Countless freelance writers have asked if they should write for free. This has certainly been a debate in the freelance writing arena. As a freelance writer your bread and butter is writing. This is how you make a living and pay your bills. Should a teacher work for free? Should the city bus driver work for free? Should a freelance writer write for free? The answer is yes. I believe there are times when you should write for free. There are also times when a freelance writer should not write for free.
There are times when writing for free is good for you. I want to start by telling you when not to write for free.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Free writing sample needed before you get the job
This is when a website or client is requesting a free writing sample from you and they will supply you with the information. Basically you are supplying them with a free article, eBook, etc. The best way to handle a situation where a writing sample is needed is to direct them to a URL where you have work published on the web. This is why it’s extremely important that you have a large portfolio full of different content and work that showcases what you can do. Don’t get caught in this one found on a lot of job writing sites where you are writing for free.
Imagine a posting for a job where 20 different people submitted great articles imagining they were going to get picked for a big writing job. The client only needed 20 articles. They received their 20 sample articles and they close the job posting after getting all of their work done for free.
A paragraph or two is also okay for a writing sample if you don’t have a sample of the work they need readily available.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Working with a new client when a large project is due and payment will be made at the end
Working with a new client for a large project sounds wonderful. You see dollar signs and just know that you will be getting money in your pocket. Though, you want to be careful. Don’t contract to do a large job with payment at the end for a client you haven’t worked with before. Consider breaking the job down in smaller sections of work and payment amounts to avoid getting stiffed for all of the work you have done.
Instead of writing 20 articles and accepted payment when all have been completed and turned in, write 5 or 10 and then get payment before finishing the rest. You may write all 20 articles and find out you are writing for free when you don’t get paid.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Cold call emails for work
Working with clients that you don’t know very well is precarious for payment. Some clients you may not know at all. I have received cold call emails from clients that want me to write for them. I always email back immediately and ask where they received my name and email information from. If it is a client that I know well and have worked with before I may work with them depending upon several factors. One of which is contacted the original client and asking for a referral.
The questions I ask the original client are similar to a mini interview for the cold call email client. Afterwards if I feel comfortable with them I may work with them if we can agree on the job and the payment. However, if something seems off and you cannot get a good referral for them, don’t work with them.
I have received a cold call email from one “client” that had stiffed my original client and got my email address from information he had forwarded to him. I was a subcontractor for the original job and he stiffed my client. He cut out the middle man and went directly to me for the project. It was a good thing I contacted my original client for a reference before I did all the work and got stiffed just like him. My originally client was nice enough to pay me although he got stiffed.
These are several examples when it is not okay to write for free. As a freelancer there are times when writing for free will happen and is okay. These are not any of them. Take notes on these methods of getting freelancers to write for free and don’t get caught in any of them. The other side of the coin is for another post. I will share with you when writing for free is good for a freelance writer. Stay tuned.
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