Written By Alexandra Romanov

The Top 5 Markets for Freelance Writers Ready for Higher Pay

Hey everyone! Autumn is officially here and for many of us this is a peak time to get articles written and really ramp up our freelance careers. For those of you have been here for a while, you are probably being kept busy with one or more of the writing sites that have been reviewed here. Take a few minutes off and give some serious consideration to my question:

Are you making as much money as you should be making?

I phrased the question in that way because if you are just starting out then you will probably make less money as you assemble quality samples, learn the ropes and feel your way around your new career. However if you are comfortable in your writing and have gathered your samples, you might actually be wondering what on earth you should do with them. Perhaps you don’t feel ready to the big leagues or just want to break away from the website content writing and look for something better or just different.

If that is what has been running through your mind lately then you are probably ready to move up a notch and try for better gigs in a higher paying market. These jobs pay better and provide the samples necessary to land the really great writing jobs. If nothing else, they better pay will give you more time to really spread your wings into more pure freelance writing work or even writing your own book!

Actually landing these jobs is no different than landing any other writing job so you should have plenty of practice by now. One note though, just in case it’s an issue for anyone is that just because there are 5 top markets that should not mean that I am telling you that you have to work in all of them! You might only be interested in one or two of them and that’s fine. The point here is that these are great markets to transition from being a new freelance writer to someone who is experienced.

Niche Magazines

This is an important yet often ignored market by mid-level writers oddly due to the glossy paper (I’m actually not kidding here.) These are magazines that focus on one specific topic area and are aimed at a specific audience. The ones that you have probably seen are those catering to specific hobbies such as coin collecting and hobby trains. I’ve written for one on pocket watches (don’t ask) and the pay was great.

Because these are so finely targeted to their audience there is generally less competition for print space and more room for mid-level writers. These magazines thrive on knowledge and enthusiasm so if you are a hobbyist this could be a dream assignment. Many mid-level writers think that because these magazines present themselves in a similar manner to the mega-magazines that they are nearly impossible to break into. In an interesting twist of fate, niche magazines often scramble for great content to fill their pages.

Niche magazines have really gained in popularity in the last decade as people become busier and it just seems easier to take a magazine subscription to keep up to date on a hobby. These magazines pay well, though not quite as well as the mass market general magazines.

Digital Magazines

Digital magazines are huge and only growing larger. It is probably not much of a surprise that a digital magazine is much cheaper to start and run than a print magazine. It’s also a much easier market to break into. Even mainstream magazines that are what might be called a ‘slight-niche’ often create additional content for digital publication. This content is available to digital subscribers only and never makes it into their print editions.

This particular market tends to pay well, is fairly easy to break into and can actually be a lot of fun to work with at any writing level but for the mid-level writer looking to score some knock-out samples, this one is off the charts!


There are a few sub-topics here which include daily and weekly newspapers. Let’s face facts: The print newspaper industry is dying. We live in a world where we can get constant news updates via the Internet on everything from our tablet computers to our phones! By the time a newspaper is delivered anything printed is old and out of date. The only real use now for a newspaper is often the printed puzzle page and the articles or columns. This is where you come in as a writer.

Many newspapers, particularly those in small to mid-size town and cities often use freelance writers to write articles or columns. Many of these newspapers have no choice but rely on freelancers because they simply can’t afford to pay for full or even part time writers. They pay per article and the pay is usually pretty low but it is generally slightly better than what you will get at many online writing sites.

The only reason that these newspapers qualify as one of the top 5 markets is because of the prestige that their samples bring to a writer. While I have spent the better part of the last 5 years helping friends that work for newspapers in my area move on to other work, for the freelance writer looking for samples with more bite, this is a good occasional gig.

One important note here is that this works best in small to mid-sized towns. It’s a lot easier to break in as a stringer here that at a major metropolitan newspaper. The exception would be in writing articles for the inserts that are put into those papers.

Special Interest Inserts

If you spend a week perusing large newspapers you will often find inserts on travel, restaurants and so forth. These are ad heavy and news light. Comprised mainly of articles, this is a great place for a mid-range writer to break into the newspaper of a larger city. Writing a few of these can land you samples that will get the attention of the editor for the larger paper.

These inserts are popular, pay well and make outstanding samples to add to a portfolio. They also get your name out to the public in a big way. Unlike the main newspaper where the news is several hours old and somewhat stale by the time the paper is delivered, the inserts are always fresh because they contain so little actual news. People actually read them for the articles.

Alternative Press

There are two forms of alternative press and I’ll address each of them. The first is alternative news presses. These are newspapers that publish weekly at the most and monthly at the least. They tend to cover regional areas as opposed to a single town and they cover the news that for one reason or another doesn’t make it into the regular newspapers.

There is a lot of debate on why these presses are considered alternative (They used to be called ‘underground’). Most of them will say that this is because they don’t bend to political pressure. Anyone who pays attention to local politics can tell you that a lot goes on that never gets reported in the media. The generous explanation is that there is too much to cover and not enough space in the paper let alone reporters to cover it. The less generous option is that these alternative presses are correct and much is covered up or ignored.

Whatever your opinion, these presses tend to have a wide audience, pay decently and are certainly entertaining. This is an especially attractive option for those who want to get reporting experience and the byline is a bit more impressive than some of the jobs you have probably been taking.

The other form of alternative press is the topical newspapers you might find locally. Some of them have titles such as ‘Nightlife’ or ‘Dining’ where the local nightlife dining scene is discussed in detail. They cover various topics that differ based on your locality, though most areas have some kind of nightlife/dining/local events papers. These are typically published monthly and have a decent pay rate.

One of my first writing assignments was for one of these alternative papers that focused on Spirituality. It was a great experience and I strongly urge you to give it a try. I still occasionally write pieces for these presses simply because I enjoy it. In most cases as long as you stick to the theme of the paper you can write as you wish.

Guest Blogging…Sometimes

This is old information and not new to anyone so it grudgingly comes in off the official list. Guest blogging is something that some people think is a great idea. Personally, I think it stinks. So why do I recommend it, even grudgingly? Simple: The right guest blog spot can lead to more exposure and expand your reader base. Beyond that, it’s really not worth your time and effort in most cases.

Let me break it down for you in financial terms: A good guest blogging gig at this level will generally offer you around $100. Sounds good on the face of it but the problem is that before you get around to writing that 1000 word blog post you have to find it and that can take a lot of digging on the Internet. Then you have to pitch the post topic to the owner of the blog. Then you get to write it. Financially, you are typically looking at spending so much time on the preparation that $100 just doesn’t make it a good financial investment of your time.

I recommend this only for those sites with a lot of traffic and high visibility for the writer. In those cases it can be worth it to you in the long run. If you are very lucky you can land a long term blogging gig. If this happens then the time spent could be worth it. I suggest doing this primarily for the traffic and prestige of the sample and if it pans out to more than that, fantastic. What you are looking for here is good exposure in an area that you want more work. A respected site publishing your work looks great in your portfolio.

Happy Writing!


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