The Pen Thinker

Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. ~Sylvia Plath

8 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before You Accept To Write For FREE

Posted in Freelanc-ink, Marketing Toolbox5 Comments

Free writing?Free “gigs” are easy to find.

Which prospect will say “no” to the possibility to get a writer to work for them at no cost?

But often writers won’t get any benefit from their effort. What’s in for us in a free “gig”? Experience certainly isn’t enough of a reward.

The truth is: you should only write for free when you can get something back for the effort.

I do write for free, but I won’t just write free content for every business or magazine that crosses my path.

There are 8 questions I use to guide myself to discern the real opportunities from the downright exploitation. A writer’s time is too precious to waste on work people won’t pay out of pure greed.

Keep reading to discover how you can protect yourself from the sharks!

My 8 Anti-Exploitation Questions

1. Will I get a byline with this article/blog post/sales letter/etc.? — The truth is: there is no point in writing for free if you can’t get a byline. There’s no ROI of the time you spent to research, interview, write, edit and proofread. Don’t accept to write for free if you’re not provided with a byline.

2. Can I rise my reputation level if I write this? — Reputation makes a writer into a successful writer. Even if a clip doesn’t pay you money but rewards you in reputation, it will be worth inserting into your writing portfolio.

3. Can I direct more organic traffic to my website? — Whether your website is only mentioned along with your name in the byline or linked for SEO benefits, you will get a part of your client’s traffic redirected to your website. Every time I accept to write for free, I make sure my work (be it a guest post or a cartoon) is not only bylined, but it also links back to my website so I can get targeted traffic for my niche. Nofollow links are fine as well, because even though they won’t pass search engine benefits, they are still human-clickable links readers can follow.

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4. Will the clip get me in front of the right audience? — When you write for free, you want to give yourself an opportunity to reach your target audience, the only audience you can get relevant feedback from. Ask your free client questions about their readership before you accept to write for them.

5. Will the clip help me in my marketing and prospecting efforts? — Think of free, reputable opportunities as marketing tools to up your chance to find new prospects and, hopefully, land new high paying gigs.

6. Will the clip get me more contacts in my niche? — The person you choose to write for might work in an industry that’s relevant for you and may introduce you to one or more of their contacts— who knows? Make sure to learn a bit about their background, scrutiny their website and social media account. Explore your free client’s reach and reputation before you make a decision.

7. Can I learn anything new with this opportunity? — Learning is an underrated benefit. Can you expand your knowledge about a niche as you write for free for this individual, association, noprofit and whom else? If you can, don’t disdain the project (just make sure it’s small and quick enough to get done).

8. Will this free gig eat up too much of my time? — No excuses on this one. If a free project is going to take too long to get done, or will require too much effort on your side, you better pass. Your time is for earning a living.

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The Exception?— Yes, There Is One. Just ONE.

Pro bono work. Small projects you want to do because you know they’re going to benefit the needy and will make you feel better about yourself, too.

But I don’t need to remind you to keep this kind of projects spare throughout the year and only in your leisure time, do I?

What do you do to protect yourself from no-payers?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

5 responses to “8 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before You Accept To Write For FREE”

  1. This really is wonderful work, Mom, and most importantly, it really needed to be said. So many are willing to pay nothing and expect great work just for the “experience” and “honor of being seen on my website!” I wonder if they go to their mechanic and say, “your payment will be people seeing my functioning car that you fixed!” I wonder if that’d work…?

    But free work is not bad, and I LOVED the promotion of Pro-Bono work. That’s soooo important! Free work is good sometimes, but like everything, it needs to happen in moderation and not at personal expense.

    VERY well written! I’m honored to call you my mother!
    Mandi Lily Luana Pope

    • Thank you, sweetheart! :-)

      Indeed, Pro bono work is your personal contribution to the wellness of society; but I want to underline “personal”— it can’t be *work*, but volunteer activities that take place in your free time. Work is work and it deserves a paycheck. And a decent one, too!

      If you look at Craigslist job ads you’d be frightened by how much work is often expected for “no pay”. That’s the kind of ‘free gigs’ that won’t get you anywhere but burnout out of downright exploitation.

  2. Sandy says:

    Good stuff. You know, I was looking at guest posting leads earlier and this strikes a chord:

    “I make sure my work (be it a guest post or a cartoon) is not only bylined, but it also links back to my website so I can get targeted traffic for my niche”

    The site I was prospecting said only “Regular Authors” would get bylined. The funny thing is, the rest of the content on their website was pretty appalling. When you think “acceptable” content is priced around $20 for 500 words, a link from a relatively obscure blog is not too much to ask for, is it?

    Anyway, all the best to you and your endeavours Luana. Keep flying the flag for us writers!

  3. Jane says:

    I think writing for free is ok if you are starting out and need to hone your writing skills and you also get a byline, this is a must for me.

  4. Hi Luana,
    It is really a great joy to be here today.
    This is indeed a great alert to the content writers. Free is good if it meets our needs too! LOL
    Yes, at least we need to get some result on our efforts on others page.
    I am sure this is indeed a great suggestion and alert to many.
    Thanks for sharing.
    May you have a great time of sharing ahead. :-)
    Best Regards
    ~ Philip

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