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Science and environmental writing for freelancers – 10 publications that pay well

It’s a great time to be a freelance writer who creates articles and content about science, medicine, the environment, climate change and conservation issues. I have seen so many callouts lately for writers in these areas that I thought it would be worthwhile pulling together a post for freelancers who want to jump into freelance science writing or submit articles to science magazines.

So whether you want to write about climate change, endangered species, rewilding, ecological grief, innovations in conservation, fashion and sustainability, the future of coal, alternative energy or any other topic that fits within environmental writing, don’t despair – there are loads of publications who want your words. And don’t forget, there are SO many opportunities to write for businesses and organisations in the environmental and sustainability space too.

If you’re looking for freelance science writing jobs or opportunities here are 10 publications that want your pitches and will pay pretty decently.

Freelance science and environmental writing – 10 publications that pay well

The Open Notebook

The Open Notebook is pretty much the greatest blog around for science, health and environmental writers. If you want to see successful pitches behind 190+ science stories, read interviews with science writers or just generally nerd out about science writing, this is the place to go.

Even though The Open Notebook is a non-profit, they welcome pitches and they pay for commissioned contributions about the craft of science journalism.

At the moment, they are looking for story-behind-the-story interviews and reported features. For story-behind-the-story pitches, make sure you include the kinds of questions you’d like to raise with your interviewee and why you think the story is important to tell.They are also specifically welcoming pitches for feature stories intended for their Diverse Voices in Science Journalism series. This is a series that highlights “the experiences, perspectives, challenges, and expertise of science journalists from communities that are historically underrepresented in science writing”.

Pay: $750 USD for interviews (1,500-2,000 words), $1,100 USD for reported features (1,500-2,000 words).

Payment is upon acceptance of the final draft.

Submission guidelines: www.theopennotebook.com/submissions-guidelines/

Pitch: siricarpenter@theopennotebook.com

Australian Geographic

Australian Geographic is a bi-monthly magazine that covers Australia’s landscapes, plants, animals, culture, science and industry. The digital site covers the latest news in the world of science and the environment, as well as articles on ‘wild’ travel, adventure, history and culture.

Pay: Depends on the scope and length of a commissioned piece, but usually it’s around $300AUD for 600-1000 words.

Pitch: editorial@ausgeo.com.au

Sierra Magazine

Sierra is the “storytelling arm of the Sierra Club, the United States’ oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental group”. If you’re keen to write thoroughly-researched stories about green living, natural sciences, outdoor adventure, environmental threats or conservation, it’s definitely worth pitching.

In terms of the magazine, three sections are open to freelance contributors: “enjoy”, “explore” and “protect”.

As you can imagine, Sierra Magazine receives loads of queries, so read their editorial guidelines carefully before you pitch.

Pay: Feature articles range from 3,000 words to 4,500 (rarely) and are paid at a rate of $1 USD/word for print (rising to $1.50 word for “more well-known writers with crackerjack credentials”). Their standard fee for online stories is $350 (but the fee can increase for regular contributors). Sierra Magazine pays a flat fee of $250 for reviews and opinion pieces.

Payment is on acceptance of the article.

Pitch: submissions.sierra@sierraclub.org

 

Discover magazine

If you’ve got an incredible untold science story, make sure you pitch it to Discover magazine. Discover publishes stories on topics within health and medicine, the brain, technology, the living world and the environment.

Pitch: Have a look at the comprehensive submission guidelines – the editors of each section are listed there. If you’re still not sure who to pitch: editorial@discovermagazine.com

Pay: For print, starting at $1/word. For web, typically $300/story. For print, payment is on completion of editing on a story draft. For web, payment is on publication.

Submission guidelines: https://www.discovermagazine.com/pitch-guide

The Revelator

The Revelator is an environmental news and ideas site, published by the Centre for Biological Diversity. It covers topics like climate change, wildlife, pollution and toxins, sustainability and population. Their motto is: “wild, incisive, fearless”, so it makes sense that they are looking for pitches from freelance writers that discuss the intersection of environmental topics with politics, economics and culture, and attempt to reveal the deeper context behind stories in the news.

It’s important to know that they are predominantly looking to cover stories within the United States.

Pay: Rates start at $300 USD for first-time contributors and goes up to $500. Possible ways to contribute are:

  • Reported stories with multiple sources and photographs ($500)
  • Stories with unique documents, data or analysis ($400-$500)
  • Trend and “big question” stories ($300-$400)
  • Context stories, pulling threads together from previous reporting to show the deeper meaning of something in the news ($300-$400)

Pitch: Editor John Platt. The guidelines state: Please provide a few sentences about why you think the story is important, why you think it’s a fit for The Revelator, a list of the people you wish to interview, and an expectation of when you think you could complete the piece. If you haven’t written for us before, please provide links to some of your recent writing and let us know why you’re the best person to write this story. We’ll respond as quickly as possible.

Submission guidelines: https://therevelator.org/freelancing-revelator/

New Scientist

If you really want to make a name for yourself as a science writer, it’s worth considering sending a query letter to New Scientist.

The features in New Scientist are almost all written by freelancers, so there’s a great opportunity to get published. The contributor guidelines set out exactly what they are after, but you’ll want to pitch fascinating science and technology story ideas that appeal to, and inform, a general audience.

Think big – New Scientist loves to cover stories that “move science on, not incremental advances”.

