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.


Freelance Meeting: Oct 25 2010 – Contracts and other issues

We now have a venue for our October 25 meeting to discuss all the issues: unacceptable contracts, copyright, poor or even laughable rates, late payment of invoices, even whether the journalists’ union can really help freelances.

Date: October 25
Time 6.30pm 8.30pm
Place: Lord Roberts Hotel, corner of Riley St and Stanley St, Darlinghurst

The venue is a short 10 – 15min stroll from Museum Station, along the route of the No 389 bus from Circular Quay to North Bondi and has a pay car park virtually next door. We have booked a private room for the meeting and propose those coming kick in $5 each for snacks and buy their own drinks. Hope to see you there.

Those who have confirmed they will attend the meeting need do nothing more except turn upon the 25th.
If you are coming but have not yet confirmed: RSVP to

The power to act together

The MEAA has just been granted the power to collectively represent freelancers. This is a very important development as now the union is able to do a lot more for us.

It will be very interesting to see how the MEAA uses this new power in the following months. There are certainly plenty of awful standard freelance contracts that need to be addressed.

Here’s to seeing some real results!

Meeting of freelancers who write for Pacific Publications

Pacific Magazines, a major local publisher in the Seven stable which publishes titles including New Idea, marie claire and Better Homes and Gardens, has issued a new contributor contract for freelancers requiring they sign away all future rights including online. The company is also seeking to strip legal protections from writers with an indemnity clause shifting liability from Pacific Magazines to freelancers should there be legal action arising from a freelance contribution.

The MEAA strongly advises all freelancers NOT to sign the contract- note the Alliance is currently in negotiations with Pacific Magazines management for a new agreement for permanent staff.

The Alliance is convening urgent meetings for freelance writers (members or non-members welcome) in Sydney and Melbourne to discuss the Pacific Magazines contract.

Just turn up – or for more info – contact Alliance organiser Claire O’Rourke at or 02 9333 0935.


Sydney: Thursday, February 11, 6pm, Alliance office cnr Chalmers and Redfern streets, Redfern. RSVP to

Melbourne: Wednesday, February 17, 6.30pm Melbourne Central Lion Hotel, Lvl 3, Melbourne Central Adjacent to the Hoyts cinema box office . RSVP to

What do Australian freelancers get paid?

Prominent Australian freelance journalist and academic Margaret Simons has posted a request on her regular Crikey blog for freelancers to email her with the current rates they are paid.

The 2010 MEAA freelance rates, available as a PDF download on the MEAA website here, suggest that the minimum rate for a freelance journalist should be 89c a word (with $890 paid for any article of 1,000 words or less).

There are certainly publications in Australia which pay more on a per-word basis; eg The Monthly, Griffith Review and Reader’s Digest all pay around $1 a word – and there are many other corporate and trade publications  which pay that or more.

However, metro daily newspapers generally pay around 65c per word – way less for travel – and plenty of Australian magazines still pay just 50c a word or even less.

We would love to see freelancers contact Margaret with their current pay rates – she’s promised anonymity.

We have regular discussions about pay rates in our Freeline google group – if you’re an Australian freelance writer, you’re welcome to join the discussion online.

First step taken against Fairfax freelance contract

It is good that the MEAA has finally taken the first step to change the standard Fairfax freelance contract.

The standard Fairfax freelance contract, which has been in place for three years, is viewed by many freelancers as particularly unfair. For example, if Fairfax publish three pieces of work by a freelancer within a six month period then that freelancer is forbidden to have work published by any other major newspaper or magazine and Fairfax are not required to provide any further work. In other words, for the sake of work worth $3000 at the very most a freelancer is prevented from earning a living. Other clauses relating to licenses allowing Fairfax to use freelancers’ work for no extra compensation are also of concern.

While the Fairfax contract is particularly harsh, it is nonetheless symptomatic of increasingly poor working conditions for freelancers industry wide.

By approaching the ACCC in late December 2009, the union will learn whether it can represent freelancers like it represents journalists who are employees. If it can, then there is no reason why the union can’t begin a bargaining process where Fairfax management will have to come to the negotiating table.

The Sydney Freelance Journalists Group will report whether the union can represent us effectively in this important issue when the ACCC’s decision is made sometime next year.