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Sep 10 / King Kaufman

Good news on pay for freelance writers from the Awl’s Noah Davis—but don’t get used to it

Noah Davis opens his piece about freelance writing at the Awl, headlined “If You Don’t Click on This Story, I Don’t Get Paid,” on an optimistic note.

“I have interviewed more than twenty writers, editors, media people, and journalism professors about the state of being a freelance writer in 2015,” he writes. “The general consensus is that it’s the best time since the very early days of the web to make money by writing online, and a marked improvement from even two years ago.”

The optimism doesn’t last, as Davis writes that the situation won’t last either:

The question is, how long will the relative good times of getting paid to write on the web last? Even venture dollars are exhaustible. While a few sites will probably survive, the existing (and future) business models can’t support all the ones that are currently vying for writers and eyeballs. “The people who make money off the internet are Facebook, Google, and Twitter and their billionaire executives,” David Samuels, a contributing editor at Harper’s and frequent contributor to the New Yorker, said.

Davis, whose similar story two years ago was headlined “I Was Paid $12.50 An Hour To Write This Story,” isn’t exactly accurate with his headline this time around. He reveals his negotiation with Awl co-editor Matt Buchanan: He asked for $350, and Buchanan countered with $250 plus $1 for every 1,000 page views, which Davis agreed to. “You have to bet on yourself,” he writes. “No one else will.”

He writes that he’ll update the story in a month with the totals.

The piece is worth the read for some wise words about how to survive as a freelancer, including advice that it’s sometimes better to take the quick assignment for a little money over the huge, time-consuming piece that brings in more money—but not enough more.