Want to get paid to write personal essays?
It’s the romantic version of being a freelance writer.
Take a vacation, and write about your adventures. Survive your toddler’s terrible-twos and share your advice. Dabble in online dating and tell others the good, the bad, and the ugly about your experience.
Sounds pretty good, right?
If you have a unique perspective, experience, thoughts, or advice from your side of the fence, you can get paid to write personal essays…in just about any niche.
But you need to know where to look to find these gigs, and how to pitch an editor when you do. Note: There are still plenty of opportunities to write personal essays, but not all are well-paying assignments.
Have something to say? Check out these 16 markets for places to get paid to write personal essays:
Are you an experienced mountain climber or new to the sport? Are you on a mission to bag as many peaks around the world as possible? Know a climbing destination every serious adventurer needs to visit? The Alpinist wants to hear from you. Pitch an idea for a personal essay to Senior Editor Katie Ives for The Climbing Life or Off Belay.
Rate: Pays $0.25/word for 250 to 500-word essays.
When writer Penne Richards lost her daughter in a car accident, she struggled to deal with the loss. Writing about the difficult experience for Brain, Child, proved to be a powerful way to help her grieve. Not every essay in this magazine covers such heavy-hitting topics. But it is a place where you can write long-form essays on a wide range of subjects and topics. Send your pitch to editor and publisher Marcelle Soviero.
Rate: Pays $300 for 1,500 to 4,500-word essays.
Live in San Francisco, or have a connection to The City By the Bay that’s changed the way you see the world? The Bold Italic Editor-in-Chief Keith Spencer wants to hear from you. This online magazine has published personal essays on the gig economy, online dating, mental illness, and many other topics with a San Francisco angle.
Rate: $50 per essay
If you want to write a personal essay about elk hunting, land-use issues, conservation, wildlife management and exploring the Rocky Mountains, pitch an idea Bugle Magazine Assistant Editor Kasey Rahn. Here’s the catch, the section where you’re most likely to land an assignment is for the “Women in Outdoors” column. Submit a pitch or send a personal essay on spec for review.
Rate: Pays $0.20/word for 1,000 to 3,000-word essays.
Looking to score some serious exposure? Write a personal essay for the popular site Buzzfeed, which gets an estimated 168 million unique visitors per month. Pick a topic and tell readers about what you know, what you’ve learned, or share your point of view. “Whatever that experience is, it should offer insight into an ongoing and relevant cultural conversation for readers,” says BuzzFeed Editor Rachel Sanders.
Rate: Pays an estimated $0.13 to $0.27 per word.
Mark Sappenfield was promoted to editor at The Christian Science Monitor earlier this year, after a decade of writing for this well-known publication. He says “The Home Forum” section is the best place to pitch personal essays, which can cover a wide range of topics. Current interests for essay topics include travel, parenting, home, family, gardening, neighborhood, and community. Submit completed essays for consideration.
Rate: Pays $75 to $150 for 400 to 800-word essays.
This edgy women’s magazine likes to push the envelope with witty, irreverent, and provocative content, which includes personal essays. “Our objective is to move the conversation forward around trending and topical subjects most relevant to women—that is, when we’re not starting the conversation,” says Dame Magazine Editor Kera Bolonik. Query first, before submitting a completed essay.
Rate: Pays an estimated $0.13/word.
This online magazine run by women has a lot in common with Dame Magazine. It’s edgy, quirky, and was created to provide a place for people to share their ideas. Need a dose of inspiration? Check out the recent essay written by Rachel McCarthy James: Can you make Donald Trump resign from your nightmares? Have an essay idea? Reach out to The Establishment Editor Nikki Gloudeman.
Rate: Pays $125 per 800 to 1,500-word essays.
Your mother always told you not to skip breakfast. This is why: You can get paid to write about it. Extra Crispy is all about what people eat for breakfast. Recipes are a must, along with the story that goes with them. But it has to be smart, fun, weird, or have a fresh angle on the typical breakfast, says Extra Crispy Editor Ryan Grim.
