Writing For Free Is Not Not Pure Evil, And Here’s Why

In Writing Inspiration by Susan Maccarelli | |

If you are a writer, I’m sure you’ve seen all the recent to-do about how evil it is for publications not to pay writers, and how wrong it is for anyone to write for free. I take the opposite view, and here’s why.

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The plumber argument doesn’t hold water – A popular argument against not paying writers is that you would never expect a plumber (or insert other occupation) to work for free. True, but if you are coming to install my faucet, you’ve probably had some training on how to do it. Writers come in all experience levels, especially since anyone can create their own blog and be published within an hour. Many bloggers have had no formal training. I myself have taken exactly one formal writing course, and I’m published all over the internet. I am very grateful to the sites that published me when I had little or no experience. I can’t say I would have been so open, considering that if some guy showed up to fix my faucet with no prior experience, I’d probably have kicked him to the curb.

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I’m adaptable – I know that some writers saw much bigger paydays in the 1980’s and 90’s, but with the internet-driven need for more written content than ever, writing has become a commodity. Rather than spend my efforts fighting that change and blaming the writers who write for free, I prefer to learn as much as I can about the current opportunities out there (paid and unpaid), and adapt my strategy accordingly. Plus I know my readers would rather read my posts about new writing opportunities and submission tips than my complaints about low or no rate opportunities.  P.S. This is coming from someone who is still lamenting the fact that my camera doesn’t take film anymore, so I wouldn’t say I’m the first to embrace change.

Some writing is worth $0 – My own writing included. I used to hate writing. In college I’d rather take 20 tests than have one paper assigned. My early blog posts were crap and the only reason I was initially published was because I personally hired myself as a blogger and knew how to work WordPress. I look back at some of that early writing and cringe, but it was published and worth the $0 I was paid for it.

My early writing was worth the $0.00 I was paid for it Click To Tweet

I don’t have time to spend sticking pins in my Arianna Huffington voodoo doll – The energy spent by writers busting on HuffPost for not paying bloggers is epic. Do they pay for republished material? Nope, but neither do the overwhelming majority of national publications out there. Should they? I’m not sure.

Since HuffPost does not pay for original work, my solution has been…wait for it…not to submit original work to them, and only to send things I’ve already published on my personal blog. Apparently 95% of the other bloggers who publish there agree, because almost everything they publish from bloggers is republished material. From what I can see, all the internet backlash toward them is because they don’t pay bloggers for original work, which no blogger I know would ever submit there anyway. Are there really bloggers continually submitting original work and feeling like they are not getting anything (money or otherwise) in return? I’d argue that this is a problem with the blogger, not with HuffPost. If you keep hitting your head on a wall and it hurts, is it the wall’s fault?

I don't have time to spend sticking pins in my Arianna Huffington voodoo doll Click To Tweet

I’ll exchange free content for free reading – I think there can be good reasons to write for free. I’ve done it for practice, mentoring from an editor, and just to see my name somewhere other than my own blog (at first). I’ve gotten new blog followers, subscribers and site traffic from it. Some people do it to sell something or to promote their brand. One reason I’ve done it is because the site I’m submitting to is a site I enjoy reading frequently, and they let me read the site for free. As a thank you, I’ve often contributed my own work. Many of the wonderful guest authors on my site have thanked me for the value this site offers and subsequently submitted their own great content that I didn’t pay for. While I don’t yet pay, I try to provide as much value as I can as I work toward the day when I can pay.

I absolutely respect the decision of writers who want to take only paying opportunities. I want any writer who wants to be paid to work toward that goal and get there sooner rather than later. I submit mostly for paying opportunities myself these days. There will always be writers willing to write for little or nothing and sites that will publish work without paying for it. My job is to become as savvy about the market as I can and pursue the opportunities that are right for me at each point in my writing evolution. I don’t have time to stop and blame others for my paycheck or lack thereof.

Because I’m on a deadline.
Writing For Free Is Not Pure Evil And Here's Why...

About the Author

Susan Maccarelli

Susan Maccarelli is the creator of Beyond Your Blog, a site helping bloggers successfully submit their writing for publishing opportunities beyond their personal blogs. She also offers online training and consulting to new bloggers looking for direction on submitting their writing for publication. Susan has interviewed dozens of editors from publications like The New York Times, Huffington Post, Brain, Child, Chicken Soup For The Soul, The Washington Post, and speaks at many respected writing and blogging conferences.