To Write for Free or Not

As a working writer, it’s hard to work for free. I get it. But some times it’s good to write for free and some times it’s terrible. How do you know when it’s right to write for free? Here’s been my experience:

When I first was starting out as a magazine writer, I had no published clips so I wrote for a small and now defunct women’s online zine. From there, I gained confidence and started pitching more, and actually getting paid gigs. So for a novice writer, free gigs can help.

One of the best non-paying gigs ever? My first travel piece for VegNews magazine. Why? It helped me land my full-time job! When a spot opened up for an editor, in my cover letter, I mentioned in the very first line that I wrote for them before and loved the magazine. My bosses liked that I already knew the writing style of the magazine. Now, not every free gig would lead to your dream job, but it just might.

But there are definitely some unpaid writing jobs that are NOT worth it.
What to look out for:

  • Content farms that ask you to write for a percentage of ad revenue. They just want content, you want a clip. In my opinion, it’s better to write for free for a publication you admire.
  • Beware of bizarre Craigslist ads. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Any publication or website that has bad writing. Write for quality publications and websites. It will pay off as you build your portfolio. Quality is better than quantity.

What has your experience been writing for free?

I'd love to know what you think! Tell me in the comments below.

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