Just how do you ask a magazine editor to pay you more for your how-to articles? Well, it takes more than an honest self-appraisal—but that’s a good start!
In the corporate world, your boss or supervisor appraises you and your talents before he or she promotes you to a higher position or increases your salary. As a candidate under evaluation for a promotion or pay raise, you must fit the job description and satisfy certain criteria. These parameters are easily measurable and quantifiable.
In the freelance writing world it’s different—performance parameters are more difficult to measure and quantify. It’s hard to determine industry standards, especially since most of the work is outsourced to freelance writers from different backgrounds and skill-sets.
How much do how-to articles pay?
This is a very common question among freelance writers because no one has a specific answer. Sorry to disappoint you, but freelance writing has no “one-size-fits-all” rate for how-to articles. Different editors at different publications and websites all have different rates, based on the task, the skill-set of the writer, the industry, and the readership, among other factors.
Many publications do have fixed rates, as stated in their writer’s guidelines, such as “We pay $400 for a feature article,” or “We pay .50 cents per word.” Other types of writing projects, such as writing SEO articles or writing sales copy, follow a completely different pay rate scale than magazines.
Many writers often feel that their how-to article deserves a higher payment to compensate for research, editing, extra interviewing, supplying photos, etc. The good news is that it is easier to justify a higher pay rate from magazine editors than from other types of writing gigs. Why? It’s because you already have a clear idea on a magazine’s readership number, subscription rates, the quantity of advertisers per issue, and overall popularity among competing publications.
Our Top 10 Tips
Indeed, pay rates are a sensitive topic to discuss, so tread carefully when you ask editors for more money. Here are 10 useful tips to help you analyze a situation based on different scenarios.
1. Check out the Writer’s Guidelines
Every magazine has its own set of writer’s guidelines. At times, the word count, page length, and pay rate are indicated; most of the time, they aren’t. When this is the case, the thing to do is to email or call.
2. Call the editorial staff and ask
Usually, the editorial staff is open to this kind of conversation, but only if the editor has offered you the assignment or you’re in the process of accepting it. Otherwise, you won’t get much of a definite answer since the editor uses other factors to determine a fair price for your how-to article.
3. Examine your portfolio to decide your worth
By other factors, we mean details in your portfolio like experience and expertise. Experience pertains to the number of years that you’ve been successfully writing; expertise refers to your mastery of the subject matter. These two factors can influence how much an editor will pay you for a first article, and how high the editor is willing to pay if you ask for a raise.
4. Stick to the rate as published
Although you may already have a particular per-word or per-article fee in mind, the reality is that most pay rates are awarded to how-to articles “as published.” Thus, if it’s a project rate of $500 for 5 how-to articles at $100 apiece, then your first option is to try to stay within these specs.
5. See if a flat rate works for you
Aside from generating continued work, repeat clients tend to create steady pay rates. These rates are mutually agreed upon, and they eventually become your flat rate for a particular client over a certain period of time.
Flat rates, however, can change over time because of new or improved skills, better time management, inflation, competition, and a whole lot of other things. When a flat rate no longer works for you, you can always opt for a raise and keep your fingers crossed!
6. Finalize your pay rate based on certain factors
You might encounter instances in which writing projects are private and exclusive per contract. Similar to sealed bids, you don’t know exactly what everyone else is bidding or the pay rate they are asking for, except for your own bid.
In this case, once the client accepts you for the writing project, feel free to discuss and finalize your pay rates and payment terms. Certain factors will affect your pay rate, such as the nature of your assignment, the amount of research required, word length, and the deadline.
7. Timing is everything!
When is the perfect time to announce your pay rate? It’s when the publication or website simply cannot wait to publish your how-to article! When this happens, don’t just bask in all the glory. Maybe it’s the perfect time to talk about the money. Specifically, set your standard rate per-word or per-hour.
8. Optimize your online negotiations
The nice thing about transacting business online is that it’s less structured and more flexible. Thus, you have better chances of negotiating if the other party is open to it.
When pay rates are “negotiable” — a familiar term that you will often see in job ads — the editor or client is open to discussion. In this ideal setting, both you and the editor or client will benefit.
9. Use the quality of your work to convince editors of your worth
It’s smart to bring up the topic of increased pay rates when an editor is fully convinced by your work. A higher pay rate is warranted if you consistently write high-quality articles that exceed an editor’s expectations and increases readership for his publication and/or website. Ask for a pay increase when you can prove that you have performed on an excellent-to-exceptional rating for a consistent period of time.
10. Be proactive and take the initiative!
No one knows you deserve a higher pay rate better than you do! When you’re confident that you’ve convinced an editor or client of your worth — this is probably the best time to bring up the matter! Since you initiated the matter anyway, discuss the topic all the way. Once you’ve taken the initiative, don’t pause right in the middle and apologize for asking. When the time comes, stand by your pay rates and submit your articles with confidence!