If you’re a freelance writer, you’ve heard experts tell you that you should never, ever write for free. It drives down the value of writing (true), it makes it difficult for professional writers to get paid honest wages for their work (true), and it probably won’t get you exposure (mostly true).
However, there are some times when it’s okay to write for free. Consider these instances…
You Have No Experience
If you don’t have any writing clips to share with prospective clients, they aren’t going to hire you. They want to see that you have the writing skills in the form of some by-lined piece somewhere. In this instance, it’s worth writing for free. Consider writing a few posts on LinkedIn.com or Medium’s unpaid site just to have something to put in your portfolio.
You Have No Clips in This Market
Most of my professional freelance writing experience is in the technology, business, marketing, and addiction space. While I have some clips in other areas, there are some topics that I don’t have anything to show for. In my case, real estate really stands out as a topic that I don’t have a lot of by-lined pieces for. If I were trying to convince a new real estate client that I could write about real estate, I might be willing to write a sample piece I put on LinkedIn or Medium to demonstrate my skills. In this case, “writing for free” may turn out to be a long term gig.
It’s for a Name Worthy Publication
If Cosmopolitan, USA News or some other highly recognized publication was interested in publishing a piece I write, I’d do it for free. I wouldn’t write more than once for the publication for free, as then it’s benefiting them and not simply providing me with a benefit. I mean, how cool would it be to say that you’ve been published by one of these great publications? Really cool.
It’s worth noting that I do not write for exposure, AdShare revenue, or some other revenue sharing scheme. This means that I wouldn’t necessarily expect Cosmopolitan to increase exposure to my website or my “brand.” I just happen to think Cosmopolitan is awesome. Any company that asks you to write for exposure is out to scam you. I promise.
It’s for Charity
If you personally support a cause, it’s okay to write for free for a non-profit organization. Consider it volunteering. You can write on their website, newsletter, or blog for free as long as it’s not excessive.
If you’re in the market for an experienced and respected freelance writer, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to help you with your next project.