Freelance Pay Rates

Freelance Journalists Get Paid Like Shit

BY Matthew Albasi

Published August 03, 2018

Many people dream of being a freelance journalist. It’s a profession that has some distinct perks: make your own hours, no bosses, no guidelines. It’s just you, your talent and your ideas. At least that’s the perception that people have when they get started. They quickly realize that the freelance life means you have eye-watering hours, too many bosses and are constantly working within the guidelines of, well, someone. But at least the pay is good. Well, not really. How bad is it? Well, let’s dig in.

First, we need a benchmark. The average salary for a full-time staff journalist is around $40,000 per year, although that varies quite a bit between metros. We’ll use it for a comparison.

Distribution of Freelancer's Pay

Most journalist get paid less than $0.50 per word. If a freelancer’s goal was to hit the average pay of a staffer, they would need to write about 80 1000-word stories per year.

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SOURCE: Who Pays Writers

Writing 80 1000-word stories per year is no easy task, but it is possilble. That’s about 1.5 stories per week or six per month.

A More Detailed Look

While a large number of freelancers do manage a $0.50/word rate, about 1 in 4 get paid 10 cents or less per word. 7 out of 10 get paid 30 cents or less per word. At 30 cents per word, you’d need to write more than 10 1000-word stories per month, or 130 per year, to make an average full-time salary.

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SOURCE: Who Pays Writers

Despite the dire numbers, there are many people who manage to make a decent living as a freelance journalist. Whether it’s through optioning film deals to their stories, reselling similar work or just being one the lucky few who can command more money per word.

If you wanted to skip the chump change and dive right in to the deep end, there are a few publications that pay a much higher wage.

Best Paying Publications

These publications have the highest reported rates of any in the database. They might not pay this much all the time, but they have at least once before.

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SOURCE: Who Pays Writers