It’s a common question in the freelance writing/ copywriting world- should writers work for free? And when you ask it, you’re bound to get a great variety of answers. There are some who swear by the rule “Never write for free under ANY circumstances” and there are others who will write for free if it’s for charity or if it helps them break into a new niche or gain advertising or exposure.
I am the last person to advise someone to write for free. But my point is this, some of the most successful writers/copywriters of our time, such as Bob Bly, have written for no pay when the situation was beneficial to them or was something they felt comfortable with.
Bly talks about it in his book Secrets of a Freelance Writer: How to Make $100,000 a Year or More. He discusses how he uses articles as free advertising. For example, a full page ad in a business pub can cost from $2,000-8,000 in most cases. But publishing an article in that magazine can get you the advertising for free.
This is how I use article marketing online to market my website and my services as a writer. I have thousands of articles out there over the years and each one acts as a mini-advertisement for what I have to offer. They give me backlinks to my website, help me build traffic and help me to rank higher in the search engines.
I also wrote an article templates eBook that I give away for free on my website and to friends and potential clients. I did put some time into writing, formatting and designing the book but it’s made me a great deal of money via advertising and it’s helped me network and obtain interviews on radio, blogs and through articles. So for me, the time I put into it was worth it by a long shot. It will continue to create profits and opportunities for me for many years to come.
So if you’re trying to decide on a project that is asking you to write for no compensation, your first step should be to see if it even interests you. If it does, then take some time to get the details and set the terms of the arrangement.
Once you have the details, if you decide to go forward, be sure to set terms with them, in writing, on what you will do for this “uncompensated” position. Explain to them that you are a professional who is paid for your time and that you are willing to donate a certain percentage of that time to help their growing webmag, website, etc. However, there are limits to what that entails. If they start pushing you for more later down the line, you can politely remind them that you only agreed to x amount and that work beyond that will require compensation to continue.
Don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of in a situation where you are offering your services voluntarily. Should writers work for free? Not generally but there are some situations where it’s not really for “free” because you are benefitting from in some way. Only you can make the decision about what is right for you or not.