Generally speaking, I don’t want you to write for free. There are, however, some advantages. You need to do it strategically, when what you get in exchange for your free work is worth the sacrifice.
Strategic worth-it ways
- Write for your own portfolio. Of course you can’t pay yourself to write, and you do need to do some writing work for yourself. If you don’t yet have a portfolio, you’ll spend time writing samples. If you do have a portfolio, you may need to create new work for free when you are moving into a different type of writing.
- Guest post. This can be an effective marketing strategy, if done within reason. If you’re able to write on a topic that your ideal client will be interested in and that may lead them to you, it can work. Or if you are getting a byline in a well-known publication in your niche, it can be worth it. Make sure and get their masthead to put on your website (i.e., “as seen on ‘The Penny Hoarder'”).
- Get a sample and testimonial. If you want to break into a new type of writing, you can offer a freebie for a nonprofit, favorite cause, or a friend’s business in exchange for a testimonial. Then you’ll also have a sample of your work in the new type of writing, for future paying clients. If you can get data or benchmarks on your work from the organization as well, that’s beneficial for your portfolio.
- A fabulous work sample. Only work for free for a work sample if these four criteria have been met: the prospect is carefully vetted, you really want the work, you have the time, and you can afford to work for free for that amount of time. Carefully vetted means you can trust the person and that getting the sample for your portfolio or making that connection will open doors to much bigger work or opportunities.
Who will ask you to write for free?
Besides unscrupulous people looking to take advantage of writers?
In my experience, companies tend to ask for free work the most. Individuals are more likely to either be okay with your samples and referrals, or to do a paid work sample. They usually are closer to the service provider model and expect to pay for your work.
Don’t go to the job boards and write for free! At worst, these “job” opportunities are a scam. At best, they’re a waste of your time. If you’re in doubt, you can always check with us in my free Facebook group, The Ink Well Guild with Ashley Gainer. We can give you feedback to help.
The antidote to free work requests
A great way to avoid being asked for free work in the first place is to build up your referrals and inbound marketing efforts. You can get referrals from satisfied clients, or colleagues.
I’ve written a couple of posts about inbound marketing: Finding Writing Clients On Facebook and Marketing for Freelance Writers: Inbound vs. Outbound. You can read them for some ideas.
If you need help getting great writing samples for your portfolio, I have a course called Clips Camp.
It’s a three-week course for new and advanced new freelance writers who want to get started with high-paid client work. If you’re on Upwork or Fiverr and miserable, if you haven’t even done anything to get started and you don’t know what the first step is, then Clips Camp is for you.
I teach you how to put together a solid portfolio of writing samples that position you as the kind of awesome writer that awesome clients want to hire. If you want in on that or you just want more information, go to clipscamp.com, and I will see you on the inside!