Should You Write for Free?

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Should You Write for Free?

I’m willing to place a bet that you’ve either already written for free or have considered it before. Whether or not you should write for exposure is hotly contested on the Internet and you’ll find that some writers stand firm with ‘absolutely not.’

However, I don’t believe there’s an easy answer to the question of writing only for exposure as payment. Obviously, ‘exposure’ isn’t going to pay your rent (trust me, I’ve tried), but are there situations when it could be beneficial to you? I think so, if you’re careful about it. Before agreeing to write for free, ask yourself the following questions.

Is it work you would enjoy?

Hopefully, this is first question you’re already asking yourself. If you’re not getting paid for your work, there’s no way you should dedicate 2 hours, 4 hours, an entire day, or even longer if you won’t enjoy the work. If you have the chance to work for exposure, please only agree to it if you love the project and the subject you’re writing about.

Do you have the extra time?

If you’re on break from school, on vacation from your full-time job, or finding yourself in a lull with your regular clients then it’s a bit easier to spend time on a pro bono project. If you can comfortably fit the unpaid writing work in your schedule without taking away from paid work, go for it! But don’t squeeze it in if you’ve already got good paying work in front of you. Chances are, the exposure won’t be worth the stress.

Does your writing career need a jumpstart?

Even though it would be wonderful if we never had to write for free, sometimes that’s what the stage in our career calls for. If you’re just starting out and need to build up your writing portfolio, free blog posts or articles are great building blocks. Or perhaps you’re an established writer but you’ve been too lax in your marketing efforts lately and could use the exposure to generate some new leads. Ask yourself if this free piece of writing could lead you towards paid work in the near future.

How much exposure will there really be?

When you’re told the project will be good for exposure, don’t be scared to ask a few questions about said exposure. How many people will end up reading your work? Who are those people? Do their readers fit your own target audience? You can also ask about getting a byline, links back to your portfolio, and making sure it’s shared on social media for even more reach. Defining what ‘exposure’ really means will help you decide if it will be worthwhile to say yes.

With more and more writing opportunities popping up on the Internet, the options to write for free are everywhere. It’s not necessarily a good thing, but I’ll argue that it’s not always a bad thing either. Whenever you’re wondering if you should write for free, ask yourself these questions and carefully weigh the pros. Exposure won’t pay the rent but sometimes it leads to work that will.

Robyn Petrik is a freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada, and specializes in writing blog posts and social media content for creative small businesses. Along with writing, she also spends time painting on her iPad, reading, hiking, and eating too much peanut butter. You can learn more about Robyn at and connect with her on Twitter.

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A quick but polite “No thanks,” from a magazine editor. A short and rude “No way,” from a popular blog. Crickets on your short story submission. Rejections will stack up quickly during your writing career.