Give It Away?

Should You Ever Write for Free?

You want to write professionally, which means getting paid for what you write. So should you ever write for free?

I sure hope so.

Disclaimer: I’ve worked for a publication that paid writers well. I’ve worked for a company that paid a token amount for one-time rights for blog material.  But now I work for an all-volunteer organization whose magazine doesn’t (and can’t) pay writers.

Given that range of payment structures, why give away your work?

I advocate what I learned from my father: “Charge what it’s worth or give it away.” No discounts. But be willing to donate your work for the right reasons.

The people who read my volunteer-written magazine benefit from the articles. So it only makes sense that when they have a story to share, they also offer it freely.

Beyond writing for an organization you support, I see several  reasons to give away your work:

  • Practice. If you’re a newer writer, the best way to learn your craft is by writing. So you write regularly, without pay, for your own blog or website. You volunteer to write for not only an organization you support, but also a community newspaper or your church newsletter.
  • Ministry. You take a strong stand for your beliefs, and you want to encourage others to do the same. So look for likeminded organizations and offer to write specific, on-target pieces for their publications or their websites. You’ll not only improve your writing and make a name for yourself on this topic, but you’ll also help an important cause.
  • Samples. There’s a reason companies give away a taste of a new product. If people try it, they might like it. Even those who’ve established themselves as authors on a given topic realize not everyone knows about them or has read their work. So they offer articles based on a chapter from the new book they want to promote. Easy, free advertising, for the cost of giving reprint rights to something they’ve already written.

Should you every give away your work? Sometimes—when the reasons suit you mission.

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About Andy Scheer

With more than 30 years in publishing, Andy Scheer has provided freelance editorial services since 2010. He has edited fiction and nonfiction for publishers including Moody, WinePress, and BelieversPress, as well as for clients including Dirk Cussler, McNair Wilson, DiAnn Mills, Heather Day Gilbert, and Sammy Tippit.

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