here is this article and this article that I want to discuss.
I write for free. a lot of times. most times. for fun. and here’s why: thought leadership. it’s a super buzzy term that just means I contribute a ton of pieces on subjects I consider (or others consider me) myself to know a thing or two about. usually the subjects are: social media, food and travel, and entrepreneurship. usually it’s for sites I like or friends who work at related sites.
another reason I write for free: publicity. I’m a PR person, so consistently being “in the know” and relevant and on top of topical subjects is super important. I have a running spreadsheet of every single place I’ve been quoted, done an interview for, or written for. I’ve been doing this for myself since I can remember, and it allows me to keep track of my online presence and my brand if you will. I can see what time of year I get a ton of press opportunities, and what types of readers I attract from that, or even how opportunities came about. not to be self-involved here, but I try to land a press piece about myself once or twice a quarter (meaning 3 months). the more I can promote myself, the more people find out about me and the work I do, and come to me for consulting.
one major note in all of this: I never expected to make money from writing. I know too many people who are professionals and make nothing. I’ve seen first hand how little writing pays, so for me, it didn’t matter because I never set out to make a career out of being a writer. I’ve always had OTHER gigs that took precedence so that writing would be a fun SIDE thing to do.
another major note: I actually have been paid for writing. you know who paid me? content farms. shitty startup websites who needed someone to churn out the most basic and existing listicles and tips to get traffic and sell some ads. and ya know what? it was awful and I never lasted more than a month on those sites. I got my little check, I wrote a ton of crap that took me no time, and moved on. I haven’t done this type of work in a long time, and don’t plan on doing it ever again.
like I said, if I like you (the editor) or your site, I don’t mind not getting paid. however, there are little bonuses I look for. like you keep me in mind for more articles, or you recommend me for another gig, or you make sure to promote me and my writing through social, or you take me out to lunch (I prefer burgers), or buy me a beer (or 50) or a cup of coffee (latte please), etc. since I know I can’t pay rent NOT getting paid from that article (or many articles), at least feed me, na’mean?
here’s some quotes that I share sentiment with and maybe you will to:
Paid by traffic? Bleurgh. Traffic is for editors to fret over, not contributors, so that measure seems better aimed at who gets assignments, rather than what they’re paid for them.
The point of my piece is that the concept of “a writer” is becoming increasingly outdated.
I don’t make a living off of freelance article writing—how could I?—but would love a base rate supplemented by traffic-driven bonuses with performance reports and strong social media promotion. The platform for promotion *IS* worth something to me. So give it up a little please.Tell your zillion Twitter followers to follow MEEEEEEEEEE. Do the things that make me feel special, like you’d do for a millennial or a rich person. Then the promise of “platform” is real and worthwhile.
For people who don’t need to pay rent from their freelance writing income, I’m a fan of paying in things like boozy lunches or cases of wine. It costs less and means more.
there is no ladder. Especially if you’re just starting out now, you’ve got to find creative ways to prove you’re smart and competent as substantive entry-level jobs are scarce.