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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Markets Pay--and How to Make More Money Regardless

My second post on this blog was about money—and why writers should talk about it. Information is power, after all—and if you don’t know what other writers are making, how do you know what to charge?

Markets vary, but here are some average rates to keep in mind:

Print markets
National magazines: $1-2/word+
Trade magazines: $.25-50/word
Regional magazines: $0.10-50/word
Custom magazines: $0.50-$1/word+

Online markets
Blogs: $25+/blog post or $0.50/word+
Website copy $0.25-.50/word

Books (including ghostwriting)
Book proposals $4,500-10,000+
Full-length books $10,000-35,000+ (+royalties, in some cases)

Other work
Consulting $100/hour+
Editing $50/hour+
Teaching (six-week online class) $100-200/student

Note that when it comes to print markets, I don't worry about dollars/word, but dollars/hour. I'm no longer doing a lot of feature-length pieces for national magazines the way I did early on in my freelance career, and most of the articles I do don't pay that well per-word. But because they're relatively easy to research and write (and involve minimal editing/rewriting hassles), my hourly rate on them stays high. For example, if I spend a total of four hours researching and writng a piece that pays $500 (which isn't unusual for the service journalism stories I churn out), that's an hourly rate of $125. Not bad at all.

That being said, I'll tell you that this year has been a tough one, workwise. I lost a book deal I was counting on at the last minute. I had a project that paid a mere $10,000 expand in scope and eat up much of the first five months of the year. I only had a handful of speaking gigs this year, and my biggest project (a book I'm ghostwriting) paid only $13,500--less than half of what I was paid for a similar book several years ago. I've had to drop my rates for book proposals to far less than I used to charge.

But here's the thing. I can't control what a client can afford, or is willing to pay me. But I can control how I spend my time--and after fourteen years of experience, I've learned how to work as efficiently as possible:

I reslant just about every story I write about.

I sell reprint rights.

I write articles and books about the same subject so I get more mileage from my work.

I ghostwrite books for clients which means I no longer have to spend time selling the book once it's published.

I speak professionally, which raises my profile, adds to my bottom line, and sells books.

Get the idea? There are things you can control and things you can't. You may have no say over what markets pay you (other than deciding whether to work for them) or you may be unable to negotiate the amount of money you want when working with a client. But you, and you alone, are the boss of your time. Master it, spend it well, and you'll be more successful as a freelancer.


  1. Great information Kelly! Thanks for sharing. Here's to a wonderful New year!

  2. Kelly,
    You are the first person I've found to actually share this kind of information. Thank you! It is so helpful to know if I'm being paid what I should be.

  3. Kelly,

    Great advice from someone who definitely knows the ropes! Thanks for sharing this.

  4. I bookmarked this and I linked it & tagged you on Facebook--would like all freelancers to see's so helpful. Thank you!

  5. Thank you all, and thanks for the link, Kris! :)

    May 2011 be your best year of freelancing yet!

  6. Thanks for sharing such helpful information, Kelly. Everyone's comments are right on-- so few people are willing to talk about money and it's so nice to see someone who is!

    I'm curious as to where you got these average rates from? Are they based on your personal experience or is there another resource that you used to quote from?

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Hi, Kate!

    The rates are based on my personal experience and that of other writers I know. :)