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7 publications that pay well for personal essays

By February 13, 2018 December 24th, 2019 9 Comments

Despite some people saying that the personal essay boom is over, I’m seeing little evidence to suggest that readers’ appetites for candid, revealing and thought-provoking first person pieces are sated. For freelance writers, the advantage of writing a personal essay is that you are drawing on your own experience, so there is very little need for external research or case studies. Many writers also say that writing down their own experience and sharing it with others feels validating, affirming and therapeutic.

Before I became a full time freelancer, I wrote a few first person articles, but I don’t tend to do that kind of writing so much anymore.

There are numerous articles about how to sell personal essays in the age of over-sharing  and how to write compelling first person pieces for major publications, and if you are willing to open up and share your own experience, I believe you should be compensated well for it.

It can be hard to find magazines that accept freelance submissions, let alone locate publications that pay well for your writing. But there are plenty of online and print publications looking for writers.

So if you have a personal story you want to share, where can you pitch it?

7 publications that pay well for personal essays

1. Allure

If you’re a writer who has had a book published, it’s definitely worth pitching to Allure (a magazine predominantly for women about beauty) as they pay up to $3,000 for personal essays up to 2000 words.

For those mere mortals among us who haven’t written a book, the rate for personal essays seems to be more like $250 – $500.

2. Glamour

Glamour is another women’s magazine that heavily focuses on beauty, fashion and entertainment stories. Personal essays published by Glamour are reported to fetch around $2/word.

3. The Guardian

You have to love an editor who puts what she wants from writers out there and Jessica Reed from The Guardian certainly delivers. For beautifully written personal essays, The Guardian reportedly pays 60c/word.

4. Marie Claire

If you’ve got something compelling, insightful, intimate, funny, relatable or awkward to say about your love or sex life, then a personal essay directed to Marie Claire might be just the ticket. Writers report that Marie Claire pays $2/word.


Are you spotting a theme here? Women’s magazines love personal essays. If you want to write first hand experience about fitness, food, health or culture, it’s worth pitching to SELF magazine, who pay up to $700 for 2000 words.

6. VOX

A dynamic site covering world affairs, pop culture, science, business, politics and more, Vox pay  around $500 for personal essays. What’s even better is their clear pitching guidelines for their First Person section.

7. News.com.au

If you feel like a sharing a real life story like this one, you can pitch to the lifestyle vertical on the Australian website news.com.au. Writers are reportedly paid around $500 for a post.

The rules for pitching a personal essay are much the same as when you query an editor for any other kind of writing assignment – you need a strong hook and engaging writing style.

The writers I know who produce personal essays love it. They feel free and are absolutely thrilled when readers respond to their articles with “me too!” Afterall, isn’t the point of writing to reach and connect with others? Personal essays tend to do that in a very special way.

Do you write personal essays? Have you found other well-paying markets? 


  • Michaela says:

    This is such a helpful list, Lindy. Did you make a conscious decision to steer away from writing personal pieces? I do enjoy writing and reading personal stories, but I do have boundaries about what I will and won’t share.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      I did, yes. I’m not a particularly "share all" kind of person, so I never felt that comfortable writing about my experiences, especially if they involved other people. I’m the same in that I enjoy reading personal essays, especially when they resonate with a bigger idea or theme, but I think I’m too private to write more of them.
      I know that’s weird given that I share my income on this blog! But somehow that feels different.

  • Rashida says:

    I’m not entirely comfortable sharing deeply personal experiences online for the world to read unless it’s under a pseudonym. However most of my parenting articles have been inspired by my experiences as a new parent and what friends and family often tell me. If it’s funny then worth sharing. I prefer to write stories that are meaningful and make an impact.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      I remember reading some really powerful first person pieces of your Rashida – they definitely had an impact.

  • niesha says:

    Lenny Letter paid pretty well and the editing process was a dream.

  • Pam says:

    I don’t feel comfortable sharing personal information either, but that’s mostly what I do! (In my essays and memoir, not in my children’s books.) That is weird enough to be an essay in itself. Thanks so much for this post.

  • Thank you so much for this post. You’ve opened up a whole new world for me

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