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?
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.