Freelance Writing Pay Rates – How Much Money Do Writers Make?

2013 Writers Market Pay ScaleIf you’re wondering how much to charge as a freelance writer, check out this list of pay rates for different types of magazine and newspaper articles.

These writing jobs and rates are from one of my favorite freelance books: Writer’s Market. Note that this article was written in 2010; to get updated freelance writing pay rates, you need to check out the 2013 edition.

“If you’re a beginning freelance writer, or don’t know many other freelancers, you may wonder how anyone manages to earn enough to eat and pay the rent by writing,” writes Lynn Wasnak in Writer’s Market. “Yet, smart full-time freelance writers and editors annually earn $35,000 and up – sometimes into the $150,000-200,000 range.”

I earned $35,000 my first year of full-time freelance writing, which surprised me. I thought I’d be relying on my husband for financial support for my first few years freelancing! Part of my success is due to the Writer’s Market book series; I read every new edition. Never stop reading and learning, fellow scribes, no matter how experienced you get.

Here’s what the professional freelance writers say about writing jobs and rates for magazines and newspapers…

How Much Do Writers Make? Freelance Writing Pay Rates

Some writers charge by the hour (I charge $50/hour). In Writer’s Market, Wasnak suggests a formula for figuring out your hourly rate:

“Begin by choosing your target annual income – whether it’s $25,000 or $100,000. Add in fixed expenses: social security, taxes, and office supplies. Don’t forget health insurance and something for your retirement. Once you’ve determined your annual gross target, divide it by 1,000 billable hours – about 21 hours per week – to determine your target hourly rate.”

Freelance writers, I encourage you to take your experience and education into account before setting your goals for earning money as a freelance writer. That is, a new freelancer can’t charge as much for writing jobs as a freelancer who’s been writing for five or fifteen years.

Writing Rates for Magazine and Trade Journals

  • Article feature writing: $40-$122 per hour, or $.20-3 per word
  • Reprint articles: $20-$1,500 per project, or $.10-1.50 per word
  • Magazine column: $75-$2,500 per project, or $.37-2.50 per word
  • Ghostwriting articles: $30-$200 per hour, or $.60-10 per word
  • Arts review: $60-$95 per hour, or $.08-1.20 per word
  • Book reviews: $25-$900 per project, or $.15-1.50 per word
  • Rewriting: $20-125 per hour, or $50 per page
  • Content editing: $25-125 per hour, or $.06-.16 per word

Writing Rates for Newspapers

  • Article feature writing: $40-$79 per hour, or .10-$1.60 per word
  • Local column: .38-$1 per word; $25-$600 per project
  • Self-syndicated column: $4-$35 per insertion
  • Investigative Reporting: $2,250-$10,000 per grant
  • Proofreading: $15-$45 per hour
  • Arts review: $30-$69 per hour, or $.06-.60 per word
  • Book reviews: $45-$69 per hour, or  $.25-.60 per word
  • Obituary copy: $35-$225 per project

These writing jobs and rates are compiled from voluntary surveys from members of numerous professional writers’ and editors’ associations and specialty groups. The more networking, marketing, querying, and studying of magazines and newspapers that you do, the more money you can charge as a freelance writer.

“You’ll be surprised how far you can go, and how much you can earn, if you believe in your skills and act on your belief,” writes Wasnak in Writer’s Market 2010. “Learn how to query, then query like mad. Take chances by reaching for the next level. Learn to negotiate for a fee you can live on…and then get it in writing.”

Help for Writers and Bloggers

75 Ways to Make Money Blogging - How I made $60,000 last year with my Quips and Tips blogs. If you love to write, why not pay yourself?

73 Tips for Firing Up (or Just Firing!) the Muse- Because a writer's biggest struggle is motivation & persistence.

For more freelance writing tips, read How Do I Earn Income by Writing Articles for Online Markets?

What do you think of these writing pay rates? How much money do you make (or wish you made) as a writer? Comments welcome below!

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20 Reader Comments

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  1. This is something I may look into in the future. I write creative pieces, working on a novel right now, but I figure this will probably be a way to get more food (or bread…) on the table. Interesting figures there, good for you for making 35K doing what you love to do! I envy that, truly, but in a good way.

  2. Mike says:

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is needed to get set up? I’m assuming
    having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very web smart so I’m not 100% sure. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  3. Laurie says:

    If you want to be a writer, I highly encourage you to give it a try! My most important advice is to remember that writing is a BUSINESS, and you have to be professional and entrepreneurial at all times.

