Should freelance writers ever work for free?


21 comments on “Should freelance writers ever work for free?

  1. Morena Duwe on

    This concept is contingent on so many factors—it’s not so black and white. Ideally, no writer should ever write for free but unfortunately that is not the reality for most, especially for an up-and-comer. As a travel and music journalist, I’ve written in exchange for festival/concert tickets, all-expenses-paid trips, and have even written free copy for friends and family. Paid gigs should always take precedence, but if an opportunity comes that you feel is more valuable than money, I say take it. Whether that be a byline in a reputable publication, a chance to travel for free, a backstage pass, a notable interview, a favor for a loved one, or even just a writing project that brings you joy, only you can be the judge of its value, and value is not always equated with money.

  2. Randall on

    No fracking way. I never work for free. I set my own prices and test the market. I get more respect when I know what my work is worth because others pick up on that sense of confidence. If they don’t want to pay what I am worth, we simply do not work together.

  3. Chelle Cordero on

    The only time I ever “worked” for free was as a volunteer with a non profit and i helped them out with a fundraising campaign, I willingly donated my time and skills. If I am working. I darn sure want reasonable monetary compensation.

  4. Lynn on

    Ah, yes. The joy of writing for free.

    A prospective client once told me that if I wrote for free, he would be more than willing — willing — to work with me.

    Let that sink in.

  5. Liz on

    When I started 10 1/2 years ago I did write for free. I had no degree no training no experience. I had the idea the concept the column title and everything that went with it. I was putting it in the free paper because I wanted exposure. The only non negotiable items on my list was my byline and I kept the copyright. Two and a half years later, they moved me to the subscription paper. I informed them, no I didn’t ask, that now they owed me the dignity I paying for my words if they were using my name to sell papers. They weren’t happy. I beat them to death with the words dignity and respect. I didn’t get much but that wasn’t the point. I went up from there. 4 months ago I self syndicated my column across the state and we’ll go National after the first of the year. Your question, should you ever write for free, check out all the facts, see what you have to offer, but don’t ever ever give up your byline or your copyrights.

  6. Joyce Laird on

    NEVER! Have more respect for yourself. There are more venues available today that pay for good writing talent than ever before. Put forth the effort & you will reap the benefits. I’ve been freelancing for decades. It never pays to “write on spec”. I learned that lesson early in my career. Think about it. Would your mechanic fix your car free? You pay for your goods & services. Why should your work be different? Your talent is worth it. What you charge is up to you but charge something.

  7. Chantal Gaudiano on

    If you cannot afford to write for free, do not write for free. If you can afford to write the occasional piece pro Bono, and if you want to, to appear in a given market, then do so. But I do not respect places that refuse to pay at least 20 crnts a word or who pay writers only for page views. Way to starve or become homeless.

  8. Gabriella Keren on

    No, I don’t think it’s good idea to write for free. But some employers make the assumption one should because they don’t consider writing as actual work. It’s time for writers to explain how many hours they invested in an assignment, how many times they edited, how far they researched their facts, etc. Quality comes at a cost. Also, the market is full of writers willing to do $5 jobs, so they have cheapened the trade and the quality as well.
    Sometimes to get the job, you have to give an employer a good deal but never work for free.
    A short piece or trial test to assess a writer’s aptitudes is fine. But get the message that writing is work.

  9. ace on

    You’re not just cheating yourself if you work for free…you’re cheating your fellow writers by encouraging a cheapening of the value of writing as an occupation. You are encouraging the “race to the bottom” competition and a perception of writing as “just a hobby” anyone can do. HELL, NO.

  10. Marjorie Preston on

    Bad practice. I’ve done barter arrangements but would hesitate even to do those nowadays, because I’m so irked by the whole 3 cents-a-word stuff I see on job sites.

    When I was starting out and making no money, I wrote resumes for $25 apiece. That same company now pays $20 — even less than the pittance they paid in 2013! Shame on them and on anyone who rips off writers.

  11. marietta kosovsky on

    “Effect the industry?” Shouldn’t it be “affect the industry?” I certainly could be wrong; please tell me. I’m learning

    • Ryan Griffin on

      It just depends on how you’re using it. Affect is the verb. Using ‘effect’ as a verb instead of a noun just means ‘to create an effect’.

      “She was affected by the tornado.”

      “The mayor used the tornado to effect change in the community.” OR
      “The mayor used the tornado to create an effect of change in the community.”

  12. Trish Weems on

    Freelance writing is like any other job but less appreciated by those who “USE” writers for their own greed and financial benefit…where’s the love in that concept?

  13. Kimberly on

    EVEN when I first started working as a freelancer, and I was super green in the field, I NEVER worked for free. I was getting paid. It wasn’t a lot, but I was definitely getting compensated.

    It’s not a good idea for freelancers to start accepting the whole “work for free” culture because it is eventually going to effect the industry for us writers because clients will start to say, “Well fine, if you won’t work for free, I’ll just find someone who will.”

    If I am writing for a platform that uses the “exposure in exchange for your free work” excuse, this is BS because any website that TRULY provides IMPACTFUL exposure means that they have a lot of views and traffic, which, in turn, should mean that they make sufficient revenue to PAY their writers. And if they don’t make enough money to pay you because they’re not bringing in enough traffic, then I don’t see how a freelancer would be gaining any exposure to begin with!

  14. Trish Weems on

    Why would a freelance writer work for free unless he or she is just getting started without a professional work portfolio to show potential clients?


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