How Much do writers earn?

Pay Scales:

You�ve probably already got the picture: on the whole, travel writers don�t earn a rock star salary. The talented Tim Leffel shares his extensive experience here (as well as dispelling a few other misguided notions); based on his wise words and other sources, here�s our rough breakdown of what you can expect to earn for each assignment - remember that figures are for rule of thumb only and that individual contracts vary.

  • Staff Writer, Full Time: $25,000 to $45,000
  • Guide Writing (Experienced Writer): Around $30,000
  • Guide Writing (Novice Writer): $5,000 to $15,000
  • Feature Article in High-Profile Magazine: $3,000 to $10,000
  • Feature Article in National Magazine: $750 to $3,000
  • Standard article in High-Profile Magazine: $500 to $2,000
  • Standard article in National Magazine: $300 to $1,500
  • Feature Article in Regional/Local Magazines: $250 to $800
  • Standard Article in Regional/Local Magazines: $50 to $300
  • Article in Large Newspaper: $75 to $200
  • Article for High-traffic Website: $50 to $150
  • Writing for Low-traffic Website/Blog: $0 to $50

There are always exceptions to the rule, and you may be pleasantly surprised (or woefully let down) with the pay details of some contracts offered.

You�re probably thinking that $30,000 is a huge amount of money, but don�t give up the day job just yet as there are some things to bear in mind.

Staff Writing:

Pros: As you can see, this is where the safe money is and a regular income is a lot less daunting than relying on freelance work. If you do get sent abroad, expenses are generally paid for and a staff writer position on your CV can open many doors.

Cons: The pay is about the same as any unspecialized desk job. Depending on the gig, you may not travel as much as you�d like as most of your time will be spent writing copy.

Guide Writing:

Pros: The big wedge of cash is usually paid before you begin the job (if you�ve got a track record with the publisher) and you�ll then spend a lengthy time period getting to know your subject matter in intimate detail. Lots of travel and culture immersion.

Cons: As Tim Leffel rightly points out this kind of fee will have to last you a whole year, with little time outside of the job to supplement your income. You�re generally expected to front your own expenses out of your fee, so by the time you�ve wrapped up the job your salary will equate to minimum wage levels. In addition, only seasoned guide writers can expect to command the $30k assignments.

Freelance Article Writing:

Pros: The subjects covered can be as varied as you want them to be. Good publications can see some nice sums of money, and you�ll visibly watch your portfolio strengthen with each new published article.

Cons: Unless you�re extremely lucky or famous, it�s hard to get commissioned to write something - that is, the editor paying you in advance along with your expenses bill when you get back. Instead, expect to spend months after your trip trying to sell the article, another few months before it actually appears in publications and a little while after that to receive your check.

Writing for the Web

Pros: Payment for work is generally a lot quicker than with print publications. It�s also a great place to build up your portfolio and make connections.

Cons: On the whole the money is pretty low. Many places seeking writers don�t even pay at all - watch out for these. Other than perhaps your first couple of short articles to get some publication credits, don�t give away your work for free. Another point to consider is that you may be able to sell the print rights to a story in multiple geographical areas, thus making it pay more - not so with the universal Internet, as duplicate content is next to worthless to webmasters.


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