>How Much Can You Earn?Posted: September 10, 2008
>I’m back from the East of Eden conference, where I taught classes on general freelance article writing and on freelancing for newspapers. The most frequent questions centered on money. One woman at the general workshop raised her hand and let me know she was only interested in writing for markets that pay at least $1 a word. I don’t blame her, but I assured her that few people start out at that level.
Bonnie, an old friend I hadn’t seen in over a decade, is getting ready to retire from her tech writing job and hopes to supplement her income from novels with newspaper articles. How many articles would she have to write to bring in $500 a month?
Yet another writer wanted to know if she could make enough to live on by freelancing for newspapers. That is the big question in every class I teach, often from people who have never published anything.
For all those eager journalists, young and old, you need to work your way up. Bonnie spoke of her sister-in-law, who writes for three publications at a time and is always looking for new opportunities. When she gets into a higher-paying market, she drops the lowest one off her list. Not a bad way to climb the ladder of success.
Can you get $1 a word from a newspaper? Not often, but it can happen. Meanwhile, I did some research in Writers Market online to see what papers are paying. Among the ones who are willing to disclose their rates, the pay varies tremendously. For community weeklies, rates seems to range from $25 to $75 per article. But you can get 25 cents a word at Community College Week and $50 to $500 at Metro, an alternative weekly published in San Jose and Santa Cruz, California. The San Francisco Chronicle, which takes freelance opinion and travel pieces, pays up to $500. The Christian Science Monitor, which has some of the most extensive online guidelines I have ever seen, pays on average $200 per article.
Even if you made $1,000 per article, consider how much it costs to pay your monthly bills and you’ll see that it’s hard to make a living just freelancing for newspapers, but it can be a darned good supplement to other writing, teaching, speaking or editing work. To make the most money in this business, write a lot, submit a lot, and aim for regular gigs with at least three publications. Choose ideas that have a lot of juice and reprint, re-slant and update stories until you have wrung every drop out of them. It’s hard work, but it can pay off with persistence and determination.