How I Went from Earning $40 an An Article to $400

By Shireen Hakim

Writing should be fun. If you’re not having fun with a publication or editor, move on. It will pay off. I’m proof of that.

I’d been regularly writing for an UK-based online news publication for three years. I had a great rapport with the senior editor. Although he was just paying me $40 per article (I negotiated up from $18 to $25 to $40-50 over the years), I could always be confident he would immediately accept and publish my work. It was an ego-booster and took away the pressure of pitching, editing, etc. But last month I got critique from a different editor instead. I did not like working with him because he was overly critical and uncreative. When the senior editor finally responded and said he didn’t have time to correspond with me, I ended the relationship. Thankfully I’d already been paid for my last article.

I was apprehensive about losing that easy, regular paycheck, but I stuck to my instinct and looked elsewhere to pitch. The loss of regular income spurred me to find a gig to fill the void.

The thing about me is, I never stop pitching. Everything can be a story. Anytime I hear an interesting news story or go to a special event, I think of how I could write about it.

So as soon as I saw a tweet about the LA Times article on a rare bird in Los Angeles, I direct messaged the Audubon editor I was in touch with. (First, I verified it was a breaking story: that there were no articles posted by Audubon themselves, or that she had tweeted about it.)

Even though the editor had ignored a pitch of mine a few days before, I still pitched her this story.

I direct messaged her via Twitter, because she responds faster there than Gmail. I kept it brief since our Twitter conversations are more casual than Gmail.

First, I sent her a screenshot of the tweet, to show her that the publication was interested in the story. Then I sent a two sentence message telling her I could write a story about it:


(She responded to me the same day.)

The other key was, I knew she would be interested in this story because I had seen many articles a couple of months earlier about another rare bird sighting in New York. So I wasn’t as pressured to push my story onto her. I knew this one had cache.

After I went on-site and updated the editor with details, I let her determine the logistics: length and pay. She asked me for my biggest article yet: 800 words! I was amazed at the length since I knew it would amass to a great pay. Sure enough, I was paid $0.50 per word (it was an online spread.)

One month after leaving the other tepid publication, I made 10 times the amount. (While working with a female editor I admire.)

6 Tips to get high-paying gigs:

  1. Look for stories everywhere.

  2. Continue to pitch potential stories- even if the publication has rejected you before!

  3. Pitch immediately.

  4. Keep your pitch short, and tell them why it’s news-worthy.

  5. Contact them directly, in the form they respond most often.

  6. Work with editors/publications you vibe with.

Note: After this article was published, I pitched another story right away and got rejected. But that won’t stop me from pitching potential stories in the future.

Shireen Hakim is an award-winning author from Southern California.


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