Pay: Competitive rate per word – to be discussed with assigning editor

Pitch: There are quite a few editors at New Scientist, so your best bet is to check out the pitching guidelines that has the details for each of the different editors.

Hakai Magazine

Interested in writing about everything coastal? Then Hakai magazine is the right publication for you. The magazine is part of the Tula Foundation and “explores science, society, and the environment from a coastal perspective”.

Freelance writers are encouraged to read the submission guidelines before pitching about stories that focus on coastal ecosystems, cultures and communities throughout the world. First time writers for the publication also need to include three links to published work when they pitch.

Pay: Reportedly $0.75 to $1/word CAD

Pitch: Managing editor Adrienne Mason (editor@hakaimagazine.com)

Earth Island Journal

Earth Island Journal is the media arm of Earth Island Institute — “an organisation that supports environmental activists and leaders working to protect the biological and cultural diversity that sustains our environment.” They cover pretty much everything to do with environmental issues, such as wildlife and land conservation, science and tech innovations, animal rights, public health, environmental justice and cultural survival.

Pay: 25c/word for print stories and they say “You can expect to earn about $750-$1000 for an in-depth feature story (about 4,000 words). For online reports, the fee ranges from $50 to $100. Online reports are a great way to get into the Journal, especially if you are new to reporting and writing. We publish online five days a week and are always looking for fresh ideas.”

Submission guidelines: https://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/page/writers-photographers-guidelines

Pitch: Print and online queries should be sent to: submissions@earthisland.org

The Know

The Know is a news platform aimed at millennials and Gen Z and they are looking for features and opinion pieces for the newsletter. If you’ve got a story idea for a piece on the environment (or mental health or female-focused tech for that matter), send them a pitch.

Pay: Reportedly around 20-35p/word.

Pitch: Emma Irving  [first name @theknowmedia.co]

BBC Future

BBC Future is BBC.com’s website focused on in-depth, evidence-based digital features and in 2020 launched a new vertical dedicated solely to the environment, sustainability and pollution – Future Planet. What I love about Future Planet is that the publication itself is aiming to be carbon neutral. This means that commissioned writers keep track of any travel they’ve taken for the story and at the end of each article they report on the emissions from travel that it took to report the story.  So if you’re pitching, be sure to include how you’re going to make your reporting low-carbon.

Pay: Not disclosed

Pitch: Commissioning editor Martha Henriques (first name [dot] last name @bbc.com]

This is just the beginning …

Each time I compile a list of places to pitch (such as where to pitch your service journalism, social issues or travel ideas), I want you to know that these are just some of many outlets that are looking for pitches and will pay for commissioned contributions.

There are so many great resources out there about how to pitch science editors, what top science editors are looking for and interviews with science freelance writers, so get pitching!

Are you a freelance science or environmental writer? Are there any other publications that you’d recommend?

6 Comments

  • Lauren says:

    Thanks for the list. It is useful. I am thinking about writing for a science publication, but it’s my first time doing it. How do I come up with a topic for these publications? Are there specific online resources that give some ideas? Do I borrow the storyline from the science section of a major news outlet and put a spin on it? Any tip helps.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hey Lauren,
      I’d start reading these publications and look at the type of content that they cover. Then if anything grabs your attention and interest, I’d look at recent journal articles about the topic, other articles and see if there’s another angle you can take. Or if there’s a deeper story there. Looking at university publications and websites too can often help.
      I’m not sure if you’ve seen this post I wrote a little while ago about where to find story ideas? https://www.thefreelancersyear.com/blog/magazine-feature-story-ideas
      That may also help?

  • Jessica Myscofski says:

    This list is really helpful, thanks! My question relates to Medium.com. From what I’m seeing, you can just write a post and publish it, for free. Is there a particular process to publishing a paid article, or just pitching the editor you listed? Another good publication is Earth Island Journal, for topics relating to the environment, conservation, climate, etc.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hi Jessica, thanks for your comment. Yes, so with Medium, you can just register for an account and treat it like a blog by uploading your own content, or you can pitch specific Medium-hosted publications like the ones listed here. Like all feature writing, you’ll need to look at the pitching guidelines and familiarise yourself with the publication before pitching.
      Thanks for the info about Earth Island Journal. Here are the writers’ guidelines: http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/page/writers-photographers-guidelines (they pay 25c/word)

  • Aniket says:

    Hi Linda,
    This is a great list thank you. This is my first time pitching to such publications (I have normally done typical commissioned freelance writing for company blogs and stuff). I had identified an important and relevant story a couple of weeks ago which I thought could be a wonderful fit for one of these publications. The approach I have taken is that I have created the article first, and looking to pitch now. But I see in many places that the pitch is to be done prior to writing anything, then start work when the pitch gets approved. Would this be an issue if I wish to directly apply with a completed article? I have seen in some places that it is possible, but I just wanted to know how feasible it is. Sorry the question is a bit silly, I am still learning 🙂

    • lindyalexander says:

      Thanks Aniket, if your article is an opinion or first-person piece, then yes, it’s absolutely normal to send the editor an email and say that you wrote the piece with that particular publication in mind. If it’s not, what you can do is still send a pitch without mentioning that the piece is already written and if mention that if it gets commissioned, then you can submit it within a week (or even a few days). Sometimes it’s good to pitch first, even if you have already written the piece, because the editor may want a slightly different angle or you to include specific info/data/facts. Hope that helps?

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