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Magazine freelance writing rates

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Seabasket, Jun 12, 2009.

  1. Seabasket

    Seabasket Active Member

    Wow, been a long time between posts...

    Anyhow, been busy working hard. I've managed to break into doing freelance magazine work in the last two years or so, including some for major publications.

    My question is how do you guys go about assigning rates? I know some people try to gauge prices based off a given magazine's stated circulation, but what if it is owned by a private company and doesnt release that info?

    It seems like a total crapshoot, and I feel like I should just throw some prices on a dart board and see what I hit. If it helps any, I have a pretty decent resume and have written for many mainstream sites like MSNBC.com, ESPN.com, etc. over the years.

    Curious as to how some others who do magazine freelance writing determine their rates.
  2. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Sea, A lot will depend on the magazine, and how much experience you have. Two people can be writing for the same consumer magazine, and not be getting the same per-word rate. When I wrote for magazines, I don't remember anyone asking, "What is your rate?" If it was someone I hadn't worked for, they'd usually offer me $X for an assignment, or $Y per word, and then it was up to me to accept or try to negotiate (often without much success). Have you had someone who wanted you to do you a story ask you for a rate? If that happens, why not quote something high (but not totally unrealistic) and see if they accept? They can only negotiate down, but at least you are setting the bar high.
  3. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    Totally agree with Ragu.

    I never have had anyone ask "What's your rate?" but have been rebuffed in attempts to obtain more pay than offered. In those situations I have to weigh if there is a possible benefit down the road, or if me accepting will set the bar that can't be hurdled in the future.

    I also have successfully negotiated higher rates a few times. But those instances have been rare.

    The problem is if you decline an assignment because of the pay, the editor will find someone who will accept. If it is shitty pay then the bar is lowered for everyone.
  4. Magazines and newspapers generally have a freelance rate already set -- they'll tell you how much they're going to pay. On rare occasions, you can negotiate them up, but as stated, that has always been rare, and given the state of freelance budgets these days, it's getting rarer.
  5. Seabasket

    Seabasket Active Member

    I have been asked what my rate was, but it's hard to answer sometimes. I asked the editor of one magazine what his circulation was to give me a better idea of where they are financially, and he said they dont give that information out. So I was sort of stumped on that one. I gave him a number, then he said that's too high.

    I guess I'm finding it kind of weird that you're worth one thing at one magazine and then worth something completely different at another.
  6. Seabasket

    Seabasket Active Member

    So do you find when they approach you, they'll say, "We generally pay from $X to $Y per word," or do they just usually give you a firm number?

    I've had both of those scenarios happen, as well as being asked what my rate is. One of those times, upon answering the editor, she said, "That's it? I would've thought you'd cost a lot more." I sheepishly said I guess I should've asked for more, and she upped my fee 50 cents a word without batting an eyelash.

    Every money conversation feels like a first date, awkward and clumsy.
  7. Almost always, they will have a firm rate or fee in mind when they start talking money. I have had editors ask me on occasion, ``How much do you usually charge?'' but most of the time when I throw out a number, they come back with, ``Well, I can give you X.'' Again, sometimes you can take their number and say it doesn't sound like enough and you can get them to increase it, but don't count on doing that a lot.

    Oh, and I have had editors kick in a little extra without asking, but it's usually an editor I've done a lot of work for in the past and have a longstanding good relationship with.
  8. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    I've also been in the assigning editor role. I don't play games with it. I tell them how much it pays. "What is your rate?" seems like a silly game, when I know how much I am willing to pay for a story, and I am not talking to you unless I think you can do a good job with the topic.

    I am working with a fixed budget. Let's say I have $X for edit. I may set aside a little extra for someone I work with a lot, or I may toss him a bit more this month for having killed on something a few months ago. But otherwise, similar stories are getting paid at the same rate. There's nothing really to negotiate, and there is no reason to play silly games.

    When I wrote for others, if anyone had played that game with me, I probably wouldn't have played along. It seems amateurish. I am glad I never dealt with that.
  9. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    Hell, I'd settle for 50 cents a word, period, compared to most of the freelance I've had.

    My experience is, they tell me how much the job pays and then it's up to me to adjust my time and effort to make sure I'm not getting killed on the deal. A $200 job? I give them a $200 result. A $1,000 job? Ditto. I guess that means "my rate" is some internal sense where I try not to screw myself over.
  10. ringer

    ringer Member

    There's an annual book called "Writer's Market" that lists freelance pay guidelines for just about every publication in the US and Canada. Along with a wealth of other info.
  11. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I don't see any correlations with circulations and payments, at least from my mag work.
  12. Seabasket

    Seabasket Active Member

    I've always questioned how accurate those are. I have asked a couple writers what they get for certain publications, and the rates seem to fluctuate more than I ever thought.
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