Corporate Writing vs. Writing for Magazines

If you are a freelancer that has been used to writing for magazines, you’ve no doubt noticed diminishing returns on your efforts, unless you are in extremely tight with a well-paying consumer publication or are so legendary in the profession that you can command whatever rates you want. This article is not for you, nor would I expect you to be actually reading my blog.

At a seminar last night put on by PWAC Toronto, it was struck home to me that corporate writing was the clear financial winner over writing for magazines for anyone looking to break into the profession. Magazines have slashed budgets for freelancers and won’t pay a cent more than they’ve budgeted for, as a rule. They are also paying the same rates, for the most part, that they paid twenty years ago.

Corporate writing, on the other hand, is on the increase. Businesses need web copy, letters, video scripts, and just all kinds of writing more than ever. Writers that can produce these well are scarce enough that they enjoy virtually unlimited employment, as long as they know how to market themselves.

Magazine writers, on the other hand, must spend a good amount of time on crafting individual queries, landing interviews with busy executives, meeting with publishers, meeting with editors, and all kinds of things that do not justify the paltry wage that they are paying. Even if you are lucky enough to land a $500.00 story, the amount of work you do from query to final edited copy is epic. $500.00 in the corporate writing world, on the other hand, is about ten hours worth of work.

While the seminar wasn’t presented this way, the lessons were clear in the subtext. How do you feel about the changing landscape of the freelance profession?

7 Responses to “Corporate Writing vs. Writing for Magazines”

  1. I do agree that you can only make so much money per article writing for magazines. However, once you familiarize yourself with a specific niche or industry (i.e., weddings), not only will you receive more and more assignments, but they’ll also be easier for you to write, hence taking less time.
    I obviously think magazine writing is also a lot more creative and fun.
    My ideology: always try and have a mix of both!

    March 25, 2010 at 5:06 pm
  2. I try to encourage people whenever I can to examine business copywriting as a great way to find regular and interesting work.

    March 25, 2010 at 9:41 pm
  3. Yes, I’ve learned that same lesson too. Like wordaddict914, I too try to do a mix of both to keep the creative juices flowing. I’d say less than 5% of my income comes from consumer (newspaper or magazine) writing. All the rest is corporate.

    March 26, 2010 at 7:04 am
  4. Periodical writing (whether it’s newspaper, consumer magazine or trade publication) has always been less lucrative a business than corporate writing. It’s often, but not always, more fun to do, though, so I try to keep a mix of corporate writing, web content writing and periodical writing.

    In the last couple of years, a lot of publications have had their freelance budgets significantly reduced or eliminated altogether.

    That said, even corporate writing can pay poorly. All you have to do is scour the likes of Craiglist and Problogger for examples of companies that want to pay writers next to nothing so they can post content to their corporate websites.

    March 26, 2010 at 8:10 am
  5. admin #

    Hey Chris:

    Absolutely true; it is important to know how to market yourself. While I do post jobs that I think are “reasonable” here (where I can see pay anyway) it is always more lucrative to get the gigs that you don’t apply to by calling & e-mailing companies, networking, etc. The jobs on Craigslist & Problogger are definitely a better starting point for new writers than the Elances and Demand Studios of the world, given that they tend to pay a little more and don’t tend to offer pithy residuals as compensation.

    March 26, 2010 at 8:17 am
  6. cambridge27 #

    I’ve been freelancing for about 6 months working exclusively for newspapers and magazine but would be interested in getting this type of work. Any tips for getting this type of work would be very appreciated!

    March 26, 2010 at 3:43 pm
  7. I, too, do both. I’ve found that magazine writing has to be mostly for fun and prestige. I got my current corporate copywriting gig mostly by accident – and through an anonymous ad on Craigslist. They posted at a decent rate, for once, so I applied.

    I actually really enjoy copywriting, since it’s a nice client and there’s lots of variety – webwriting, ads, information sheets, company news stories, etc. The most important thing I’ve found is to learn the company’s “voice.” Write in their language and they’ll call over and over again.

    Magazine articles are great for the portfolio, though – it’s such a high when someone takes your idea and publishes it, never mind the cheque.

    March 30, 2010 at 8:26 am

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