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How to Raise Your Rate as a Freelance Magazine or Newspaper Writer

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Sometimes, hard work is no indication of how much money you’ll earn or how successful you will be. I’ve seen, unfortunately, writer friends who work very hard to churn out articles for content mills and low-paying publications. Yet other writer friends may not work quite as hard but earn way more.

This can certainly be the case when writing for newspapers and magazines. I used to do some magazine and newspaper freelance work, but moved away from it when I realized I could find my own business clients and write for them for a much better rate that I set myself. And the payment terms would be better. But I know many writers love the idea of a byline and crave newspaper and magazine work. And that’s OK. To each, right?

Well, if you’re a freelance magazine or newspaper writer, you don’t have to be stuck with no and low-paying work. Here is how to raise your rate and make more money when you freelance for magazines and newspapers:

1. Exercise your rights. Consider what rights you are selling to the publication. For instance, if you are selling First North American Serial Rights, then you are selling the right to publish that piece for the first time in North America. But don’t think that’s all the life left in that piece. Consider other rights. Many publications, for instance, buy reprint rights. So that means you can earn money for that piece twice — thanks to those reprint rights. One article, two checks? Cool, right?

2. Eliminate the duds. You don’t have to write for any publication you don’t want to. Sure, you might have written for one that paid you $15 an article way back when you first got into this game, but are you really still at that level? Kick that low-paying publication to the curb! It’s really not worth your time. Not if you want to have any time for anything beyond slaving over $15 articles.

3. Seek out better-paying venues. Would you rather write an article and get paid $30 for it or $300 for it? Well, target the places that pay better. You don’t have to make the leap from the lowest-paying publications to the highest-paying ones in one day. There are many in between. Go for a mid-level publication, and the clips there can help you eventually go for that premium gig. Don’t let fear keep you from reaching higher. Put together a great pitch and query that better-paying publication! Writers Market is a great resource for finding paying markets. You can subscribe by the year or on a monthly basis.

4. Repurpose your articles. If you’ve already written an article and gotten paid for it, why not see how many other story ideas you can get from the research and work you’ve already put into that piece? Evaluate your research and the article to create two to three other story ideas. So you can turn that one story into multiple stories, based on using a different slant or angle.

5. Negotiate a better rate. While publications may have set rates that they offer, if you’ve been working with a certain publication for a while, it doesn’t hurt to ask for more money. If you have a good relationship with the editor and are easy to work with (you turn in projects on time, require no major overhauls, don’t need hand-holding, deliver what is asked), there is a good chance they’ll be willing to hear your request. So make your best case for why you should be paid more (you have more experience than when you first started writing for them, you’ve always hit the mark, you have  a good knowledge of the publication and its needs, etc.). They may have a set freelance budget, but it doesn’t mean there is no wiggle room for you.

6. Syndicate your content. If you write a popular column for your local newspaper, maybe it’s time to consider syndication. When I wrote a popular (and award-winning!) newspaper column years ago, I flirted with the idea of syndication, but never actually got on it. So don’t just flirt with it! Research it to see if it’s right for you. You can self-syndicate, where you individually market your column to publications or go through a syndication service that markets and syndicates the column for you. Check out the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for info on syndication services.

Freelance magazine and newspaper writing can be rewarding and can lead to other opportunities. This type of writing can also provide room for you to boost your income, if you are willing to exercise your rights, get multiple story ideas from one assignment, go for better publications, and negotiate better rates.

What other methods have you used to increase your freelance magazine and newspaper writing income?

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Monica Carter Tagore

Monica Carter Tagore is the owner of RootSky Books. A former journalist, she has been a professional writer for 17 years and has owned a writing and design company since 2002. An award-winning writer, she has ghostwritten or authored more than 45 books. She mentors writers and others in building businesses around their passion and expertise.

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