Should I write for free? Should I only write when money or other payment is offered? There are strong opinions on both sides of the freelancing fence.
- On the plus side, having some bylines and credits doesn’t hurt, and this can be one way to start. Your next prospect is unlikely to ask how much you got paid for what you wrote.
- You may choose to help a local organization, mission, or business. You may choose to offer your talent as a gift.
- Entering a contest is essentially the same thing. There may even be an entrance fee. Yet many writers do this because of the hope of a cash prize, a gift certificate, or recognition.
- On the minus side, some people think if you work without pay, at any time, for any reason, it hurts everybody. They believe editors will not pay if others are willing to work for free.
- Some markets make enough to pay their contributors, but they do not because they know some folks will write without being paid.
- Other individuals may give away their work because they think their work is not good enough.
I wrote for a ministry website which no longer exists. I met the website owner online and grew to respect him. With his limited mobility, confined to a wheelchair, and with limited funding he maintained his website and updated the sections often. He needed people to write for the children’s section. I wanted to develop in this area, so I volunteered.
During this time, Tyndale Publishers put together a book called The Young Believer Case Files. They contacted the webmaster about using two of the stories I’d written (he forwarded the message, I contacted them, they got back with me…you get the idea). They purchased the two stories (without changes). So something that started as volunteer work ending up getting published and earning 50 dollars (25 dollars per story).
Consider the worth, the source, and your motives
Worth: If you want to bless an organization, or there’s another benefit (a chance at a prize, a byline in a larger magazine, etc.) it could be worth the effort.
Source: Can the source afford to pay contributors? If so, you have to decide what you personally feel about that. Think about whether the credit will help you with the next market you want to approach.
Motives: Consider why you choose to write for free. Maybe all you want is to see your name in print. However, if you think your work isn’t good enough to get paid for, read some books on writing, improve your talent and give a paid market a shot. You may be surprised.
A final thought:
Be sure that whatever you submit is your best effort regardless of how much you might get paid. Your name and reputation are important. Keep writing!