By Alex J. Coyne
One of my first high-paying features sold to The Investor for $170 (Six String Stocks, October 2015). I’ve sold others since, including a piece for Catholic Digest that earned $500. I sure didn’t think it was possible when I started out with $20/article rates. Here’s how I got to higher rates and why you should.
Use search engines to find work, contacts and guidelines. Use quotes (“) to search for specific terms, minus and plus-signs (“-“) and “+”) to include or exclude them and asterisks (“*”) as wildcards. Include terms like “pay”, “rates”, “$200” and “guidelines” to dig for new markets – or add terms like “co.uk” to search abroad. Try other engines like DeeperWeb, DogPile,GigaBlast and DuckDuckGo.
Get out of the rat race
Say no to content mill-like rates of $5 per 1, 000 words, even when desperate: Your time is more valuable elsewhere, and realizing that early on will ensure that you get to writing for better rates and stronger markets sooner.
Many markets offer low starting rates, but higher rates or bonuses with more exposure and experience. These are worthwhile over time, but don’t put all your eggs in only this type of market. Also, consider discussing a rate increase with your regular clients/writing markets, but no more than once a year.
Break into international markets with better exchange rates: Yes, you could write for readers outside your country if you keep an eye on breaking news, popular publications, and local quirks. Mind your language: Americans say hood, Brits say bonnet. While South African-based, most of my articles go abroad (where it’s 13.26ZAR to one US dollar) – my first, in fact, was sold to FundsforWriters!
Chasing the niche
Features and longer-form pieces often pay more; the same is true for niche markets.. Tai Chi Magazine pays $500 for 3,500 words, writing for The Sun Magazine can earn up to $2,000 per feature. Fine Woodworking, on the other hand, pays $150 per page. What can only you write?
The pitching process
A higher-paying feature is pitched like any other, but you can make it easier by establishing a prior relationship with the editor through getting in touch ahead. Send an email introducing yourself and, if the guidelines are not readily available online, request their guidelines. Have longer feature ideas outlined before you pitch to include all the details of your concept and research so far.
Many markets, especially (though not just) high-paying ones, prefer a fully completed article over a pitch. Write on-spec a lot and you’ll have a higher success-rate, period. Articles that are rejected go into what I call “The Article Pit” and are sold elsewhere, usually with minor edits.
Negotiate your rates
Be prepared to negotiate when a publication asks you to state your rate first. Reply by asking what their budget normally is for such a project. To calculate, consider average industry rates and what you currently charge. Don’t aim too low (or astronomically high) and include that you are willing to discuss it further. But know your bottom line and be willing to walk from something not worth your time.
It takes time
While higher-end features pay more money, don’t expect quick money. On average, these pieces can require more research, several rewrites and may take time – sometimes more than a year – from pitch to publication and payment.
Do you have ideas that could sell? Best of luck!
Bio: Alex J. Coyne is an internationally known author, freelance journalist and language practitioner who has written for publications including People Magazine, The Dollar Stretcher, Great Bridge Links and CollegeHumor.