What Should Freelance Writing Jobs for Beginners Pay?
We share a fresh list of writing jobs every Monday, along with the rest of the work-at-home opportunities we find. Some of them require years of experience, but quite a few of them are open to beginning writers. One of the things that I consider before deciding to list a job is the price that it pays. While I truly believe that beginning writers probably can't expect to get as much as a veteran writer (especially one with extensive journalism experience), I don't think they should be paid ridiculously low wages, either.
So just what should a freelance writing job for a beginner pay? The answer will depend on some factors, including:
1) What kind of writing is it? If it's coverage a "pop culture" topic that requires little to no research (last night's episode of Empire or ways to save $10, for example) it will likely pay less than a hard-hitting article on causes for gout or the best locations to stay in India. The more research required, the more pay a beginning writer should be able to command.
2) Is the site making any money? About half of the job listings I see (and reject from our list) are from fledgling startups that earn no income. They are hoping to float along on the free writing they get from new authors, some SEO, and a passive income model. They often promise that once they start making money, the writers will get paid, too. I'm skeptical that they will ever pay, however; what exactly does it mean to "make money"? And will they be transparent in that event, should it happen?
3) Is the offer a trial run? One good way to see if any writer is worth their word count is to hire them on a trial basis. This doesn't mean you give away content for free, it merely means that you will sell them a few articles in the beginning to see if they are a good fit. They may be sold at a discounted rate, but usually they are in line with what you should be getting for an article. Trial runs mean you're getting something for your efforts, in any case. (See our article on whether you should work for free for more information.)
4) What are you asking? Many writing jobs will ask the job-seeking to send writing samples and their rates. This leaves the responsibility on the writer to come with a fair price, and it's entirely possible that they will pick the lowest offer out of all offers. But for the beginning writer, it's probably best that you come up with a price that is lower, but still fair. Giving a rate that's competitive, but not demeaning, and sets the expectation that you're a professional; it's important that you do this early on to set yourself on the path to success instead of charity work.
So how much can you ask for your first project? Article rates range, but seasoned writers get between $75 - $400 for an article, depending on the work involved and word length. Someone just starting out should ask for the low end of this for publications that are willing to pay; for budget-conscious outlets, you should never go lower than $20-50.
A note on revenue-sharing: It's entirely possible that a company claims to pay a percentage of what they make on your article. This is a hard way to make money, and again depends on the publisher to be upfront with their finances. You have to trust that they will pay you what you earned, and that they are working to promote your article in the best way possible. I generally advise against working with these types of arrangements; a flat fee is a predictable way to plan your earnings and budget, and the only way to really know what you're worth.
What rates do you think are fair for a beginning writer?