I entered my career as a freelance writer under no illusions about the pay. I knew I wouldn’t be earning much at all and that the first year was more of a chance to build my portfolio, get my name out and make contacts, to practise writing and simply see how it all worked.
I have been pretty happy with my success so far. I have had a few articles published on a major parenting website; joined an emerging parenting publication as a regular contributor; written a full feature article for a print magazine (something that was on my goals list as a major achievement); published on a women’s career/feminist site on a topic I am passionate about; and even had my first creative piece published.
I was quite excited to receive my first bank transfer. Some of these pieces paid more than others. Some did not pay at all. When I broke it down however, the amount of work I had done showed me how difficult it is to measure my income at any kind of average rate.
Higher paying pieces required more work – a lot more work. Hours of research, interviewing, transcribing, outlining, writing, editing. And the admin work – finding interviewees, chasing them up, finding images, confirming details and facts, liaising with the editor/s. These often take longer to complete too, because of the amount of work that goes into them – as a part time writer, my first feature took me nearly three months to complete, between chasing interview leads and doing the research. Mostly though, that was because I didn’t know what I was doing. I know established freelancers that can (or have to) juggle a few of these pieces at a time, pretty much submitting weekly.
The lower paying articles may have paid $200-400 less but they were often easier to write, sometimes researched and pitched in an hour and written in another hour. They have tighter deadlines and might not be as prestigious as the features, but they are solid income earners and good for improving your writing, quickly.
So I am learning that it is not necessarily better to get a handful of higher-paid jobs in a month than it is to have a number of lower paying pieces. It’s a juggling act. Some months you may be able to get stuck into the research and have time for the slower burning projects. Other months your budget might be tight and you need to know you will be getting a certain amount.
I must say though, there is a very nice sense of achievement present when you submit a large, researched feature article with rich details and meaty interviews. Sometimes it’s not about the money.