Never Write for Free!

I had a writing instructor tell me once to “Never write for free!”  Her reasoning made sense.  Writers who will work for free lower the chances that freelance writers will get paid well.  After all, there’s always someone who will accept a lower fee.  If writers don’t stand together to change things, editors and consumers will never value the work we do.  Right?

I’ve come to see that such a view is idealistic.  It’s all well and good to tell a beginner writer never to work for free, but really, how else is an untried wordsmith going to get any work?  Clips are what a writer needs, and I firmly believe that when an editor reviews a writer’s clips, he doesn’t care whether the publication paid or not.  He cares about the quality of writing.

So, I write for free (so far, just blogging).  And I occasionally edit for free (only FellowScript, which looks great on my resume!).  I also do book reviews for a free copy of the book (Booksneeze).  Or just because I like the book.

That said, I also write and edit for pay.  Slowly, as I get more experience and start to develop a reputation for excellent work, my writing and editing income will go up.

What is your opinion of my instructor’s advice?

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6 thoughts on “Never Write for Free!

  1. As you get more experience, you’ll be willing to wait to be paid. The fact of the matter is, you have a skill and writing isn’t just a matter of slapping a few words on paper. It’s a lot of work, and it’s worth payment. I’ve turned down jobs because they didn’t pay well enough and my time was worth more to me than $5/ hr. But I started out the same way, writing for whoever would publish me! It’s how you start, and I agree that the publication counts more than the payment in that respect. When you’re breaking into a new market, you’re willing to take a hit on your income just to get in.

    1. Thanks Patty. You said beautifully what I intended to say in my last paragaraph. As writers’ skills develop, they can choose to pursue only paid work. We do have to make a living! And I wish all markets would value the work they are getting and pay well for good writing.

  2. I agree. I think a lot of writers start out working for free. It’s almost like an apprenticeship, and as our skills improve, we’re able to get a “paying job.” I don’t see any harm in that as long as our pay level increases commensurately with our skills. I got my start as a freelance editor by volunteering for The Word Guild. Free often leads to great opportunities.

    As for blogging, I wish there was a way that might earn some money alongside being something we need to do as part of building our social media platform 🙂

    1. Apprenticeship: That’s exactly the word for it. I’m sure many top editors at big publishing houses started their career as unpaid interns.

      Re: earning money for blogging: in the design/craft blog world (where I come from!) many bloggers sell sponsored ad space. They’ve turned their blog into a business. Although writing blogs are less visually-oriented, that concept could work. See http://theletteredcottage.net/ for an example.

      Thanks for commenting!

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