Recommended Rates: MEAA and other rate guides

What rates do freelance journalists get paid in Australia?

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance has published a schedule of freelance rates which dates back to October 2019. (No update has been made to these rates since.)

This is the latest schedule and was based on the most recent negotiated enterprise bargaining agreement for employed staff journalists at Fairfax and News Corp at the time, at July 2017.

These have been calculated based on the daily rate that an independent contractor would need to earn, to make the equivalent salary of aJ5* graded journalist on a Fairfax or News Corporation metropolitan daily newspaper. Provisions for annual and sick leave and business administration costs are built into the calculation.

(J5 journalists have five years post-cadetship experience. Many freelance journalists have much more than five years experience as a working journalist.)

GST and Super

If your business has a turnover of $75,000 or over per year, you are required to register for GST.
Many freelancers don’t know until the end of the financial year whether they will turn over that amount – if you expect to earn $50,000 or more, it is a very good idea to register for GST so that you don’t have to retrospectively pay 10% on invoices charged.

When you are offered a gig, or you quote for a job, make sure that you specify GST in your invoice. Most people will quote a rate (eg $1 per word or $100 per hour) and note that this rate excludes GST.

As a freelancer, the ATO states that you may still be entitled to super. A contractor paid wholly or principally for their labour is considered an employee for super purposes and entitled to super guarantee contributions under the same rules as employees. Rules apply – eg you must perform the contract work personally, be paid per hour, and work directly for an employer not via an agency, company, trust or partnership.

What rates do government and business pay?

The rates quoted above are often paid by not-for-profit, government and private organisations for journalism done in industry.

Copywriters will often charge a higher hourly rate  ($150 to $200 per hour) particularly if they work through an agency.

What rates do publications pay?

Actual rates offered by publishers vary widely. Many publications have not lifted their wordrates in over 20 years. Rates as low as 50c per word still occur in some areas of travel journalism, and some newpapers still pay 65c per word for features.

Some large outlets rely on their high profile and the kudos that comes with having a byline in mainstream publications, to attract freelance journalists, despite their paltry rates. (I’m looking at you, Fairfax and News Corp, and to some extent, the ABC.)

A common / acceptable commercial rate for publications in 2018 is 80c to $1 per word, with specialist publications in fields such as finance, legal and medical paying $1.50 – $2 a word for experienced journalists.

Commissioning editors may offer higher or lower rates, and journalists may command higher or lower fees depending on their experience, expertise and publication budgets.

For a guide to the current rates offered by publications in the Australian market, check out the MEAA’s Rate Tracker – this contains real data updated by freelancers based on their own experience of publisher payments. (You can add your own information to Rate Tracker to help build this useful tool about current market rates.)

The MEAA encourages freelancers to prioritise publishers who pay well.


Freelancers Morning Tea – SolidariTEA

Join other freelancers across Australia next Tuesday for the inaugural MEAA virtual morning tea.

Hosted by the MEAA National Freelance Committee, SolidariTEA will include a discussion and presentations. You can join the conversation by using the ZOOM video conferencing system or simply by dialing in on your phone – details on how to dial-in will be provided when you register.

The format will be a panel discussion of freelancers followed by a Q&A on any industrial questions that you have.

This is a great opportunity to hear the latest developments around freelancing as well as getting answers to your questions about your rights as a freelancer.

For more information call Jenny Farrar 0415 995 745. You are welcome to email your questions in advance to: – simply enter the words SolidariTEA Question into the subject line.

Plagiarism is the bane of quality journalism

Please consider signing and sharing this Change petition set up by Ginger Gorman. Many freelance journalists have seen their work being ripped off by unscrupulous publishers and sadly by other journalists. Despite being a clear copyright breach in many instances, it’s up to the person whose work has been copied to prove the case. For large publishers, this means spending time, resources and money on prosecuting a case; for freelance journalists, it’s usually not financially feasible. Those who blatantly copy know they can get away with it – because they have for so long. It’s time to call them out on this unethical and unfair behaviour.

Jess Mudditt’s list of freelance job sites

Many thanks to freelance journalist Jess Mudditt who has compiled this list of Job sites, with comments from Freeline members included.

