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Free Writing Can Pay Off ... Sometimes.

Updated: Jul 23, 2022

In early 2014, I had just begun life as a full-time writer and editor and things were a little slow. To fill that time, I got engaged in several activities that I hoped would lead to closing a few deals. One such activity was writing for a Christian community magazine for free. Yes, I said free.

There are a lot of opinions out there that discuss whether writers should volunteer their skills and time for exposure instead of cash. I typically side with the argument against giving away your talent and time for free. However, in this case, although I started out by seeking exposure, I came to love turning in articles for the magazine even without the pay. And with time, the mails I received from readers telling me how inspired they were by my words became enough payment for my troubles.

It's a small magazine run by a nonprofit food pantry, so I never really expected that they would ever be able to pay me more than exposure - which hasn't been very much. Also, it was (and still) not my only gig. While I wrote for the magazine, I also focused my attention on bringing in paying clients so that I could continue to enjoy writing for free. So, you can imagine my excitement when I recently received an email from the publisher and editor informing me that the magazine will now be available on shelves in Wholefoods stores across our area.

When it comes to freelancing, just like in everything else, it can't be all about the money. Sometimes, it will have to be about the exposure your free work will bring, or the potential for a great review, or the potential of a great referral. Who knows how many eyes are now going to be reading my articles after 5 years of doing so for little in return? And who knows who one of those eyes is going to belong to? My million-dollar client, perhaps?

Anyway, my point is this, whether you should or shouldn't be freelancing for free is something no one should decide for you. If doing something for free does not excite you, motivate you, or reward you in other ways besides fiscal, then it's best to just say 'no' and keep it moving.

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