As a freelance journalist in the 1990s, I was paid one dollar per word.
Amy Torres
151

I’m glad you brought this up because I’m surprised by the quality of writing we get given how our rates compare to what top journalists get. My understanding is that overall, journalist rates have been dropping and $1/word is now extremely rare, despite inflation. But our per/word rates still end up much lower in comparison.

The average article submission for us is 2750 words. So really, our authors end up making $0.18/word. Someone submitted a draft to me last week that was 7500 words (and 6600 after editing). That’s $0.08/word.

What’s up then?

A) At some level, the price is set by the market. Our rates are transparent. If the market was paying more, people would know. I don’t think that’s the main thing though.

B) Our authors aren’t journalists.

To me, the pricing dynamic that we experience is completely ruled by B. This comes out in several ways.

One, a journalist writing a serious personal development piece has to do a lot of work because they have to do research and synthesis on a topic which they have little or no experience with. Our authors tend to be coaches. They’re often writing a first draft off the top of their head, using years of pre-existing research and personal experience.

Two, a journalist is a professional writer. They get paid only for writing (basically). A coach gets to make double use of any additional research they do because they can book that research as continuous education. They’re a better coach after writing.

Third, I think this is real, but not such a big deal. Coaches are not professional writers and thus often require a lot more editing.

Fourth, despite Medium’s prohibition against using these articles for sales pitches, I do still hear about authors being approached by prospective clients. I’m thinking of one new executive coach in particular who picked up two corporate clients based on her articles. That could be $10,000 in business.

Putting that together, a certain type of author, a coach in my main example, may feel like they are getting a fantastic deal. And at the same time, a different type of author, a journalist for instance, is being offered a terrible exchange of value.

And taking this back to my original piece — we are in month one of a new marketplace for writers. And so I’m hesitant to make any firm pronouncements about rates. The market is going to be fluid for months and probably years.

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