A friend wanting to break into the field recently asked me about prices. The publishing industry has seen a lot of change in the past five years, so how much your writing might earn you has changed and will change again. However, I see prices as divided into four distinct tiers.
Some publishers want to pay $5 or less for a blog post, article or web page. Do not accept offers for this price point. You’ll make less than minimum wage. Worse, accepting those offers perpetuates the idea that this is a reasonable amount to pay for what we do.
There’s a wealth of writing opportunities out there that pay between $15 and $30 for about 500 words. A lot of it is with content mills, but some smaller “legitimate” publishers will pay about this amount. It’s not what you deserve, but can still add up to a decent living — if you take 30 minutes to write one, that’s $30 to $60 an hour.
A portfolio of strong copy coupled with good references will land you jobs where you get $60 to $100 for a single blog or online article. You’ll also start to get assignments with some of the mid-range national print publications, for about the same amount per word. At this rate, it’s possible to clear six figures if you’re willing to make it a real job. I work mostly at this tier, and make a solid middle-class living while working about three to four hours on weekdays.
I’ve completed exactly one assignment in this tier, and would love to do more. Rates of $1 per word for articles of several hundred or thousands of words are the norm here. Major national magazines, ghostwriting for major clients, and a few top online publishers pay these rates.
There are other ways to get paid for your writing, such as self-publishing, pay-per click advertising based around your work and a standard commission deal. You can also write to trade links or build your portfolio. But if you’re writing for cash, it’s good to know what the industry is doing, and where you fall on the pro writing totem pole.
Thanks for listening.
That is definitely very interesting information. Thanks for sharing. Have you ever been stiffed by someone? Done the work and not received the pay?
I’ve been stiffed exactly once, by Jordan Wirsz of Become Incredible. It was only for about $100 or so worth of work, but one day he just stopped responding to my emails.
I’ve heard stories about people doing thousands (in one case tens of thousands) of dollars worth of work and getting stiffed. In the tens of thousands case, he was told the boss said not to pay because a freelancer couldn’t afford the legal representation to force the issue.
My safeguard against getting stiffed is to bill early and often. It doesn’t really stop me from getting stiffed, but it does mean I know quickly whether a client might be a payment problem. Strong contracts also help. I should do a whole post about this….
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