Freelance Writer Rate Question

So, this thread comes up about once a week and since it’s been a week since the last topic with a name like this I figured it would be a good time to restart this topic with some serious questions.

There are, as evidenced here, people interested in gaining help with their e-zines, e-media, game sites. Some folks are willing to pay, while others are looking for free help.

Now, I know there are a ton of professional’s here, and I would never openly ask for you or your peers to get into a salary contest, so I’m not. I’m trying to ask, for the sake of those who do not know, like myself, what would be acceptable rates for smaller sites.

I’ve asked some of the peers I know what they afford to offer their writers for reviews, previews, and interviews and what terms they offer. It’s all over the place. There does not seem to be any standard. Then some of the writers I have spoken to, look for anywhere between .75US to 1.25US or more for word.

For smaller sites, they can not afford to offer “print rates” for internet publishing. Then you have folks who come here, looking for writers, and while they mean well, they just don’t know. This discussion also came up on another UK game site with a similar community base as here.

So, the question.
For covering MMO games on internet sites, what are acceptable rates and who would they be acceptable for?

Previews which average 500-700 words which are just a summary of the game information presented.

First Look which averages 600 to 900 words, which is the impressions given from hands-on testing within game.

Review which averages 1000 to 1500 words and/or multiple parts from the retail release of a game.

One site which covers MMO games offers a flat rate of $50.00US per article, be it preview, first look, or review.

One site which covers MMO games offers a word rate of .25US to .50US per word but will not allow more than 1000 words.

And one site offers between .05 and .10 per word up to a max of 200 words with the higher rate for writers who have done more than 5 consistent articles.

Then there are a couple of sites which offer a base monthly flat rate up to $300.00US which expect three to five articles a month which consist of either a combination of previews, interviews, first looks and 1 review (mandatory) of 1000 to 2000 words.

Now out of the folks I talked to, there were tons of conflicitng points and reasons for each doing it the way they did. If you pay for word, some writers will just fluff up the word count. With a flat rate, the writer actually loses out short-term but can gain more profit long term with a steady source of pocket money.

So, as professionals here, and for future folks that come around that are ignorant (I don’t mean that in a derogatory manner, not rude/not stupid, just don’t know), what are acceptable rates?

Understanding that this would be for smaller websites which at most may get a million readers a month give-or-take, as compared to the larger sites which have advertising revenue for 10s of millions of readers what would a common ground be?

I understand folks get what they pay for and for quality it costs more, or the more known the writer is, the higher salary rate is expected (be it word count/flat rate).

What should a word count be?
What should a flat rate be?
What should be total words per article (first look, preview, review).


I guess I should add, that if this was inappropiate to post, I apologize.

If somebody’s paying $1.25 per word I can not only quit my job, but I can make the down payment on that Viper I always wanted.

Forget that,just buy Paraguay and retire at $1.25 a word.

Good thought, but Paraguay’s too unstable.

I’m thinking Australia. It’s already got a brutally repressive government and the citizens are used to being ganked on all consumer goods prices. A man can make a living ruling Oz.

I think the height of happiness was when OGR was paying 50c a word?

I dunno… most of my stuff was flat rate, give us between x and y number of words, etc.

If you’re paying by the word for internet stuff, you’re crazy.

There’s no hard word count on the 'net, and you don’t really want there to be - you want to say as much as needs to be said, in an amount of space that isn’t too much for people to read.

Paying by the word in an “unbound” format like the web just encourages people to go really long. Web content is wordy enough without a financial incentive for it! Or, you could give a word count and not pay for the words they go over that, but now you’re basically looking at a flat rate anyway, because everyone is going to write at LEAST the 900 words (or whatever) maximum you’ll pay for.

I can’t tell you what flat rates to pay, really. It’s best to negotiate it on a case-by-case basis, at least for smaller sites. Some articles are just more work than others. If everyone’s chomping at the bit to review some really hot game, you can probably pay less. If doing a preview of something requires travel or a really significant time investment, you may want to pay more.

The very idea of earning a buck twenty-five per word on anything kinda makes me want to snuggle.

The highest per-word rate I’ve ever earned was five cents. Before that, I was getting a hundred pounds per thousand words for Tip Station in 2003, but that was apparently the editor being ridiculous.

I can guarantee you OGR never paid 50 cents a word.

