Welcome to my new side hustle series, looking at tried and tested methods to earn extra income. There are so many ways to make extra cash when you need to. This week Fiona from Savvy in Somerset explains how you can make money by selling your story to the press.
Selling a story to a newspaper or magazine is a great way to earn some extra cash. While it’s not something that can be done week in week out like some other side hustles, it could still earn you a nice little chunk of money.
While scrolling through my Facebook feed a couple of years ago, I noticed a shout out from a magazine page I followed asking people to email them with any interesting health-related stories. Due to complications after a car accident, I had a blood clot aged 23 and subsequently needed one of my ribs removing.
I sent in a brief description of what happened and they phoned me back the same day to ask some questions. A week later I was given a read-through and my story was published in the next edition of the magazine. All in all, the whole process took less than two hours of my time and I earned £200. The story was actually quite small and only took up one-third of a double page spread. Pretty lucrative for not a huge amount of effort!
I’ve also been paid £25 for my comments on a reader’s dilemma and £30 for a few lines about why I start Christmas shopping so early, both from women’s weekly magazines. Another time I was paid £100 by a national newspaper for talking to them about why I love using loyalty cards.
What sort of stories are magazines and newspapers looking for?
When you first think of someone selling their story to the papers, you’ll more than likely be thinking of seedy stories about scandals and affairs. While many of the big tabloids are full of this sort of thing, there are also plenty of nicer more family-friendly stories too.
In particular, women’s weekly magazines like to feature stories that are uplifting and inspirational,such as miracle babies, cancer survivors, family reunions and people achieving amazing things. Of course, they also feature stories about cheating partners, dating disasters and stories from those who have suffered abuse. It certain circumstances magazines may be happy to publish your story anonymously, but often they pay is less in these cases. They also love stories that are funny or a bit bonkers – things like people who talk to ghosts, pets that can do crazy things and so on.
It’s not all scandal
Newspaper stories also cover a wide range but usually need to be pretty sensational to get featured. An easier option is to be featured as a case study for stories which are usually real-life examples of things celebrities have recently been in the papers for. As an example, last year television presenter Kirstie Allsop was in the tabloids for smashing her child’s iPad. The same newspaper was then looking to interview three mums who had done the same thing. Not something you would usually think of as being a story, but as it related to a celebrity the newspaper was happy to interview – and pay – three mums in the same situation.
It’s also worth looking at what’s going on with the Royal Family. With the recent birth of Harry and Meghan’s son, lots of the big newspapers were looking to interview people with babies born on the same day or people who have children with the same name.
Write about your lovely home
Beautiful interiors also seem to come up a lot. Publications are often looking for those who have something a bit special, such as a huge walk-in wardrobe, a kitchen with loads of gadgets or a fancy wood-fired hot tub to feature in the home section.
If none of the above takes your fancy, there are always the lower paying reader write-ins too. With these, there is less of a chance you’ll get chosen as lots get sent in, but you could try answering a reader dilemma, sending in a cute pet photograph or revealing your top-tip for around the home.
What happens next?
Usually, for these types of story, an interview will take place over the phone. If you’re worried about details not being right it’s worth asking for a read-back over the phone or seeing if they will send you the copy before it’s sent for publishing.
Depending on the story, the magazine or newspaper may ask you to provide pictures or they may send a photographer to you, especially if the story is featuring your home, for example. On other occasions, they may pay for your travel to a studio for hair and make-up and a professional shoot.
How much money could I make?
The amount paid will vary considerably between publications and will depend on how original, relevant or interesting the story is. Pay can be anywhere from £2,000 for a full feature story in a big tabloid, £200 for a case study or £25 for a star letter or tip of the week.
Payment is usually made after the story has been published and publications will often have exclusivity clauses. This means you can’t sell the same story again for a number of weeks or months.
There are also occasions where newspapers might be looking for a comment on a subject and they may not be able to pay but are able to link back to your business or website. Not ideal, but depending on what you do this may be worth considering.
How do I find magazines and newspapers to sell my story to?
There are two main ways to try and sell your story . Either by using a press agent or by going direct to the publication yourself. A press agent will look at several different options and try to get the best price. However, they will take a cut of the money. This is only really worth doing if you have a big, very juicy story to sell. If your preference is for a particular magazine or newspaper then it’s worth contacting them directly.
Love it! Magazine story submissions– This is the best place to send your story idea to Love it! magazine.
Brainwaves – This post has the best email address for submitting tips to Take a Break magazine.
The Story People is the place to go if you’d like to submit a story to Take a Break and that’s life! magazines.
Feature Me! UK – is a Facebook group set up by journalists who are regularly looking for case studies. Some of these are for magazines and some are for national newspapers and have various fees attached. I’ve been a member of this group for over two years now and the ladies that run it are really lovely.
You could also follow some magazines on social media as they often ask for stories and comments there.
Some final tips
Here are a few tips to make sure selling your story goes as smoothly as possible:
- Make sure you know the story really well before speaking to the journalist. It might be worth having notes written down of dates and times to help you remember them.
- Stories are now often published online as well as in print. DO NOT under any circumstances read the comments. It’s not worth it; people are mean even about the loveliest, most innocuous tales.
- Don’t forget to ask when your story is going to be published so you can pick up a copy and see it in print!
Fiona Hawkes writes about saving money, frugal living and making money from home on her blog www.savvyinsomerset.com.
Thanks to Fiona for this really unusual idea to earn extra income. I have now had two stories published via the Feature Me group, so I can vouch for this. But Fiona is right about the comments in big publications. I had this story in the Daily Mail and I am told some people were vile! I didn’t read the comments myself.
Have you made money selling your story? Or can you recommend your favourite side hustle to earn extra income?