Tuesday, April 29, 2008

should you write for free?


What do you think? Are there good reasons to use your valuable freelance work-time for no pay?

It depends. Sometimes different kinds of payoffs are just as important.

Samuel Johnson said, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

I disagree. Sometimes there are good reasons to write for free. For example, I just started working as an editor in training for Bella Online. I'll be the blockhead Samuel Johnson talked about if this non-paying job ends up taking too much time away from paying assignments just to keep up with writing one article per week. But, I don't think it will. I'm a quick writer, and I chose a subject I'm passionate about. I have access to resources at home and many years of experience in the education field to draw on.

Many beginning and experienced writers choose to write for non-paying sites like Bella Online and Suite 101, so, what are some good reasons for doing it?

exposure
If you are a new freelance writer without a lot of writing samples to send to potential editors, this type of job can pay off pretty quickly. Bella Online encourages new writers to think of this opportunity as a free education and chance to collect 52 writing samples - one per week for a full year. Think about it. For a year a new writer (like me) will post an article per week in public view for editors and the general public to comment on - and they do! When I wrote for Suite 101 I collected some good writing samples, plus, I got regular feedback from readers knowledgeable about my subject. These types of sites also claim the exposure can jumpstart careers as a niche expert, and I suppose that could be true.

free training
I have paid money to take online writing courses, and did find them valuable. Writing for a non-paying site is a "school" of sorts that requires you to pay in time and effort rather than tuition. There is a training period with actual required courses and deadlines. The information is valuable, especially if you are interested in writing online content.

the writing habit
If you are new, like me, it's not always easy to create a daily writing schedule. A freelance writing career requires writers to think with a business sense; get up every day and write!

One fear I've heard over and over from new writers is knowing when an article is done. Working for free as a niche editor online requires you to write and post weekly. No perseverating for weeks or months over one story, one article, one proposal is allowed when you must turn in an article every week.

So what do you think? Am I a blockhead? Do you ever write for free?
Cheers,
Heidi

credit: http://www.stockvault.net

7 comments:

L. Shepherd said...

I write for both Bella and Suite101, and I enjoy both. I was wondering, though, whether you had ever made any money through Bella. Another Bella editor keeps telling me that it's such a lucrative gig because of affiliate sales, but I've never seen a dime. It's been an ongoing argument for awhile now.

Pieces of Me said...

Hi, Heidi,

It's good to see you again. How are you? I've missed reading your blog.Glad to see your back into freelancing.

I've stopped writing for free, but there was a time when it was useful for building up a small portfolio with a few clips. But now, I've got bills to pay and I can't afford that. But it's excellent exposure and I will consider doing it if it's for a worthy cause like charity events.

Suite 101 provides some passive income but even then I did write a few articles for suite that were free.

In any case, I've moved to Pittsburgh from israel and I've jumped full swing into freelance. Your earlier blog really does speak to me now!

Thanks,
Dorit

hmjenck said...

Good points, Dorit. Nice to hear the "passive income" is real. I'm interested to hear how things are going for you back in the USA. Heidi

hmjenck said...

I'm just in training for Bella, and am not expecting to earn anything. (although it would be nice if I did!) I make less than $20 while working for Suite 101, but, maybe working for family and education sites don't bring in as much as some other topics might? What are your topics on Bella and Suite 101? Heidi

otter said...

Heidi,
You make some good arguments for writing "for free." I've often wondered how to come up with writing samples, although I do have quite a few published works. I also like the idea of exposure. I've found that if one or two editors know your work and like it, they're sometimes willing to pass your name along -- I got some work this past year that way. Great to see you back!
tracie

L. Shepherd said...

My Bella is the Classic Rock site and I write mostly about online publishing at Suite101.

Reluctant Housewife said...

Yes! I write for bella too! I just finished training and am in my launch phase. Canadian Culture page. Which page are you doing?

Not only that but I applied to Bella based on advice I found on your blog.

Yay. Thanks for all the advice.

Now I'm going to look into Suite 101 based on everyone's comments.