Monday, March 21, 2011

I do not write for free

Please excuse the short rant:

If you love my site, that's great. If you love it so much that you want me to write for your site, that's awesome, too.

But never, under any circumstances, expect me to do so for free. It's not a good "opportunity" nor is it worth the "exposure." Asking me to give away my work is not only ludicrous but offensive. I am paid to write. Would you ask your doctor, or your plumber, or your electrician to give you work for free in exchange for the opportunity to work for you? No. And you shouldn't ask the same thing for writers, or photographers, or website designers.

Writing is my business. It is not a hobby. This is how I earn my living, pay my mortgage, feed the dog, so why would I just give that away? Because you ask nicely? Because you promise me something down the line?

Even when I was starting out, I did not write for free. My first clip paid $150. I didn't need to audition for it by giving away work first. To suggest anyone do the same - especially someone who's been writing professionally since she was 18 - is outrageous.

A lot of people learned this lesson the hard way when Arianna Huffington sold Huffingtonpost to AOL for $315 million. What she she really sold was the content generated by people who agreed to work for free. The fact that some of them now expect compensation shows how naive they are, and that promises of work in exchange for exposure mean nothing. They got exactly what they deserved for their work when they said OK to the arrangement: nothing.

I'm not that person. Frankly, I'm not that dumb. The only place I write for no pay is this page you're on right now, and my book blog.

So: if you want to do a Q&A, or write a story about me or my book, or pay me to write for your site, please feel free to drop me a line.

But if you dare come knocking with the "opportunity" to write for you for no compensation, don't even bother. You're not worth the time to answer the email.

/end rant

Digg this


elise said...


Penny said...

Wow, heated words but I completely understand. The benchmark you set for me as a new writer is inspirational

Nola Lee Kelsey said...

Ditto! And love it. I write for one charity for free, besides my blog. Writing is my unique product. I have taken the time to learn to manufacture it and that I have paid to market it for years while my platform grew. Now others who have decided they want to set up a publications or website for their own profit wants me to donate my product to make it happen for them. Enough. Get you free writing elsewhere and the quality you pay for.

Camille said...

Well said, Jen!

Jennifer Ansbach said...

Excellent. :-) Here's hoping you get the response you're hoping for... ("We have $500,000 and need someone to write a 750 word blog post about Atlantic City...").

Amanda Castleman said...

Google's recent algorithm shift struck a real blow for original content ... and for the first time, online ads netted more than print ones. Here's hoping the Wild West of New Media calms down enough to keep pros in kibble for the foreseeable future! And thanks for taking a stand, because without that, we all just get steamrollered... Ax (friend of CP's in Seattle)

jjdebenedictis said...

It's amazing how people crow about the exposure you'll get if you write for them (for free) when you'd get exactly the same exposure if you wrote for them and they paid you for it.

Caitlin Kelly said...

Exactly! My favorite reply, thanks to Erik Sherman: "Sorry, people die from exposure."

Debra Schell said...

Great post. I agree. I am a writer and photographer. People that do things for free ruin it for the rest of us who struggle to survive. Thanks again.