    And, keep learning how to write better. That usually means edit, edit, EDIT your little behind off.

    How much writers make depends on their experience, not necessarily their education. These freelance writing pay rates aren’t set in stone; it’s different for each writer.

  4. Ashtyn says:

    Hi im still young and in highschool do you think that becoming a writer is a good choice? ive always thought it woulf be fun! I love writing and I think i would have alot of fun with it i just dont know if its the best idea.

  5. Neil Alexander says:

    I must submit a budget proposal for a highly unusual job. I am to write a user-friendly grammar for a moribund indigenous language; I am also to create an easy-to-use dictionary of the same language and edit and publish never-before-published traditional texts in the language which were collected last century. I anticipate the grammar to run in the 120-300-page range and the dictionary to be similar in length.(I plan to include the texts within one of those to works.) I have already completed some of the work necessary as part of previous projects which were not funded by this entity, though I’d estimate that 75% of what is yet to be finished will need to be cut from whole cloth. This project will be funded by the tribe for which I am already a full-time employee. I have stated that it must be funded separately because it is a significant commitment (in terms of time, effort, and creative work) and would otherwise place an unfair burden. (I am not compensated well for the work I already perform.) I have no idea what would be fair compensation for this writing project, and they have asked me to submit a budget proposal in a week. What is the rate, per-page or letter, for research-intensive, unique writing of books (whether of this type or something similar)? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Hal says:

    I need to do more querying.

  7. sean says:

    Dose anyone know where one might obtain a list of contacts for outlets which hire freelance writers?

  8. Laurie says:

    Hi Katie,

    It sounds like that freelance job offer was sent to many different freelance writers, and the first one (or two, or more) to write the two articles “won” the freelance contract.

    It also sounds like that editor or publisher isn’t interested in quality, or attracting good writers. He or she just wanted fast articles, and doesn’t even care about content.

    So, I think you’re better off not writing for a client like that. I don’t think you’d gain solid writing experience. And what about pay? Did they advertise their pay rates for articles?

    The best clients (editors, publishers) to work for are those who are clear about their expectations. And, they won’t jump at the first few articles that are handed to them!

    But remember – freelance writing is a competitive field. Luckily, there aren’t as many good writers as bad ones, which does make it easier for good writers to find work.


  9. Katie says:

    I got an offer for a freelance writing job recently and was very excited to begin. The employer asked for 2, 900 word articles. That’s it. Just two 900 word articles. No details, no guidelines for what to write about and no information whatsoever about what type of writing they are looking for. When I asked them for more details about the assignment, they said it had already been completed. So I still got no answer about what they wanted. What do I do in this situation? How do I find out what an employer is looking for if they don’t tell me?

  10. Hello A.U.M.,

    I’m afraid I don’t have what you’re looking for. If you want to make money writing and editing, you need to research the genres and companies that you’re qualified to write for. And, don’t forget to ask for their freelance writing pay rates before you write for them!

    Best wishes,

  11. As one from Bangladesh having experience in writing, reviewing and editing in English daily newspapers for over 34 years and working as a stringer of the London-based Daily Mirror, can I stand a chance of getting the following project/s[Book reviews, Rewriting and / or Content editing]? Who to apply for such work? Please give complete addresses including emails of persons of genuine companies.
    Reference:Several pages written about me in the acclaimed book “Heroes” by one of the world’s preeminent investigative journalists, John Pilger, [published by Jonathan Cape 1986, Vintage 2001]
    Thanks a lot.

  12. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Magenta, I’m glad this article was helpful. I remember reading that reprints should cost half of the original price. So if you charged $1,000 for the article, you should earn $500 for a reprint. Not bad! :-)

  13. magenta says:

    Great post, these tips helped me price my first reprint article properly.

  14. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Jean ~ Thanks for pointing out the typo! If you want to proof all my blog posts, I’d love it. :-)

    Remember that writing rates vary according to the newspaper or magazine’s budget and circulation, and may also depend on how experienced the freelance writer is.

    Star ~ These writing jobs and rates are for print newspaper and magazine freelance writers, not for content mills or online e-zines.

  15. Star says:

    Where are the Demand Media, Seed, etc mills in this? The people claiming to make $35K on those are writing thousands of “stories.”

  16. Jean Calvert says:

    It is great information, I have saved it for reference.

  17. Karen Lange says:

    Thanks for sharing this info!

  18. Jean Calvert says:

    Paragraph 2, line 2, the word “how” has a typo.

    Line 3, the quote with several adjectives describing writers needs a comma or two.

    I’m available for proofing anytime.

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