What Writers are Getting Paid

Sonia Simone

Scratch Magazine has a pretty fascinating resource that they call “Who Pays Writers,” which lets freelancers anonymously report how much they’re getting from various publications (print and online).

You can find it here: Who Pays Writers.

And it isn’t pretty.

  • $100 for a 2000-word piece that requires intensive reporting.
  • Publications that go months — sometimes years — without paying as agreed.
  • One publication pays in Target gift cards. Uhhh, okay.

As one of my writer friends said on Facebook,

I wish I didn’t have to choose between writing and eating.

But of course, that’s not the life of every writer

Once upon a time, if you were a good writer and you wanted to get paid for it, you had a few different options.

  1. You could write fiction, and probably starve.
  2. You could write poetry, and definitely starve.
  3. You could be a traditional journalist and starve but feel extremely virtuous for doing it.
  4. You could write for magazines, and make decent money but spend a lot of time chasing work.
  5. Or you could write for ad agencies, and make good money but deal with a lot of Mad-Men level nonsense.

Option 3 is a true calling, and my hat is off to anyone who does it today or has in the past. It wasn’t ever an easy way to make a living, and it’s only gotten more and more difficult.

Option 4 was pretty attractive for a long time, but traditional advertising-supported publications have been squeezed very hard. Most simply can’t take care of writers the way they once did.

But an interesting option has crept in somewhere between #3 and #5.

I’ll bet you know what I’m talking about. It’s content.

Content is basically commercial writing that’s worth reading

(And of course, when we say “writing” in 2014, we include the writing done for audio and video content as well as text.)

You may know that we at Copyblogger sort of hate the term “content marketing,” because it’s so vague that it’s nearly meaningless. So here’s what I mean by it:

Content marketing is writing intended to serve a business purpose, that also has significant real value to an audience of readers, viewers, or listeners.

It uses the talent of the fiction writer or poet, as well as the craftsmanship of the journalist and feature writer. But it also borrows a few tricks from those Mad Men ad copywriters.

The work is interesting. It uses your talent. It uses your brain. It’s pragmatic, but it’s also ethical and useful.

And it is increasingly in-demand … if you have the right skill set.

More and more writers are doing very well for themselves becoming content strategists for their clients, and not just freelance copywriters.

But you do need a solid understanding of what goes into a winning content strategy, and what clients are looking for.

Next week we’re rolling something special out

The members of our Authority community were the first to hear about our brand-new Content Certification program.


  • A concentrated four-week course by Brian Clark on what it takes to be an effective content publisher (and not just a talented writer)
  • One year of membership in Authority, our community of online marketers, for ongoing education and up-to-date learning
  • Support materials to help writers generate proposals and charge what they’re worth
  • And (this is the part we’re kind of excited about) certification by the Copyblogger editorial team of your work as a content creator

We have a lot more details for you early next week, but I wanted to give you a heads up that it was coming. This will be an opportunity for you to apply for a position on our list of “Recommended Writers,” and to let your clients know that you have demonstrated what you’re capable of.

Just watch your email box, and we’ll be letting you know all about the program early next week!

Sonia Simone
Sonia Simone, chief content officer and co-founder of Copyblogger Media