Let us know if you’ve got suggestions / changes / additions / more comments!

Freelance Collective $9 a month Relatively new & gathering speed. OK source of job leads, but a first-in best- dressed system – you have to be on the ball. Also a good source of information – members pretty good at sharing information and advice. (More a forum than a job board ).  Cover all freelancers (designers, photographers and so on) including writers. If you do sign up, join the associated Facebook group. Members post opportunities on there so it’s a useful way to pick up work and a good adjunct to the website listing.
Rachel’s List $25 a year for approved freelancers You must be approved by the Rachel’s List team and have to demonstrated that you have at least three years experience in the industry. Once you’re on the list, it’s awesome; lots of genuine, vetted freelance jobs posted each week for decent rates. There’s a fair bit of competition but it’s a very good service.
Linkedin Free for the basic version which has limited search function but still useful. Premium costs $32.99 per month and lets you message anyone & has unlimited search Some great gigs that come via the person hiring. A free premium trial is provided if you do journo training. (how to find training??).
Freeline Free to join – it’s by invitation after filling out a form. A forum for freelancers to discuss all manner of topics. Freelancers often tell others about writing/editing opportunities. There is also a Facebook group and a monthly coffee morning in Sydney and events in Melbourne.
Contently Free; takes a flat 15% of fee from client; pays immediately in US$ into Paypal on story submission. Average $300 – $500 USD for short articles. Useful as a portfolio aggregator as well as for jobs. Do the 10 minute online training course to be eligible so that editors know you’re available.  Hit and miss on getting added to a content team.
Upwork Charges a freelancer service fee, taken as a percentage of your earnings on Upwork. Sliding fee based on lifetime billings with each client (across all hourly and fixed-price contracts): 20% for the For example, if you agree to a $1,000 price for a job with a new client, you will be billed 20% on the first $500 and 10% on the remaining $500.first $500 you bill your client across all contracts with them; 10% for total billings with your client between $500.01 and $10,000; 5% for total billings with your client that exceed $10,000 Total nightmare to begin with but once you’ve got the hang of it there are some great jobs to be had that actually pay well. I currently have one client who pays $1 per word and have had others previously paying $US85 per hour. Plus if you need cash flow it’s a blessing as the payment goes through in about five days after you complete a job.
Communique (part of King Content) – Free Content agency that does lots of corporate-to-consumer publications & branded content (insurers, health funds) with offices in Sydney, Melbourne, London, Singapore and New York. Pay usually 50-60c or so – they have ridiculously slow payment terms – about 90 days or something – but most of the editors are pretty decent & good at what they do. Best way to get work from them is to track the editors down on LinkedIn and pitch them direct.  May help to login to Communique and update your profile with recent samples of work, and switch your availability to ‘Available to work’. You can also directly message any editor who has an active callout
The Loop $5 a month to upgrade to pro to ‘stand-out’ for job ads. Well-paid jobs can be found on the gig board. Job listings are for copywriters, designers etc.
Newsmodo Freelancers enjoy free use of Newsmodo. We negotiate the price for commissioning a story on your behalf with the client. A good source of writing gig for journalists but sign-up is more complicated than the Freelance Collective. Some say not so professional either.
Commtract Free to join. It started 6 months ago, they vet all applications and only take those with 3+ years’ experience, once you are on there you are offered corporate and govt writing jobs.
Writerfind You can pay either by an annual flat fee or by commission. The flat fee is just $109 for a one-year listing – covered easily by your first commission. The commission (if you choose this option rather than the flat fee) is 10% of your first three months’ income from work obtained from each client via Writerfind. Well-paid jobs can be found. Job listings are for copywriters, designers.
Airtasker Free to join Everyday jobs, though mostly low-paying, for rewrites, proofreading design.

Australian Freelance Journo of the Year 2017

Apply now for the Walkley Award for Best Freelance Journalist for 2017.

This MEAA Walkley Award recognises “the unique contribution that freelance journalists make across all media platforms to the future of the industry.”

Open to residents of either Australia or New Zealand.

