You see, writing is my profession. It’s how I earn my living.
A few days ago, Carol Tice blogged about a “lucrative” blogging gig that she believes writers should turn down. In her post, she detailed the so-called offer that she had received, which she revealed as being unethical.
I also receive a lot of scammy job offers in the email. Offers that I would never take. Some are unethical, like the one Carol received.
But the vast majority of these “job offers” are from folks who want me to write for them without pay. Yes, you heard that right–they want me to work without pay.
Either they want to reuse my material from this blog (or elsewhere on the Internet), or they want me to create original content that they can use without charge.
And if that weren’t enough, the authors of these so-called gigs act as though they would be doing me a favor to allow me to write for free.
Folks, this isn’t how professionals work. I don’t work for free, and you shouldn’t either.
Professionals Charge for Their Services
Imagine going to the dentist and saying,
“I know I need a cavity filled. Here’s what I propose. You fill the first cavity for no charge as a sample, I guarantee that there will be additional cavities in the future.”
I’d be laughed out of my dentist’s office–and for good reason too.
Or picture this. I go to my attorney to get my will written. I make him this offer,
“I know that you just created a will for Mrs. Jones. It would just take you a few minutes to rework her will and add my particulars. If you’ll do this at no charge, I promise to tell my 20 best friends about your services.”
No reputable lawyer I know would agree to work under that arrangement and I don’t blame them.
Yet we freelance writers agree to similar terms all the time. Oh, they aren’t about teeth or wills, but we’re being asked to give our work away for free just the same.
But writing for free has a high cost, not just for the writer who agrees to it–but for all writers.
The High Cost of Writing for Free
Here are some of the reasons why writing for free is so expensive if you are a professional writer:
- Less time to write for pay. It takes just as much time to create a high quality piece for free as it does for pay. In fact, if I said “yes” to all the requests for free writing that I receive, I’d have no time left to write for pay.
- The principle of the thing. If I create something, it’s only right that I get paid for it. Workers deserve to be compensated for their work. This principle goes without question for most professions, but somehow creative professionals (such as writers) are often expected to give their work away.
- Working for free devalues freelance writing. Why would a publication pay to get writers, if they can get high quality pieces written for free? (Fortunately for us, many of those who write for free do not provide high quality pieces.)
When you think about these points, you can see why I think the cost of writing for free is just too high for most writers.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably guessed by now that I’m not a big fan of the idea of writing free pieces to get links, exposure, etc.
I know there’s a growing number of proponents who claim that writing for free is the quickest or best way to financial success as a writer. I just don’t see it. Plus, a lot of those who advocate free writing have a lot to gain by accepting free writing for publication.
There are a few instances when free writing might be appropriate. Here are some of those exceptions:
- You’re in school and the writing you’re doing is for your teacher for a grade.
- You’re writing on your own blog or website.
- You’re writing for your mom. (I mean, who charges mom? I bet even the dentist fills her cavities for free.)
- You’re writing to create your portfolio.
- You’re writing for a top-rated publication as a one-time thing.
- You’re writing as part of a campaign to sell your product.
Ultimately, it’s up to each individual writer to choose whether to charge for their writing. But in my opinion charging is the professional thing to do.
What Do You Think?
This is probably one of the most controversial topics I’ve written about, but I think it’s also an important topic for freelance writers to consider.
Add your own thoughts in the comments.