Monday, May 9, 2011
5 Ways Writing for Free Can Get You Paid!
Many seasoned scribes turn their noses up at the prospect of “no pay” projects.
They consider “pro bono” a no-no.
In fact, it’s a bone of contention addressed on writers’ bulletin boards and popular blogs across the Web.
After all, as “professionals,” these writers feel they’ve paid their dues and expect to be compensated accordingly.
Perhaps you’re one of them.
As a veteran freelancer who has successfully earned thousands of dollars for hundreds of articles, commentary pieces, essays, and even verse, I can attest that writing for free can indeed be profitable. That is, if you know the unwritten rules of the “road less traveled.”
As a point of reference, other creatives “labor in love” to establish themselves in their careers, particularly in the initial stages. It’s not unheard of. For example, best-selling author, Michael Baisden worked for free as a radio host for Kiss-FM in New York, because they originally didn’t have a budget for him, and later became a huge success.
With this in mind, here are five often overlooked ways writing for free can earn you cash for your efforts and elevate your career.
1. It helps to build your portfolio. Editors seeking to add to their stable of writers often request writing samples and resumes for a reason. Your publishing credits and types of publications for which you’ve written speak to your versatility, skill set, and experience. The more you’ve written, the more likely you’ll be hired to write more.
2. It helps to hone your craft. A writer buddy of mine recently shared how her various free creative projects allowed her to discover her “voice”, increase her knowledge base, and sharpen her skills. She’s now a paid (and popular) columnist for her city’s newspaper. Practice makes perfect.
3. It establishes important contacts and networking relationships. As they say, sometimes getting that lucky break can be a matter of not what you know, but who you know. Consider that an editor with “connections” whom you’ve enjoyed a good working relationship may be in a position to refer you to other projects with future pay.
4. It gets your foot in the door. Sometimes a publication that can’t pay you in the beginning, will “come up with the funds” if you’re able to establish your value by the quality of your work and your level of commitment. Here‘s a case in point. One of my first unpaid publishing credits, (a commentary piece I wrote for a popular singles’ publication), ended up impressing the editor so much, that she wanted to see more of my work. She “officially” hired me a few months down the line as a contributing writer, and has been one of my longest and most profitable gigs to date.
5. It helps to increase your confidence---which leads to enhanced perception.
Let’s face it: whether it’s cooking, dancing, or dating, the more experience you get under your belt, the “bigger” you feel. And repeated bylines have the same effect. The better you feel about yourself, the more you’re able to project that “I can” attitude and convince others to have confidence in you too.
Now that you know how it works, here are a few strategies to work it!
1. Keep in mind that writing for free should not be indefinite, but have time limits. Give it a deadline. Say maybe two or three months with a particular publication. At that time, consider approaching the editor with your track record and your desire to earn pay for your say. After all, you never know until you’ve tried.
2. Have a strategy. Target the most impressive publications if you’re going to write for free. Sometimes it’s a matter of perception. For example, an unpaid commentary piece you’ve had published in Newsweek or L.A. Times would mean more to your career than earning 10 bucks from a virtually obscure or new publication.
Approached correctly, writing for free can increase your visibility, your confidence and your bottom line!
Would you write for free? What criteria do you use to decide?
Image photographer worradmu