Should freelance writers write for free?

There is debate on the issue of freelance writers writing for free. Should they? Yes, and no. It depends on the situation. I think that there can be a benefit to writing without a direct monetary reward in some cases, but not in others. Here are some examples to explain what I mean.

Should upfront samples be free?

Yes, when you have a limited portfolio and you want to prove your skills in a certain genre or subject matter. It is a great way to lure a client, and I have been hired using this method more than once.

No, when the buyer requires a sample. If they request a full article from you or all applicants, the sample should be paid for. If they don’t want to pay, they have to settle from previously sold examples to see the quality of writing (in your portfolio). This can also be a red flag that they are out to get a number of articles for free from writers.

Should you write for free if you get the byline?

Yes, when you are given a specific place where the work will be published ahead of time. Make sure it is an already established publication, online or off, and verify that the person buying the work is actually from the publication.

No, if you are not told where the work will appear published. Be weary of “starter” publications, and “new and upcoming” magazines. You can never be sure whether or not they are honest, and there isn’t any guarantee that they will actually make it to publication.

Any other times I should write for free?

Yes! Use your judgment. Article marketing is great if you have your own writer’s website, and is very effective for driving traffic to it. While you may not get paid directly, you will get more hits on your website and more inquiries for quotes. Non-profit work is also a great way to gain exposure and help someone. These organizations often have limited budgets, so a free piece is like a donation. There may be other times, and it is totally up to you. Consider these questions when presented with the opportunity to write for free:

-Will you gain exposure from the work?

-Do you have a good chance of winning over a particular client?

-Will the work establish you as an expert in a certain niche or genre?

Generally, if you don’t receive a direct payment for your writing, what else will you get? If nothing at all, maybe writing for free isn’t a good idea in that situation. Should freelance writers write for free? Yes, and no.

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Nice article. You make some good points. Writing for free is a very gray area and I think you tackled the subject very well.

  2. This article is well written. Writing for free is often controversial. I think you handled it well with these frequently asked questions.

  3. I write for free for BellaOnline. Should I? Probably not. They make a load of many off their legions of free writers and I probably shouldn’t encourage them to keep doing it.

    But, I get complete creative freedom over my own topic, and it’s a topics that I LOVE to write about. It’s not a topic I’ve ever been paid to write about and probably never will. It’s a nice escape from keyword articles and web copy to actually get to write about something I love and do it any way I want to. That’s worth a little free work to me.

  4. many= money

  5. LShep,

    I think I spot some angst in your post. Is it really worth it?


  6. nice, definitely

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