What could be more frustrating than pitching an idea to a magazine, having them accept it, and then you learn they only pay 10% of what you expected? How about flying out of state and meeting with the editor directly and only learning about the disappointing rate when they tell you in person. Yes, this happened to me last month!
Fortunately, I had not traveled only with the agenda of meeting a magazine editor – it was during my time at Member Day at the American Society of Journalists & Authors Conference. I met with three editors that day. I had researched each market before my trip and finding rate information was inconclusive, but I assumed that ASJA vetted the markets who participate with Member Day and that the rates were professional. Unfortunately, that was not so. (This still remains my favorite annual event for writers!)
When you make your living by the word, you need to make each word count. How can freelancers learn what markets pay so that our time and effort spent querying is most efficient?
- Writers Market. As of this writing, Writers Market is $39.99 annually for digital access. (I know this because they just drafted my account!) Although they might not list the most up-to-date information, WM generally offers a range of rates for markets. It’s a helpful barometer to help you decide whether or not a magazine is worth your time.
- ASJA Paycheck. This is a Members Only benefit–one of my favorites! Members not only send in rate details and market names to Paycheck, but their overall experience as well. I learned several magazines I had been pitching received poor feedback–other writers had waited months past when they expected their checks. I promptly removed those markets from my pitch list and focused my efforts elsewhere. This database incorporates both magazines and private clients/content writing fees.
- Freelancers Union Client Scorecard. FU launched Client Scorecard to help independent workers identify and avoid unsavory markets/clients. Also, FU has a few hundred users in their forum on “How do you figure out what to charge?” This database incorporates both magazines and private clients/content writing fees.
- WordRates (forthcoming). WordRates recently exceeded its Kickstarter goal and is slated for release in August 2015. This is the concept of author/journalist Scott Carney and will be similar to the Paycheck and Client Scorecard formats noted above. Carney currently maintains a publicly viewable Google Doc of markets and rates. If you want to submit information about a market – follow the instructions at the top of his GDoc.
- Ask. Yes, it’s simple, but you might be asking wrong. A terse “How much do you pay?” might not result in a (timely) response from an editor. Instead, contact an editor with a brief introduction about yourself (one sentence) and explain you are updating your files and would like to request their current contributor guidelines and pay rates.
Have you been surprised with freelance rates? Has it changed how you query?