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Is It Ever A Good Idea To Write, Edit Or Coach For Free?

should writers write for free?Hi Anne,

Thank you so much for your blog and freelance writing wisdom which you share so generously.

I have a question; if you’ve answered it elsewhere, do let me know.

The question: I graduated this May from an MFA program in writing and have now turned my attention toward the world of freelance so that I can keep writing and support myself. I have a very basic website (www.sherissealvarez.com) but would like to build a client list.

Is it ever a good idea to offer editing/writing services for free as a way of “beefing up” your resume?

Warmly,

Sherisse

Hi Sherisse,

I’m glad you find the site helpful.

I have written about writing for free, buy your question is a bit different. You’re writing resume or credit list isn’t on your website and it should be. Although I’m glad you’ve got a website, as it stands now its not going to do much good because you haven’t built in any credibility or given me a reason to hire you. And I can’t tell if you’ve got a strong resume or not. So, for you, beefing up the website would be the first order of business I would suggest.

You don’t have to write for free for someone else when you’ve got your own website. Just post several articles as samples. You could do the same thing with the editing by using track changes to edit one of your own pieces and posting that, with all the editing marks showing.


For coaching you need to spell out more or less how your coaching will work. Let Anne Coach You! is one place I pitch my coaching services. You can google writing coach or some such and get more examples than you’ll ever be able to use.

As you might guess I’d prefer to see you beef up your marketing than start giving away samples of your work as it were.

If you truly value your skills you’ll either refuse to write for free or you’ll severely limit it. I sometimes will write for free for a cause or organization, but never more than a single article or two.

Other professionals will disagree, some here. There are undoubtedly people who have made good use of writing etc. for free. If you do decide to give away some of your work set firm boundaries, and even ask them for pay after the first piece or session. Have a very specific plan in place so you don’t find yourself giving away far too much.

Have you ever given your writing away? How has it worked for you?

Do you have a question about freelance writing? Contact me with Q&A in the subject line and I’ll do my best to answer it.

[sig]

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • jorgekafkazar

    Well, commenting here is free writing, though I’ve cut back on my visits since I started taking screenwriting courses. I sure wouldn’t tackle a major writing gig without some money coming back, even for a foundation. Many foundations pay their senior executives very large salaries (there are exceptions) and operate out of expensive headquarters. They can afford to hire paid writers. Some non-profits and foundations are not working in our best interests, so be careful who you donate to, whether it’s money or time.

    • Anne

      Good for you for taking some screenwriting courses… if you want to recommend some don’t hesitate. And yes, agree re non-profits.

  • I did a piece for a close friend and that worked out fine, however I don’t know of a profession that starts this way. Can you imagine a new plumber saying I’ll fix your pipes for free because I’m knew? I don’t think so.

    • Anne

      Nicely said Wade

  • Twice. Once I gave it away to the Alzheimer’s Association. Worked out beautifully for both of us. The second time I trusted someone who lied about his “foundation” and ended up taking a lot of flak from people who had no idea I’d been working with the police after I’d discovered his lie.

    What I’ve learned from it is unless it’s my idea, don’t do it.
    Lori recently posted..Monday MarathonsMy Profile

  • I love your very precise advice, Anne. I too think that if you’re going to do anything for free, that you need some kind of SOP in place – otherwise it just leads to you being taken advantage of (or at least feeling that way), and ultimately feeling resentful.
    Nicky Parry recently posted..I’ve Moved!My Profile

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