Sports Writer Salary: Expectations & Averages

If you’re a sports fanatic, writing about sports all day might seem like a dream job. You get paid to do what you already do–watch the day’s big games and talk about athletes, teams, managers and everything else in the wide world of sports.

But being a sports writer isn’t as glamorous as you might expect, and the pay might not be what you envision, either. Here, we’ll reveal how much the average sports writer makes and share some tips for getting started in the field. 

What Does a Sports Writer Do?

A sports writer delivers informative, engaging and sometimes analytical content about sports. They might work directly for a newspaper, magazine, television network or online outlet, or they might be a free agent that contributes to a number of different platforms. 

Sports writers might cover one sport in particular, like college football or women’s tennis, while others cover sports by city or region, like professional sports franchises in New York. 

In their day-to-day work, sports writers spend a lot of time writing, but there’s much more to the job. They may watch or listen to sporting events, attend events live, interview players and coaches, conduct research to compile statistics and make analyses, and more. Over the long term, sports writers work to build relationships with sources that will help them get the scoop on big news before it’s announced publicly.

Sports writers often work long, nonstandard hours dictated by the day’s sporting events. For example, if a baseball game runs into the early morning hours due to extra innings, a sports writer will need to watch until the end to find out the outcome, then work through the night to deliver a completed piece for that morning’s paper.  

Sports Writer Salary

The average sports writer salary varies widely based on a number of factors, including experience, location and the type of publication. Broadly speaking, the average sports writer salary ranges from $30,000 to $50,000 a year. Glassdoor places the average just below $32,000, while ZipRecruiter names $49,000 as the average sports writer pay. 

Experience

The more experienced you are as a sports writer, the more you can expect to make. However in this field, the number of years of experience you have doesn’t matter as much as the following you’ve developed during that time. In a media landscape where revenue is generated through ad clicks and video views, a sports writer who has built up a dedicated readership is much more valuable to a publication than one whose name nobody knows. 

According to Payscale, an entry level sports writer makes around $30,000 while a sports writer with ten or more years of experience can expect to make around $80,000. 

Publication

The type of publication you write for makes a big difference in your earning potential as a sports writer. 

A couple decades ago, being a sports writer for a major newspaper was a lucrative career, with most major papers employing an entire sports department in house. These days, with the decline of print newspaper readership, it’s much more common to see newspapers rely on freelance sports reporters or wire services like the Associated Press for their sports pieces. 

Broadcast television networks have gone down a similar path. With ever-shrinking budgets and escalating costs to air live sporting events, sports departments are often the first at the network to experience cuts to staff and salaries. Still, the rise of digital media isn’t all bad news for the sports industry. It means a whole new crop of sports writer jobs at the websites of major news publications and sports blogs. 

Generally speaking, the salaries at any given publication scale upwards with the size of the publication’s readership or viewership. 

Location

When it comes to being a sports writer, location matters. In the journalism field, cities (called markets) are ranked by population. New York, Los Angeles and Chicago make up the top of the list as markets one, two and three respectively, while markets like Glendive, Montana and North Platte, Nebraska hover near the end of the list as the smallest markets. 

Traditionally, the larger the market you work in, the higher your earning potential. However, there are anomalies to this rule. As an example, there are plenty of small markets where college football has a massive following. Because of the wide readership, sports writers in these markets would have an opportunity to make more. 

The converse can be true, as well. Austin, Texas, for example, is a top 50 media market, but doesn’t have any major professional sports teams. Thus, the prospects for a sports writer here might not be as good as in Buffalo, New York, which is of comparable size but is home to the Bills and the Sabres.

How to Kick Off Your Sports Writer Career

To jump start your career as a sports writer, begin by setting up an online portfolio. With a free service like Clippings.me, you can create a clean and professional online portfolio you can use to attract interest and begin applying for work.

For a good idea of how to structure your sports writer portfolio, check out this example from Michael Parrott. From covering the Clippers in Los Angeles to Manchester United in the UK, Parrott has a broad and diverse body of work as a sports journalist. 

He uses his bio to make a quick introduction, giving the reader an overview of the teams and sports he’s covered. Then, he organizes his portfolio clips by outlet to make it convenient to browse his work. After just a few minutes on his portfolio, it’s easy and quick to get a feel for Parrott’s experience and areas of expertise. 

Another good example of a sports writer portfolio is that of Mike Esposito. Esposito dives a little deeper in his writer bio, highlighting some of the big-name publications he’s written for and giving a rundown of his past roles. 

Esposito groups his portfolio clips by category rather than outlet (opinion and analysis, breaking news, Fantasy sports, etc.), which is another useful way of organizing your writing samples. We love his idea of creating a section for Recently Published Works, which lives at the top of his portfolio. This is a great way to let readers and editors quickly check out what you’ve been working on within the past few days or weeks.

Start building your Clippings.me sports writer portfolio now by signing up for a free account here. Once you complete your registration, the platform will walk you through a series of easy onboarding steps to complete your writer bio and choose your theme. Fill out your bio with relevant details like the sports you cover, the teams you follow or the outlets you’ve worked with in the past. Don’t forget to add a headshot to complete your bio. 

Then, start uploading your clips. If you don’t already have published clips, add sports writing samples instead. Thankfully, sports is one of the easiest areas of writing to come up with samples for. Take the last game you watched and turn it into a post-game analysis, or take a piece of this week’s sports news and share your unique take in an opinion piece.

With a polished-looking portfolio from Clippings.me, you’re ready to begin applying for gigs that will help you build your career as a sports writer. 

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