I’ve been pondering the question of writing for free which Damyanti at The Daily (w)rite raised in her post some time back. It’s a big question that all writers tackle at some point or the other – should one write for free at all?
I’ve had a few short story publications, and for all but one I’ve managed to get paid, even if small token amounts.
I have a journalist friend who insists on writing for money, and by that, I mean good money. No pittances like $10 for those 500-word articles that infest freelance job-boards. The quality of her writing matches this attitude. She puts her money where her mouth is. She does not pursue non-paying opportunities, and will never advise you to do that either. Inspired by her, I approached my writing in the same style. I followed her model and determined that I will send some of my stories to paying venues.
I cannot honestly say whether this strategy is working. I have had some work published, others not. I’ll play out this experiment a little longer to check the results. For a few months more, I’ll try sending some of my stories to the paying markets. Note that alongside I have also sent and am still sending stories and essays to non-paying magazines which I feel are a good fit for the work I’m sending. However, until I’ve garnered more acceptances from either side, I won’t know if I’m on the right track.
The process of ‘Write. Submit. Repeat’ is fairly time-consuming, because most literary magazines take more than 3 months to respond, and at the end of all that waiting, it may lead to a curt form rejection.
Seth Godin says that when you’re building a portfolio you should work for free readily. But I agree with what Damyanti said in a comment – when does the giving away stop and the earning begin? I’m not sure of the answer at all.
Another point to consider: If you don’t even try for the paying markets, then your writing may also get stuck in the same place forever, without any discernible improvement from one year to the next. Submitting to a high-paying market may bring out the best in a writer, and even if they don’t get published in that magazine, at least their writing would have improved by the end of it.
By the end of this year I hope to offer a positive report on my experiment of writing for pay.
What is your opinion on writing for free?