I wanted to talk a bit today about writing for free. Mostly this is on my mind because I hear so many opinions about it. Here’s the story (don’t worry, I’ll keep it short).
A couple years ago I joined Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC…and yes it is fun to say) thinking it was a pretty big step forward to helping me become a “legit” writer. I like being part of a professional association because it helps me take writing seriously. I think before this I was more wishing I was a writer, hoping I could get enough experience for someone to notice me.
One of the first things impressed upon me was about writing for free. I think it’s safe to say the more outspoken members and perhaps even the others feel a professional writer should never write for free, not ever. At least, that’s the party line I heard over and over. But after a couple years I’m hearing a bit more underneath the blanket statement, which leaves me a might confused.
Is Writing for Free Ever OK?
Here are some of the comments I’ve heard in the past couple years.
- Well, I guess if you’re trading services then it’s alright
- If you’re able to network and get other paying gigs as a result of the free work, then you’re doing yourself a favour
- As long as the person asking you to write isn’t being paid either, it’s probably OK
- You can write for free if you have a time limit and good reasons for doing it
So…the black and white rules are a bit muddier now.
I should mention I’m a big fan of making money from things I write, and am not advocating writing for free. In fact I agree with the notion that if you work for free then you undermine the industry. However, there are always exceptions.
And that’s where I’m at today
When I think about writing for free I can’t say I have a firm opinion on it yet. Maybe each situation is different. Or maybe the traditional “you write a story and we’ll buy it from you” model isn’t the only one out there. Maybe there are other ways to make money writing in an…alternative way. You know? Like getting a sponsor, or advertiser, or putting a ton of writing out there aimed at selling a product or service you have. Those also seem like really good ways to make a go of it while not technically writing for free.
Anyway, this was on my mind and I wanted to share about it.