that pay for articles—and pay well! I converted all the provided freelance rates to per-word for consistency in this list of magazines that pay freelance writers. The outlets that received more than one mention include:
(Editor’s note, this article was originally written in 2018 so some rates may have changed.)
The New York Times Magazine: Another one of the magazines that pay for articles, freelance rates vary from 50 cents to $2.75 per word for print and web.
Wired + GQ: freelancers often mentioned these two publications together, noting they pay $2 to $2.75 per word for print.
The New Republic: Freelancers report this is one of the magazines that accept freelance submissions at about $1 a word for print.
Men’s Health: Freelance rates from 25 cents to $2 per word for digital and print.
(Check out these article pitch examples to find out what it takes to write for magazines like Men’s Journal, Headspace, and other print magazines as a freelance writer.)
While creating this list of how much freelancers get paid was the goal, I also discovered some striking trends when looking over the responses from this small set of data. Here are a few of those takeaways:
While people might all say “print is dead” and magazines are folding (closing down) left and right. It’s important to look for the silver lining and proof that magazines are still being launched and published.
According to this blog, 74 new magazines were launched in 2022 and 122 were launched in 2021. That means there are still plenty of freelance magazine writing opportunities out there if you’re willing to look harder for them.
Wondering how much do magazine writers make? While print circulations across the U.S. continue to fall, all of the “best-paying freelance outlets” noted by freelancers are print publications. Generally speaking, most print publications pay at least $1 a word—many $2 a word and up.
(These types of freelance writing can also pay $1/word and up!)
Given the rocky foundation underneath digital publications and the difficulties of generating ad revenue this makes sense. Michael Rosenwald dove deeper into this topic of how much freelancers get paid in a 2016 piece for CJR.
Quoting new media researcher Iris Chyi’s book, Rosenwald writes, “the (supposedly dying) print edition still outperforms the (supposedly hopeful) digital product by almost every standard, be it readership, engagement, advertising revenue,” and especially willingness to actually pay for the product.” (Learn how much to charge for 500-word article here.) Yes, there are plenty of people who still want to pay for magazine subscriptions which means there are freelance magazine writing opportunities to be found.
Of course, there’s not as much space in print as there is online, which is why it’s easier to find magazines that pay for articles online.
Knowing how to find magazines that accept freelance submissions is one of the skills that’s covered in this freelance writing online course. (Find out if freelance SEO writing is an area to explore as you look to freelance magazine writing opportunities for digital outlets.)
So let’s ignore digital natives for a moment. (Although those online magazines are paying freelance writers!)
There are examples of publications—even some of those mentioned by the freelancers I spoke to—where digital subscription growth is outpacing the print product.
When you’re wondering how much freelancers make writing for magazines and how to know which magazines that pay for articles, know that freelance rates are all over the map.
One freelancer said she received 25 cents per word for an online freelance writing piece for Men’s Health. Another reported receiving $2 a word to write for the same print publication.
Given shorter turnaround times for online writing jobs for the publication and the heightening impact of the never-ending news cycle, the disconnect between print and web’s pricing is hard to explain. Aren’t the editorial standards the same?
“I’m just still always surprised at how—which is so unsurprising—but how much more I get paid for print than for online when I know that online it reaches so many more people,” Mallory Pickett, who has written for FiveThirtyEight and Bay Nature told me when I asked about magazines that accept freelance submissions and which are the magazines that pay for articles.
When you’re ready to increase your freelance writing rates and find higher-paying clients, look into these freelance coaching services.
One independent journalist told me she feels lucky science journalism is her focus. “I think science journalism is still one of the journalism verticals that have freelance money going towards it. So, in that sense, I feel like it’s a little rare.”
Maybe she’s onto something. Many of the freelancers I spoke with noted one freelance niche publication among their list of places that pay well. Of all the outlets, Wired was actually the most mentioned among the freelancers surveyed on freelance magazine journalist rates.
The online writing versus print magazine writing debate aside, when you’re looking for magazines that pay for articles, know there are freelance writers that reported getting really good rates online. One freelancer that wrote for the New York Times Well Section received $1 a word for a story. According to WhoPaysWriters, a freelancer received 25 cents per word for a piece for Jezebel in 2017.
Another was approached by Jezebel to write sponsored content for more than $1 a word. While sponsored content is another can of worms, it’s still worth pointing out the discrepancy. (Here are the other freelancer FAQs you need to know.)
Many freelancers writing for magazines and online outlets acknowledge that it’s a tough system that likely will not improve any time soon as freelance magazine writing rates are one the downslope.
The biggest dilemma: For every person that scoffs at low rates, there is someone behind them who will take it. (When should you lower your freelance rates?)
“I do understand that a lot of editors feel overworked or they’re just slammed with stuff, but I think it’s fair to say that freelancers are often operating from a more desperate less powerful position than the people at these publications,” said Jacob Silverman a freelancer who has written for publications including The Baffler and Politico Magazine. He added, “There’s still pay disparities out there. I don’t know if they fall across gender lines or it’s an older generation with when people got in when the times were good, still making $2, but the money is going somewhere.”
What is a freelancer to do who wants to earn a higher freelance hourly rate?
“always ask for more,”
“don’t be afraid to turn down rates that simply are not worth your time,”
“don’t work for free”
are common pieces of advice freelancers offer to others trying to navigate making a living in this line of work.
But with the cost of living rising, many are left wondering if there will ever be real change.
One note: We didn’t address native advertising freelance writing rates 2018 freelance writing rates 2017 and freelance writing rates 2016 or content marketing rates which tend to pay better than online editorial and is comparable to or higher than pay for print magazine articles.
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