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Freelancing for free...who has BTDT?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
I am trying to get a freelance journalism career off the ground. Admittedly, I haven't put as much time into it as it requires to succeed, but it seems that whenever I do get interest from a publication for my writing, they are always ones that don't pay. I wrote for a website 2-4 times a week for six months for free, just to get the experience and build up a small portfolio, then I did two big features for another site (also not paid) and then said, Right, I'm done. No more writing for free. Only paid stuff from here on out.

But now, I have been contacted by a rather large establishment, a lobby group that is pretty well-known and publishes a quarterly journal, and they want me to write an article for an upcoming issue. I was flattered and excited, of course, until I found out that, once again, they can't pay.

Am I stupid to keep taking these assignments in the hopes that by doing so I am building up a portfolio and contacts, or would I be stupid to turn them down?
post #2 of 5

I write for free, too


At the moment, I have a paid 'job' writing content for a website. I have had articles published in a couple of parenting magazines, but I have not been paid for these articles. It might sound strange, but I feel quite comfortable with it. I like writing on aspects of parenting and would not like to get paid (directly or indirectly through advertising) with money from infant formula companies.

I have read your blog. Is it right that you are an American living in the UK? Have you thought of trying to write 'travel' articles for US publications. They might like the insider view on what to do with babes/kids in England. If you want to write about British parenting you could try 'The Green Parent' or 'Juno Magazine' for local markets with similar ideas to Mothering. An other idea would be to set up a local newsletter and sell advertising.

They are just some ideas!

post #3 of 5
It's my opinion, and JUST my opinion, that you've built up enough that it's time to stop doing it for free. Unless it's for a good cause, or for a really prominent publication. And, frankly, it sounds a bit like this most recent invitation is prominent, but maybe not...? What would you get for the article in terms of leveraging it for future paid work?

But, it's been my experience (please don't flame me for this, folks, I realize everyone's different!) that if you don't charge you don't get taken seriously. And people reviewing your past work will know that at first some free stuff is fine, but, after a short time you ought to be getting *something* if you're trying to make a living at it.

Good luck!

post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 
Thank you both for your feedback. After careful consideration and taking into account the fact that it's Easter weekend, my DD has been really ill and I'm already three months pg, I decided to turn down the offer to write for this journal. They said that if I wanted to do it at a later date to let them know as they really want me to write something for them so at least I can keep it on a back burner. Never a bad thing I guess! It's nice to feel wanted.
post #5 of 5
You have the clips. There is NO REASON you should be working for free unless you just feel like being nice.

Why? I bet those editors get paid. In my opinion, it makes it harder for writers to find REAL paying work when there are thousands out there who will work for pennies or nothing.
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