Is it okay for freelance writers to accept low pay (or even no pay!) for the experience? For getting your name out there?
For the most part, no way, José!
But of course, there are a few exceptions…
I’m the breadwinner in our family, which means I actually have to get paid for my work, or my kids (and hungry hubby) don’t have any bread to eat.
So the old sarcastic freelancer joke of “my kids love eating exposure for dinner” certainly holds true for us.
When I do work, I expect a fair rate.
Exposure doesn’t pay the bills, BUT:
The right exposure in the right place at the right time to the right audience can bring you lots of leads, work, and money.
Depending on your goal… working “for exposure” might make sense. This is the foundation of every guest post strategy out there.
If Tony Robbins or Copyblogger comes to you and says, “Hey, we’ve been watching what you’re doing. We like what we see and want to offer you a guest post. We don’t pay our contributors, but it’s really great exposure.”
That’s something I’d say yes to because they’re established, have a very solid reputation, an audience, and there’s awesome visibility built in that I couldn’t manufacture for myself… which is another word for exposure. You get great visibility on that blog, and a lot of validation with that byline. Even if you don’t get paid and you spend five hours or more on the blog post, that’s valuable exposure.
You’re elevating your profile the minute it runs. That audience is there now. That status gets attached to your name today.
You’ll be able to leverage that immediately. To say, “I was featured on Copyblogger,” that means a lot to anyone who’s paying attention. You can include it in your masthead!
What you should NOT DO is take more than three low-paying gigs if they aren’t the valuable kind of exposure. I know from experience.
You’ll get stuck in the rut I was in where all my time was consumed by cheap work. I had no time to find higher paid work. But I couldn’t not do the cheap work because I had a kid to feed. It was a painful Penny Catch-22!
It might make sense at the beginning to get paid for something if your options are getting paid for it or doing it free. There’s logic to the idea that if I need to build my portfolio, I might as well get paid for it.
But if you don’t need clips and someone is offering you a little bit of money, should you take it?
Maybe, if you could do it relatively quickly. If it’s something that’s going to take you only two hours, you might as well get paid. Even if it’s just 25 bucks. It’d be hard for me to accept any gig less than that, even as a complete beginner.
If there’s nothing on the immediate horizon while you’re pitching, except for this low paid work, and you need or want something to come in…. take it, but take no more than three. If you take more, you’re going to get bogged down in these low paid gigs.
Don’t do it. Not worth it.
Don’t write for pennies or exposure if you can’t put your name on it. I want to emphasize this because you want to be able to use clips in your portfolio. If you can’t use it and they’re going to pay you 2 cents a word, that’s a big fat no! That’s ZERO VALUE.
If you’re writing for free for yourself, at least you can put that in your portfolio. You can send it to prospective clients and use it to help you land work.
Another time I might consider taking cheap rates is moving into a new writing service. If you’ve been writing blog posts for a while, and have a decent portfolio of posts, but a client says, “Can you write some emails for me?”
You might say, “I’ve never done emails before, but I’m willing to do the first tranche at a heavy discount in exchange for your feedback.”
Don’t do it for free. This is someone already paying you to write, don’t do anything for them for free!
You don’t even have to discount for a new service. You don’t have to prove anything because they want to keep working with you. But it’s one time I’d be willing to consider a heavy discount.
The last time I might consider working for low pay is if I have the opportunity to work for someone really big.
A breakthrough, this-changes-everything kind of client. I might do lower rates for our first project just to land them and see if I can impress them.
But it’s clearly a one-time thing.
I might discount them just to be able to say that I have worked with them, especially if they have some kind of name recognition or if their business is pretty well known. It’s just to get that byline and to have that status increase.
The “landing a big client discount strategy” is very similar to the guest post strategy. It’s less about money and more about recognition and status increase.
if you’re thinking about working for exposure, approach it less from a work standpoint and more from a guest post strategy standpoint. The idea is to appear on the right blogs where your audience is going to know you or you’re going to raise your profile.
Your name is going to have a new high value, a high ticket logo attached to it because you got this awesome byline. That’s what guest posting strategy is about.
if you have any questions about this, the best way to find me is in my Facebook group. You can search for us. We are the Inkwell Guild on Facebook or you can go to Ashleygainer.com/facebook.
Have you heard of Copy Confidential? If not, I want you to go to copyconfidential.com and check it out.
This is my new course on how to write anything for any client. It’s really robust. We talk about the major writing skills that you’re going to need for both copywriting and content writing.
I’m also including 12 modules that go in depth into 12 different types of content that your clients want you to write. If that’s interesting to you and you’d like to learn more, check it out online at copyconfidential.com.
FYI, there is a secret unannounced bonus that’s not on the sales page yet for my course Client Bound. If you enroll in Copy Confidential, you get Client Bound for free! It’s pretty cool. I hope you check it out.
Since 2010, businesses and entrepreneurs have turned to me for stronger copy, deeper customer relationships, and great blog content.
Want to be a freelance writer for hire and build your own writing business around your kids? You can learn how to do that here, too.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I can’t wait to meet you!
Come hang out with us in my Facebook group, The Ink Well Guild! Get your questions answered and find supportive feedback from other freelance writers.