The No B.S. blog about Travel, Writing and Life

Working for Free or Peanuts

The other day I found myself on Adventerous Kate a travel blog. I don’t know Kate, or how she found In The Know Traveler, but she added ITKT to a short list of paying websites in the travel market for writers. It is a nice list of good sites, and I was happy to be included, but it was clear no one is paying very much for articles these days.

Sadly, the Internet has changed the world of writing. Print publishing is crumbling and print money advertising that at one time paid writers well, is quickly disappearing — making magazines thinner and needing fewer writers. Advertisers are still learning what value advertising on the Internet means. Articles are getting shorter. Tons of new online magazines are popping up daily. Writers are looking for new ways to break into a once solid field. Plus the world economy sucks.

By the time I found myself at the bottom of the comments section, I found myself defending writing on the cheap against a writer who finds the practice of writing for little pay “laughable.” He made some good points about starting your own blog and that the money exchange is simply not worth the time and effort.

Truthfully, I totally agree. The money compensation is not worth the effort. However, money and the ability to do your own blog should not be the only deciding factors in whether you write for peanuts, or even free.

Here is my short list of questions to ask yourself before offering your considerable talents for less money than you are worth.

Will I get something out of the experience?

I have written for free or cheap numerous times. The money is never worth it. However, the relationships are always worth it. So are new experiences? Getting edited by someone else is important. So is being on assignment. So is having to hit deadlines.

Can the publication open doors?

Does the publication have enough experience, connections, industry respect, exposure or something else that will move you further along in your writing career. As an example most writers with the Huffington Post get paid zilch, but the prestige is worth it to most writers. If you are on the fence with a publication, ask questions.

Can I get something instead of money?

I have frequently sent my writers on press trips and media events as a thank you whenever possible. I have also worked with people interested in doing product reviews in exchange for, well, products. Special note: I would never ask an editor for a free trip as compensation. For more on How to Get on a Press Trip.

Can I get link backs to help promote myself?

If you own your own site and want more exposure, getting link backs in your stories bio is always a good idea. Having link backs coming from a Google respected is site is even better. Look for sites with PR2 and higher.

Does the site have lots of other writers?

Exposure is exposure. A site that feature a lot of writers usually has a more developed fan base and more eyeballs seeing your writing.

Do you really want to be a blogger?

Being a blogger can be great. However, most blogs simply fizzle out because most people do not realize the effort it takes to get one off the ground. Bloggers must have something consistent to say about a particular subject and enough people who want to read it, must spend time marketing (because there will be competition), must develop a focus (what makes the writer unique), must deal with social networking to find readers, maintaining readership with newsletters, contest and other reasons to return to the writer’s blog, and then do about a million other things.

In the end, it is a good idea to find out what you are comfortable doing for little or no money and make personal guidelines that you can live with for your writing future.

6 Comments

  1. Great roundup of questions to ask here. I recently wrote an unpaid article and I decided to do it because 1) I really like the blog 2) the blog readers are the target audience for my own blog and I’d get a link and 3) the editor is great to work with. Now because I do need to make money from writing, I won’t do these type of posts often, but it’s nice to do them once in a while.

  2. Hi Heather,

    I completely agree.
    Writing for others once in a while is still good for links, networking, exposure, brand development, getting experience and new clips. I try to write for others when I can.
    devin
    .-= Devin Galaudet´s last blog ..How to Get a Press Trip =-.

  3. Hi Devin,

    I found this just in time. I had been struggling with how to approach writing professionally. I am just starting out and I have a lot to think about. I like writing, but the business of writing is something different.

  4. Great line of questions, Devin. I think too if you are getting some pleasure in the writing itself, whether the subject matter or the format, might constitute a reason. (Can you tell I’m a Taurus?) I’ve done quite a bit of writing for next to nil or nil and I never minded as long as I could write about things that had meaning to me or that I somehow considered significant. It was worth the effort.

  5. Hi Avery,

    The business side of things has always scared me. I just try to remember what I am passionate about and remain honest in my writing. I’m still working on the business plan part.
    d
    .-= Devin Galaudet´s last blog ..Free Stuff: All Four of Lonely Planet’s National Park Guides =-.

  6. Thanks Kat the Taurus,

    You’re preaching to the choir. I couldn’t agree more.
    .-= Devin Galaudet´s last blog ..Camera Talk: Low Light Shots =-.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge