Write for Free at Your Own Risk

Seeking out a bargain is hard-wired into the average person’s brain. We all want to get a good deal. Popular websites like Groupon cash in on this mentality. People want to save more money and get more bang for their buck at the same time.

This type of bargain hunting mentality can pose problems for a freelance writer. People do not value quality writing as a true skill or art and often approach a professional writer with the expectation of getting that writer to produce content at little or no cost to themselves.

Recently, someone approached me on Twitter and publicly asked for me to follow him because he was interested in adding me as a writer to his start-up sports website. I obliged and he contacted me in a direct message. I asked him the standard questions I typically ask before taking on any potential new freelance client: What is the pay rate? How much content is expected? What are the typical deadlines?

As part of his response to these questions, he informed me he could not pay writers at this time. I politely turned down his request for me to contribute to that website, explaining I could not afford to write for free at the expense of paying clients.

There is one universal rule that freelancers in any industry need to remember when screening clients. Know your value. 

Writing is a legitimate skill and it is an art. Forming words and ideas into original, creative content is not a simple task. It takes natural talent, countless hours of practice and a sharp mind. Major time investment is required for making content that works.

Freelance writers should never give away their craft for free. There are few situations that justify working for exposure or “revenue sharing” when you are a professional. How many engineers, doctors, attorneys or business executives do you know who work for the promise of exposure in lieu of an actual paycheck? How many mechanics will fix your car or contractors build your home in exchange for ad revenue share?

A writer should never let themselves be held to a different standard than other skilled professionals. If a client is not willing to reimburse your time and effort at a fair market rate, they do not deserve your business. End of story. It is important to know your value and set rates that will make it possible for you to make a living from writing.

Never make the mistake of taking on a client who isn’t willing to pay you a fair rate from the beginning. Legitimate clients will sign a freelance agreement or contract with you and will agree to pay professional rates in a timely manner. If a potential client refuses to do these things, it is a major red flag. In this situation, it is best to close the door and look for a better opportunity elsewhere.

Some of the best things in life are free. Your writing should not be one of them. Know your value and make sure clients know it as well when they come knocking at your door.