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How Lucrative is Freelance Journalism?

The amount of money you can make as a freelance journalist varies from a few pounds to £40,000, with more possible if you work hard at it! Some journalists work at it full-time, putting in as much effort as they would for any other full time job. Others only work a few hours for some extra money. So, the bottom line is – you get out what you put in to freelance journalism.

What Are The Rates of Pay I Can Expect?

This is a difficult question to answer as they vary from paper to paper and from piece to piece. However, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has a rough guide to what you can expect to earn for your work:

  • national newspapers – anything from £50 for a tip off to £700 upwards for a front page feature.
  • regional newspapers – from £20 for tip up to £150 for a commissioned feature in a bigger local paper.
  • magazines – from £230 per thousand words in the smaller magazines up to £1500 per thousand words for prestige US magazines.

Of course these are only guides and what you are offered may vary widely from these quoted figures.

The Reality

So, the best way to give a realistic picture of what journalists are being paid is to ask them, and that’s what the NUJ has done. Below is a selection of fees journalists have reported being paid per thousand words by national and local newspapers and magazines from 2011:

National Newspapers:

 

Daily Mail 400-word article 

£750

News of the World TV page lead  

£750

Weekly Telegraph

£220


 

Local Newspapers:

 

Northcliffe Media Christmas TV Guide 1800 words 

£277

 

 

Magazines:

 

 3Fox International ("regeneration" mag)

£275

 Audi Magazine (Northstar) 300 words

£500

Cornwall Today

£100

Country Life 400 word book review

£250

Dredging + Port Construction £10 for photo plus

£250

Frieze Arts feature

£250

Men's Health 

£400

Men's Health all rights (with 50/50 on syndication)

£400

National Geographic

£210

New Internationalist

£230

New Statesman  

£187

Nursing Standard

£220

Oasis (Saudi)

£400

Photography Monthly 3000-word interview

£100

Renewable Energy Focus

£250

Rock Sound feature

£700

Rock Sound

£70

Sound On Sound features copyright retained, mag shares syndication

£150

Spectator 700-word book review

£286

Sun + Wind Energy per page (7000 characters = 1100 words)

£150

The Economist

£417

The Stage

£120

Times Higher Education reporting and features

£200

TNT magazine

£185

easyJet in flight magazine original feature

£275

Imagine Publishing magazine piece

£200

www.londonfreelance.org/rates/index.html

 


As you can see, the amount paid per thousand words varies widely with Audi magazine paying £500 for only 300 words and Photography Monthly paying only £100 for a 3000 word interview. However, you should be able to find out how much your chosen publication pays before you submit work.

What Affects How Much I Can Earn?

There are also other considerations to take into account when trying to assess how much it’s possible to earn, such as:

  • the publication you are writing for – you should always aim to target publishers who accept freelance work.

  • how much your chosen publication pays – some publications pay hundreds of pounds for a piece, some only a few pounds and others pay nothing at all. Don’t take this as a bad thing though – when you are starting out, getting anything published is a bonus and helps to fill out the all important writing portfolio.

  • how often you submit work to publishers – if you can submit five pieces every week you are more likely to get work published and will probably make more than a journalist who only submits one article a month.

  • how often your work is accepted – the more work you send out the more likely you are to get it accepted. So, it’s best to send as much work out as possible each month to ensure a steady income stream.

  • what you choose to write about – your area of specialism may only have two or three target publications, which means you may only be able to submit one or two articles per month. Then again, if you choose to write about topics that are regularly revisited, such as dieting, you could have articles being published all the time.

  • how experienced you are as a freelance journalist – more experienced journalists, with a healthy portfolio, may get more work accepted, be commissioned to write articles or even asked to write a regular column. They will also be paid more for their work.

  • how experienced you are in your chosen specialism, if you have one – if you are qualified in an area, even if you are not a very experienced writer, the publisher may give you a better rate of pay.

 

It may seem like there are many factors affecting what you can earn as a freelance writer. But careful, thorough market research and planning will ensure you target the right publications to maximise your income. To learn more about freelance journalism request a prospectus for the Writers Bureau Freelance Journalism Course.

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Cathal Coyle

"My short-term intention is to continue combining writing for newspapers and magazines with my current job. I'm enjoying my writing 'sideline' but I may find as time goes on that I want to make the transition to full-time writer."

Cathal Coyle

 
Association of British Correspondence Colleges
British Institute for Learning and Development

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