Writing for Free - The Atlantic
When should a young writer write for free
Being asked to write for a magazine is very flattering. After you've had an article or two published in their magazine, you can fairly and honestly claim their byline in your future query letters.
You should examine your relationship with this travel magazine very closely. How does it benefit you and your goals? The magazine gains by receiving free content from you, on a regular basis. What will you get in return?
You mention that you hope you can use your new travel writing position and assignments as collateral for securing press trips. Is your goal to get free travel? Or is your goal to get paid for your work? Or both?
If press trip invitations start flooding in, and if you find these magazine assignments are strong collateral when you're applying for assistance with DMOs, then by all means write for free. And use this credential to the max.
And, sooner or later, everyone will end up deciding to write for free
Also, I have to give a special shout to female writers here. If you’re contemplating writing for free, this might be because YOU DO NOT PITCH ENOUGH. I struggled with this until I started working as an editor. I turned down pitch after crappy pitch from clueless dudes who didn’t understand I’d probably accept an idea or two if THEY SENT ME BETTER PITCHES. Meanwhile, my female writer friends would mention ideas to me in passing, ideas that I loved, and they never follow up with a formal pitch. So ladies, PITCH. This question will start to become obsolete if you’re more proactive about getting paid gigs.”
Sadly, some writers don't ask this question at all, assuming (for various reasons) that the answer must be "yes." Too many talented writers end up wasting considerable time writing for free, unable (or refusing) to believe that they could be paid for their material.There’s always a lot of debate in the freelance writing world about writing for free. The main question is: should you do it? Before I attract a hailstorm of criticism over the very notion of writing for free, let me say up front that I believe that freelance writers should get paid fairly and promptly for the work that they do.Writing for free is simply an option, never a necessity. The bottom line is that if your writing isn't good (and you know it), your energies are best spent seeking ways to improve it. If your writing good, and you believe in it, don't sell yourself short by failing to sell yourself at all!When you start out as a freelance writer, writing for free may be the quickest way to build up a portfolio of written work that you can show to prospective clients. There are many ways to approach this. You could: