If you want to write for a specific magazine, any seasoned freelance writer will advise you first to request the writer’s guidelines for that publication because it will tell you:

  • The target audience
  • What the editor buys
  • What the editor needs now, seasonally, or in the future
  • Departments, columns or themes open to freelancers
  • How to pitch or submit your material
  • The pay rate
  • Word length(s)
  • Type of rights purchased
  • The person to submit to

Sierra magazine writer's guidelines

Sierra magazine has writer’s guidelines to inform freelance writers that the editors accept feature articles, around 2,000 words in length, and pay up to $1.50/word. (See for yourself)

Writer's Digest magazine writer's guidelines

Writer’s Digest, the leading magazine for writers, has a handful of departments that welcome pitches from freelance writers, including writing techniques and author profiles. Departments run 500-2400 words. Payment is 30-50 cents/word. (See for yourself)

DeSoto magazine writer's guidelines

DeSoto magazine, a southern lifestyle magazine, welcomes essays, articles, and stories on culture, the arts, travel, food, etc. Writers can pitch feature articles or shorter pieces for departments. Payment is 15 cents/word.  (See for yourself)

Vibrant Life magazine writer's guidelines

Vibrant Life, a bimonthly lifestyle magazine, regularly solicits articles from freelance writers who can write knowledgeably on physical health, mental clearness, and spiritual balance from a sensible, Christian viewpoint. Payment is $100-$300/article. (See for yourself)

Think of writer's guidelines as a useful outline of FAQs

Think of writer’s guidelines as a useful outline of FAQs—it’s going to tell you nearly everything about the publication from the viewpoint of the editor who eagerly wants to help you (the freelance writer) get published in his or her magazine. If you fail to follow these guidelines, then you risk annoying the editor by showing that you cannot follow simple instructions.

Nearly every magazine editor who buys articles from freelance writers has spent valuable time creating and updating their writer’s guidelines because it’s an effective way to streamline the submission process. Editors also avoid the annoyance of receiving off-topic or unwanted material, as well as having freelancers bombard them with emails asking what to submit, how to submit, what the pay rate is, etc.

Because we can associate “writer’s guidelines” with magazines that solicit freelance writers to contribute content, we can use the phrase in a Google search to find these type of writing opportunities. Here is how I do it:

1. Let’s go to Google’s Advanced Search at https://www.google.com/advanced_search

Google's Advanced Search

The reason we are using Google’s Advanced Search is because we need to use extra search fields to yield the results we want.

2. See the field that says: “the exact word or phrase:“? This is where we type in the words writer’s guidelines. We don’t need to enclose the words in quotes because this field automatically does it for us.

This is where we type in the words writer's guidelines

3. In the field above–where it says “all these words:“–let’s type in pay*

let's type in pay*

Notice the asterisk? This tells Google to include variations of the word, such as pay, pays, payment, and even paid.

Because we want to find magazines that pay freelance writers for their articles, we need to add a word that editors most commonly use in their writer’s guidelines. I’ve discovered that “pay” (or a variation) is the most popular word; editors rarely use the word “compensation” or “salary” in their writer’s guidelines to indicate what they pay writers–though you can experiment with either of these words in separate Google searches to see what it yields. (If you decide to leave this field blank, then Google will show a mixbag of paying and non-paying magazines.)

4. If you like writing on certain topics or writing for specific industries, then you may find the “any of these words:” field useful. In this field we can add any number of “modifiers”–i.e., terms that specify your interests or specialty. For example, let’s say you enjoy writing about parenting, or you have an article that would best fit a parenting magazine. We can add the keyword parenting to the field. Or maybe you’re a writer who loves covering new technologies. Then add the keyword “technology”–or “computers” if it’s a more specific interest. This search field lets you add multiple keywords–just separate each keyword with a comma. I like writing Lovecraftian horror. I can choose to add the keywords: “Lovecraft, Lovecraftian, weird fiction, horror fiction, Cthulhum.”

we can add any number of "modifiers"

For this search I decided to add keywords based on today’s popular topics that mainstream magazines like to cover.

5. You can experiment with the next field, “none of these words:” to filter out unwanted results.

6. Lastly, I like to change the “last update:” and select a more recent time based on when I last searched.

select a more recent time

There’s nothing more we need to do–so hit the Advanced Search button. Here is what I got:

Search results of writer's guidelines

Your results will vary because I searched at a different time than you. Google did what we told it to: find webpages with the exact match phrase “writer’s guidelines” with variations of the word “pay,” using extra keywords that appear anywhere in the webpage, and search during a specific time range. This resulted in Google finding us:

  1. writer’s guidelines posted at the magazine’s own website
  2. writing-related websites that curate links to writer’s guidelines
  3. online directories or databases that allow you to search for writer’s guidelines
  4. Misc. webpages in the form of blog posts, discussions, social messages, etc. that are discussing writer’s guidelines.

Visit some links that Google fetched for you. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being outstanding), how would you rate the search? I usually find myself rating the search around a 6-7, meaning I might want to tweak the different search fields, perhaps adding or omitting certain keywords.

One pet peeve I have is Google’s inability to discern between paying and non-paying magazines. Because I use the word “pay” (and variations of it) as a keyword, Google commingles webpages of magazines that use phrases like: “unable to pay,” “non-paying,” “unfortunately, we can’t pay at this time,” etc. However, I still find that Google returns more links to magazines that indicate pay, rather than don’t, by using “pay” as a keyword.

As somebody who has conducted thousands of online searches for magazines that pay freelance writers, I can tell you that editors do forget to update their writer’s guidelines on a timely basis–sometimes for years. Magazines are known to add and remove departments, change word counts, rethink their editorial calendar, and increase or reduce pay. For this reason, when you find a magazine that you want to write for, contact the editor and ask if the webpage with the writer’s guidelines on it is current. [ END ]

Brian Scott, founder of Online-Writing-Jobs.com

About the author

Brian Scott

Brian Scott

Brian Scott uses his creative skills to freelance full-time as a copywriter, SEO marketing specialist, and graphic designer. Self-employed since 1996, he's had the opportunity to work in traditional media (pre-Internet Age) and now online media. Prior to freelancing, he worked in public relations, newspaper copy editing, and mail-order marketing.

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