Write for Free to Book Paid Writing Jobs
Though it’s generally considered in bad practice to write for free if you are a professional writer, I’d say that it’s permissible under a few circumstances to write for free. I wanted to break into paid freelance writing for a long time. I didn’t have much success in the beginning. Then I took a different approach. I decided to write for free under these select circumstances:
My Own Blog
Holly Porter-Johnson of ClubThrifty.com makes over $220k a year freelance writing. In her eCourse, Earn More Writing, she is very clear about the strategy that opened the door to many paid gigs: displaying her writing prowess on her own blog. She invested the time and energy in cultivating a strong web presence with good writing samples to land high-paying clients. It doesn’t hurt that she has a strong social media following either. Not only does she get to travel to exotic places up to 12 times a year, she also gets paid to write about the experience. Talk about a sweet gig! I’ve had my blog for some time and recently started using it as an online resume to land clients. To my surprise, it has been working!
If you are interested in starting your own blog as well, enter your email below and I’ll send a tutorial to help you get started:
The Huffington Post
HuffPo has a contributor-blogger model meaning almost anyone that’s been vetted somewhat can contribute (it took me a couple of tries to actually be accepted.) Nonetheless, getting published on the Huffington Post does have enough merit to cause an editor to give you a second glance at least. I paid to have an extensive piece on college education without debt edited then published it on the platform. It was worth the time and money, as that article goes out in my regular response for writing sample requests. It’s carried enough weight to get editors’ attention and land me paid writing gigs. You can check other contributor platforms with a similar model to jump start your writing career and gain exposure.
This is pretty similar to the Huffington Post but there are almost no barriers to entry to get going. You simply nab a username and start typing. Funny thing, it was a stepping stone to getting a contributor login with HuffPo. The first HuffPo piece I did was posted by one of their editors and was even changed to omit the last part of my story! I got no login credentials, no say so on the feature picture or edits, just a hacked up story that I could use to say that I once wrote for the Huffington Post. Then I posted an article on Medium a few months later. The next day, an editor from the Huffington Post emailed me saying she saw my story and asked if she could give me login credentials to repost on Huffington Post! I’ve since put up a few more articles.
If you are an especially good, thoughtful writer this can open up doors. I remember winning all kinds of essay contests as a child and teen. Recently, I won an essay contest for the Center for Financial Services Innovation regarding what financial health means to me. I was chosen as one of ten winners. My essay was publicized in various web outlets and I won fully paid trip to San Diego for a financial blogger conference (FinCon) and participated in the heartbreaking FinX experience. There are a few others in web land that can get you some decent accolades and recognition that could ultimately lead to paying gigs.
Writing Sample Requests
I’m working on a few column submissions now. Not only do they request sample headlines, but they want a fully fleshed out “sample column.” I think this is a totally fair ask. As long as they don’t ask for 1,500 words or plan to publish it despite rejecting me as a columnist, I’m ok with spending and hour or so banging out 500 words. or so.
Are there any other circumstances where you think writing for free is ok? Share!
Also if you are interested in starting your own freelance writing career, check out Holly Porter’s new course, EarnMoreWriting.com