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Why Write For Free?

Posted by Charles Gray on March 10, 2013

A major issue in today’s freelancer writing market is the question of whether or not you should ever write for exposure, rather than write for pay.


First of all, let’s make one thing clear.  You are not writing “for free.”  When you are writing without compensation, you are spending time and effort you could be spending on something that might bring some cash in.  In other words, you’re writing at a financial loss.


So why should you?  Why not just join Textbroker or Constantcontent and make money, even if it’s not a large amount of money?  Well, there are some excellent reasons to write without compensation, at least in the beginning.


Among the most important reasons for writing for free is the idea of getting exposure.  It’s often overused, and more than a few authors have found themselves writing article after article hoping that one day soon, they will be paid, but that doesn’t discredit the core idea.  Sadly, the freelance writing field (and writing in general) is a field that has many more writers than it does writing gigs, and that has resulted in heavy competition and in some quarters, a race to the bottom in terms of what writers are willing to accept for their writing.


Becoming known in the industry can often help a writer leapfrog his or her fellows.  This is especially true if he or she forges a friendly relationship with the editorial staff of the publication he or she is writing for.  Make no mistake, freelance writers depend on word of mouth, and getting a good reputation with an editor or publisher can open a number of doors.


Of course, none of this applies to deals where you don’t get credit for your work.  If a request for free writing includes a clause that someone else takes credit for it, run, do not walk from the offer.  That type of offer lets you do all the work and get absolutely nothing in return.


Finally, just because you’re writing for free is no reason to be lazy about reading the agreement.  Does the editor want unlimited reprint rights?  What about other formats?  Since your goal is to get more exposure, you may want a right to reprint the article on your own website at some later date.  This can be especially useful if the publisher isn’t expecting to keep the article up forever, or if the article is for an obscure print magazine with a small circulation.


As a freelance writer, your writing is a product—and you should think of writing for free in the same way many industries think of giving out free samples.  It’s a way to hopefully encourage people to buy your product at a later date.


The Dangers of Free Writing


However, there are some dangers to writing for free.  The first is falling into the trap of doing too much free writing.  Remember, editors have a budget and if they find that a lot of ego stroking can get them a well-written article for free, they’ll offer to name their first-born child after you.  Free writing should always be a route towards paid writing, and if you find that you’re doing more articles ‘for exposure’ then you are for pay, you may need to consider changing strategies.  This is especially true if the same people are asking you do keep giving them free work.  If they liked you enough to ask you for a second article, they should like you enough to pay for it.


The second danger is not taking the assignment seriously.  It’s easy to assume a free assignment is one you don’t really need to work on that much.  After all, it’s free.  This is a dangerous attitude, because it leads to sloppy writing.  At best, the editor will send it back to you and you’ll have to rewrite—at worst the editor will share your attitude and run it, and then the entire world gets to see a substandard product.  That is not a good way to convince other editors to spend money on you.  If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.


So while writing assignments for exposure isn’t for everyone, it can be an excellent tool in a beginning freelance writer’s arsenal.  Just remain focused on the ultimate goal, which is to develop the sort of reputation that results in paying jobs rolling in.






One Response to “Why Write For Free?”

  1. I like the helpful info you provide in your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I am quite certain I will learn many new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

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