Rate: Pays an estimated $0.47/word for 800 to 1,000-word essays.
Not everybody experiences parenting the same way. And not everybody has the same opinions on raising kids. And that’s why Randi Olin and Lauren Apfel created Motherwell magazine. “We’re looking for evocative first-person narratives that have a unique focus, or take a novel angle, on a slice of the parenting experience,” says Olin. Submit completed essays up to 1,200 words for consideration.
Rate: Pays $50 for up to 1,200-word essays.
If you want to get paid to write a personal essay for Narratively, you need to have a story to tell that offers readers a glimpse into whatever makes your life different, interesting, or even abnormal. Like lawyer Amy Bond’s recent essay, “Twitter trolls outed my porn star past. So I embraced it.” Be sure your essay includes a “takeaway” or lesson for readers. Submit a pitch or completed essay for consideration.
Rate: Pays $200-300 for 2,000 – 2,500-word essays.
Think writing for The New York Times is out of reach? Think again. You don’t have to be an established writer to land an assignment to write for the Modern Love column. You just need to have something fresh to say about relationships, marriage, dating, and parenthood. For more on how to break into this market, check out the advice from Modern Love editor Daniel Jones.
Rate: Pays $300 per 1,500 to 1,700 word essays.
This frugal-living, money-saving website covers a wide range of topics meant to provide people with practice ways to earn and save money. Pitch an idea to The Penny Hoarder Editor Alexis Grant and find an angle for an evergreen topic.
Rate: Pays an estimated $0.08/word for 700 to 900 word essays. Negotiable.
Working on the next great American novel? Writing a non-fiction book? Or wondering where you can publish poetry? There aren’t a lot of markets for this type of essay writing. But Slice magazine, created by Maria Gagliano and Celia Johnson, happens to be one of them. “We’re looking for anyone with a fresh voice and a compelling story to share—basically any work that really knocks our socks off,” says Gagliano. “We simply look for works by writers who promise to become tomorrow’s literary legends.”
Rate: Pays $250 for essays up to 5,000 words.
Magazines were a different breed in the early 1900s when H.L. Mencken and George Nathan published the literary magazine The Smart Set. And while the magazine folded in 1930, it’s literary focus on covering culture, arts, science, and world affairs wasn’t forgotten. The magazine was reincarnated at Drexel University in Pennsylvania and publishes personal essays on a wide range of topics.
Rate: Pays an estimated $0.07/word for 1,000 to 3,000-word essays.
If you have a great story to tell that helps explain an important issue, Vox First Person Editor Eleanor Barkhorn wants to hear from you. This online magazine wants thoughtful, in-depth, provocative and personal narratives on politics, culture, science, health, and world views with a fresh perspective.
Rate: Pays an estimated $0.19 to $0.41/word for 1,200 to 3,000-word essays.
Get paid to write personal essays: What you need to know
Every publication is going to have slightly different guidelines for writing personal essays.
For magazines, analyze your favorite pub, and you’ll likely find a personal essay among the pages. Study those. Then check Writers Market for submission guidelines (which usually requires submitting a completed essay instead of a pitch).
For blogs and other outlets,study examples of past essays, and read the guidelines, which you can usually find online. While most editors want a complete draft of a personal essay, instead of a pitch, that’s not the case for every publication.
Obviously personal essays are going to focus on something from your own life experience. But you need to find a way to bring it back to the reader, make it relevant to their own life, and give them some kind of take-away message.
Keep that in mind, and you’ll be able to land gigs and get paid to write personal essays.
Know of other markets to get paid to write personal essays? Let’s discuss on Facebook.
Erica Verrillo writes about the business of freelance writing on her blog. She is also the author of the “Phoenix Rising” trilogy novels and “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Treatment Guide.”