Heh, I pay my freelancers more than that for fewer words. But that is of course a flat rate, a print magazine and another country (with overall higher wages).

Before I got that job, talked to the editor of our biggest gamesite and he flatout stated, that with my education I’d get more on the dole than writing for him - but then I’m sure running a website in a language on 6 million speak is a lousy business compared to doing one in English.

Wired pays considerably over that.

Which made me smile, getting paid more for a 95 word review than the 20,000 I’d lob at Eurogamer.

EDIT: Note to self - pitch more work at Wired, thicky.


I’m sure the NYT pays better than that too, but the average internet website… :)

If you have plenty of work, it’s easy to make a living on way under 50 cents a word, assuming you’re young and don’t have lots of debt.

My first full-time writing gig was as a reporter. Basically, at least 500 words a day, for about $10 an hour, in a rural location (cheap living). That comes out to less than 20 cents a word, and I did fine.

If someone is paying 5 cents a word, then it’s probably something in the “fun” or “good cause” category. Accepting a rate less than 20 cents a word for bread-and-butter word is maybe a bad idea.

I also do freelance web development, and there’s nothing more annoying than competition who sell themselves cheaply, produce bad work and depress the local market.

Some time ago, I flirted with the idea of becoming a games reviewer, but I didn’t know anyone in the business so I volunteered at Avault to see how I liked it.

As a then-career journalist, I thought I was used to generating prose to a deadline. Nothing prepared me for the immense amounts of copy Avault’s house style demanded! I enjoyed the experience, but I really should have asked for at least nominal payment. I was spending 20 hours playing a game, then another 10 writing the 5000-word preview!

When keeping your rate in mind for reviews, it’s more important to keep your hourly rate in mind, as opposed to the per-word count.

The per word rate for a review looks good, but don’t forget to add in the 20-60 hours playing the game entails, more if it’s an MMO.

A lot of freelancers I know pay more attention to what the hourly rate works out for a project than the per-word fee.

I haven’t done any corporate work to know how those markets pay.

Basically, when I freelance, there’s a sort of price window. I usually get paid by the word, and that’s how I write, being a big print nerd.

But rarely does it actually work out that way. It usually ends up being a flat rate per page or partial page.

Some numbers (Shudder! I hope posting these doesn’t piss anyone off)

Local papers tend to pay poorly, but offer frequent chances to write. Calander items (100 to 300 words) can run between $50 to $150 bucks. Features, around 6000 words, can be anywhere from $1000 to $2000, depending.

Monthly prints with circs below the 300,000 mark are typically a bit better, but offer less space and opportunity. These guys tend to pay about $300 to $600 a page, with fractions being more lucrative word wise. Some quarter page stories can pay around $150.

Big monthlies are amazing. God, Wired is a pain to work with, but they pay great, even when they can yer shit! A monthly with a circ aproaaching the millions can hit the $2 a word mark. Full page can run $800, though this typically only requires one big image and a half page of text. SMall blurbs in the front news section tend to start around $200 and work up. Features… well, one wired feature story will feed you for at least two months. 5 pages runs from $2000 to $10,000 if you have a name.

And now, the sad part. Web sites.

If you can get $20 for a Web review of 1000 words, you are doing well. Flat rates apply, hourly doesn’t on an individual story basis, in my experience. All the sites I work with pay either a single fee per piece, or pay a retainer or hourly to have the writer on the hoof to write whatever, whenever.

Anyway, I hope this helps! Generally speaking, the outlet determines the price. If it’s too low, go somewhere else. I’ve never really had a bargaining session with an editor that lasted more than 1 minute. And when I was an editor, I always offered the best rate I could right up front. Anyone who bitched just pissed me off and made me want to go elsewhere. Your budget is your budget is your budget…

What? That’s insane, OGR (ie. AirAge) never paid this much and I don’t even think they ever paid by the word. If you’re talking about the website before it was bought you never got paid at all. If you mean the short-lived magazine you got paid for the type of story you wrote - $300 for one page, $500 or $600 for two-page reviews (or maybe it was $300 for half a page and $500 for a full page? I forget, it’s been awhile).

For GameSpot you had rates for types of stories but that’s it.

From what I’ve seen for gaming magazines it’s rare to be paid by the word for reviews/non-fiction and the like.

— Alan

If you’re talking about the website before it was bought you never got paid at all.