Everything for Free?

Today’s writerly question: Should you write for free?

Or, more specifically, should you write for free for organizations that should be able to pay you?

By that I mean anything from ginormous outfits like Huffington Post to smaller blogging shops supported by ad revenue.

Other writers have contributed to my blog Cabinet of Curiosities. Unfortunately, I could offer them nothing but heavy promotion and intense gratitude though it was my desire to do otherwise. The writers I worked with knew that in advance and had the chance to bow out gracefully but for reasons entirely their own, decided to contribute anyway. If my blog was generating revenue, would they have made a different choice? Who knows? But at least I wanted to pay those writers. In most cases I’ve encountered, financial compensation isn’t even part of the discussion.

As you can see, I’m torn.

I’ve often heard that if you’re doing something you love, you should do it simply for the joy it brings without expecting financial return. But it seems to me that argument is employed most often when it comes to creative pursuits and not so much when you’re discussing what other professions should earn. Does the subjectivity inherent in artistic output lessen its intrinsic value? Or has the open accessibility of content on the interwebs conditioned us to expect something for nothing?

Again, torn.

The blog posts and articles I write take a lot of time and energy, which is obviously an investment. The return, if not financial (although I really wish it was more often), is the opportunity to engage with readers, learn from other contributors, ultimately become a better writer, and try not to get taken advantage of.

It’s only since I entered into a quasi self-employed status that my mind turned to making a living creatively, although if I’m being completely honest, it’s been a lifelong aspiration. My writing doesn’t always have an immediate financial payoff, but it’s all self-promotion. And properly managed, that can turn into fiscal opportunity.

 

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12 thoughts on “Everything for Free?”

  1. I’m coming into this late, but anyway… I judge it my the time spent. If a post takes a huge amount of time, I’d like to be paid for it. That’s one reason why I’d never consider HUFF. On the other hand, I’m totally into doing guest posts on book blogs, because they are short, and they are so related to my book(s), readers and topics of interest.

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    1. I think that’s where I’m settling. Often, the time invested in the writing is so massive. But I have no problem with guest posts on book blogs or other writers’ blogs for the reasons you stated.

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  2. I agree with Jessie and Medeia. There are different reasons to write. Sometimes I write just for myself, so I guess that’s free stuff, but it feeds me and I learn from the experience. Like the song in the video, They Think I’m Crazy. But I’m okay with that!

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    1. That’s a balanced way of looking at it. Wanting compensation for any hard work done well should be expected, but for some reason when it comes to creative pursuits, it seems to be frowned upon.

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  3. I think that as long as it doesn’t take too much time and you enjoy it, do it for free. But if it really bugs you — just say no. 🙂

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  4. Back when I wanted publishing credits, I wrote for a magazine that didn’t pay. I’m glad I did it. It was a learning experience (getting to work with editors) and it got my name out there. I haven’t done this a lot, but there is some merit to it.

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    1. I agree there’s merit. I’ve done it and very likely will continue to do so. I just wonder where the reluctance comes from to offer compensation for artistic endeavors.

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  5. I don’t think doing guest posts on blogs is the equivalent of writing for free. IMO, it’s writing to promote yourself. The more people who see your name and your product, the more chances you have to make a sale. Granted, most of the posts probably won’t generate significant revenue, but every book sold is an achievement as far as I’m concerned.

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    1. Is there any instance where you would not write for free? Obviously, based on my stream-of-consciousness blog I don’t have all the answers, but I’m curious about what others think.

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