Does It Ever Make Sense to Write for Free?
As someone who makes a living from freelancing writing, it’s hard for me to get excited about working for free. However, there are times when it makes sense to write for free.
While you don’t want to discount yourself and you want to make enough money to put food on the table, you should consider your goals and make it a point to understand when it serves your purpose to write for free.
What are You Trying to Accomplish?
The first thing to figure out is what you’re trying to accomplish with your writing. When I started out as a freelancer 10 years ago, my main goal was to make money. I needed to support a husband through school and take care of my son. Money was the reason I wrote. I accepted almost any gig for almost any price because rent had to be paid and my son needed to eat — and I was the primary breadwinner so I had to make it work.
These days, I have different goals. My freelance career has advanced to the point where I’m not desperate for gigs, and I can charge more for my work. Today, my objectives are beyond merely making money:
- Enjoy life and have the flexibility to spend time with my son
- Write about subjects I find fulfilling
- Provide information that others can use to better their lives
- Involve myself in the community and with causes I support
You might have other goals, such as building an audience, establishing your credibility or making a side income to pay down debt.
It’s important to understand what you want to accomplish with your writing so that you can figure out when it makes sense to write for free.
Times When I’m Willing to Write for Free
In the past, I never wrote for free. Today, though, there are times I think it’s worth the time and effort.
One of the biggest reasons to write for free is if you want to raise your visibility and credibility. If you hope to reach a new audience, guest posting on someone else’s site can be worth the exchange of your time and effort. You can also gain from writing for sites that offer you social proof. I occasionally write for major publications that don’t pay me just so that I can say that I’ve written for them. It looks impressive to many potential clients, and can allow me to charge more for my work because of the high-profile places my work has appeared. Plus, an appearance in a major publication is something my grandpa can understand.
I also write for free if I believe in a cause and want to donate my time and talents to something. I do work on the Plutus Awards because I love the personal finance community, and I support the mission of the Plutus Awards. I’ve also run a blog for a local political organization because I supported the aims. Being involved in a meaningful way is rewarding in ways that have very little to do with money.
Helping a loved one is another situation in which I’m sometimes willing to write for free. I don’t like to make it a habit since it can snowball into taking over your life, but occasionally if someone I care about really needs help, I like to lend a hand.
No, I don’t want to make it a habit to write for free. But sometimes, in order to meet my new goals, I don’t mind it. Think about where you’re at and what you hope to accomplish. If writing for free can help you build a portfolio, gain a greater audience or boost you credibility, that might be worth the time and effort you expend.