3 Reasons Freelance Writers Should Write for Free

By Katliegh Merrier:

Freelance writers have stressful jobs at times. Tight deadlines, grumpy editors, picky clients, and rejections can all leave even the most experienced writers a bit frazzled. On top of this, there are plenty of discrepancies on how we should best do our jobs. One of the biggest controversies within the industry is of course:

When, if ever, should freelance writers write for free?

Many experts say you should never work for free, regardless of your level of experience. Others hold fast to the idea of completing an internship of sorts – writing for free until you learn the ropes.

I’m of the opinion that there are a few reasons to disregard your purse strings for the greater good. Let’s see if you agree…

You should write for free when:

1. You’re just getting started

We all have to start somewhere. Whether you’re just starting out and are clueless about how to write online, or you want to spice up your portfolio with some shiny new clips, writing for free can certainly help you build a writing portfolio.

I started, like many of us, working for content mills. After quickly realizing there were much greener pastures just over the pitching fence, I found a blog I thought would be a good fit for my writing, and that was my big break.

2. You want to break into a new niche

Breaking into a new niche can be just as terrifying as pitching for your first paid writing gig. Just because you’re a confident copywriter, doesn’t mean you can’t have a groundbreaking new idea in the science-fiction realm, even if your previous work has had nothing to do with this.

Something as simple as typing up some compelling copy for your favorite book club for free can relieve some tension and let you adapt your writing skills to something you truly enjoy. Even if there’s no money in it, it’s worth it to do something you love that will also boost your self-confidence and expand your writing skills and contacts.

3. You want to make the world a better place

Perhaps you’re a fashion blogger by trade, who happens to have an unattested love for your pet pooch, a shelter adoptee. You’ll probably never get a chance to write about Sparky on your own blog, but the shelter you saved him from could probably use a heartwarming story from an established writer, perhaps convincing readers to reach out to abused animals.

Writing for free for charitable organizations you care about can make a real difference in your community and the lives of others – and that’s nothing to be scoffed at.

A final warning on writing for free:

I’d like to make one thing overtly clear: I’m not suggesting that you write for content mills and big corporations for only a byline or a few pennies. Writing for free doesn’t mean your writing isn’t worth payment – it just means you’re willing to take the time to either further your freelance writing career and/or help a worthy individual or organization out.

Sometimes it can even be good for your writing to let your thoughts flow freely with no invoice in mind. After all, as a freelance writer, there’s no greater experience than knowing the words you’ve labored over will truly mean something to someone else.

What about you? When, if ever, do you think freelance writers should write for free? Let me know in the comments below.

[feature_box style=”18″ title=”About%20the%20Author%3A” alignment=”center”]

Katliegh Merrier is a freelance writer who had her fair share of experience with content mills before deciding it was a lose-lose situation. Find out more over at her website, www.katisquickwrites.wordpress.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.


Image courtesy of Geraint Rowland via Flickr.

7 thoughts on “3 Reasons Freelance Writers Should Write for Free

  1. Hi,

    Writing for the greater good is a noble idea, though writing for your own good without wanting to feel good about it, makes for good business sense.

    I think writing free for non-profits is a win/win, because apart from you feeling good about doing the non-profit a good turn and building a portfolio, the ‘supporters’ of the non-profit are going to feel the same too. It’s a ‘feel-good’ transaction.

    1. Hey Terence!
      I agree with you wholeheartedly. I always LOVE getting the chance to write about non-profit, or even little local businesses.
      There are somethings you just can’t put a price tag on.

    1. Hey Lorraine!
      No actually, I have no experience with Flexjobs. I was at one or two content mills and that was at all it took for me.
      And that could be true if this was a hobbyist blog or the like, but since this is a business run by Kirsty, I’d work for pay. It’s always good to maintain that sort of air with your client, it makes the whole process smoother, happier, and leaves everyone satisfied!

    1. Hey there John,
      You’re exactly right. It is WORTH a fee. That’s where the charity part comes in. You don’t take a bowl of scraps over to the soup kitchen, you donate your best product (that will usually last a very long time.)
      Even though it’s worth the money, it’s also worth it to do something good for someone else for no profit. Of course, you don’t have to divulge the little secret that it helps you out just as much!

  2. When it comes to building your portfolio – If it’s a choice between writing for free or writing for an insultingly low rate then I definitely think it’s better to do it for free for a couple of reasons –

    1. If you start out by pricing your work very low from the beginning then it sets a precedent and it’s very easy to start thinking that that’s all your writing is worth

    2. Even if a client pays a tiny fee of say $5 or less, that doesn’t mean they’ll be any less demanding than a client who payed $100. By working for free, any clients will be very pleasantly surprised when your work is of high quality and are much more likely to recommend you.

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