The winner will receive a full pass to the Walkley’s Storyology Summit and two tickets to the Walkley Awards Gala Dinner.

Previous winners include Yaara Bou Melhem, Andrew Quilty, Debra Jopson, Fiona Harari and Dave Tacon.

Entries open till April 26.

Apply online:

Freelance Rates: What do writers get paid in Australia?

If you’re part of the fascinating freelance journalism discussions happening on the Freeline google group – you’ll know that the whole What should I charge? question comes up again and again.

Short answer:  Most decent publications pay experienced senior journos upwards of 80c per word. Content writers and corporates pay $80 – $150 an hour plus. But there’s lots of hobbyists out there who are happy with 25c a word.
The verdict from the pros?.. Leave the cheap jobs to the hobbyists. If you’re good and you’re experienced and you can meet a brief to deadline, you should be able to command a professional rate.

Here’s some good resources that will give you a feel for going rates:

  • Show Me The Money Survey 2014  – Over on Rachel’s List the annual survey of more than 400 freelance writers, editors and various other publishing peeps gives lots of info about freelancing – her infographic shows that
    • In 2014: journos and writers charged between 50c-70c / word  [43%] or 70c-90c / word [23%]
    • About 40% of sub-editors surveyed charged $40-50 / hour
    • 13% of copywriters charged $100-$150 / hour
  • Pay The Writers Australia – Though it hasn’t been updated for a year or so, you might find this Tumblr with various reported rates useful if you’re thinking up a pitch …
  • MEAA 2016 Recommended Freelance Rates  [Oh dear – it’s a members-only link! Hope they fix it]   The MEAA calculated the rates that journalists would need to charge to earn the same as a J5 graded journalist on a Fairfax Media or News Corporation metro daily newspaper:  Per Day – $986.00
    Per half day (2/3 day rate) $657.00       Per hour $246.00
    1000 words or less – $1001.00  – then 93c per word
  • MEAA 2016 Freelance Rate Tracker  [Another members-only link] Self-reported rates for publications in Australia
  • Contently Rates Database  – This international list gives a good feel for rates in US-based and international publications
  • Australian Writers Marketplace – for more than a decade, the Queensland Writer’s Centre has produced this monumental tome which contains outlets and pay rates for writers around Australia. $50 a year — but just one published piece and you’ve earned your money back and then some!
  • Freelance Creatives – Ad News  This page is pretty old now but will give you some idea of the rates that freelance creatives were charging back in 2013, according to a Loop survey

MEAA Freelance Focus Conference – Brisbane Aug 5 2015


IF you’re heading to the MEAA Freelance conference — Earlybird prices end tomorrow

Brisbane, AUGUST (Conference August 5 plus practical workshops August 4 & 6)

The earlybird rate ends this Friday –  you can save over $100 on festival tickets.

Don’t miss this chance to explore the opportunities of the industry, inspirational talks and practically-focused sessions.
A stellar lineup features Trent Dalton, Michelle Law, Matt Condon, John Birmingham, Rebecca Sparrow, and more.
Earlybird ticket sales and scholarship entries end July 10:

Don’t miss SCRIVENER 101 for freelancers

Don’t miss Claire Scobie’s workshop – back by popular demand following a successful event at the 2014 Storyology Conference

Do you juggle stories, projects and lists? Are you wasting precious time shuffling between documents, or getting distracted by social media? This half-day workshop explores some simple efficiency and project management techniques and tools, before giving you a comprehensive introduction to the writing software Scrivener.

Friday June 26, 2015
10.00am – 1.00pm
Walkley Training Room
245 Chalmers St, Redfern, NSW
BYO Laptop
Workshop: $245 (MEAA member discount – $195)

Congratulations 2015 Freelancer of The Year finalists


Congratulations to the three top Australian freelancers selected as finalists in the 2015 Walkley Award for Best Freelance Journalist of the Year.

Fiona Harari, Andrew Quilty and William Verity.

The overall winner will be announced in Sydney on July 29.

More details:

This year’s awards attracted more than 60 top-quality entries, showing that freelance journalism in Australia is alive and kicking!