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Why Writing for Exposure is (Mostly) a Scam

writing for exposureEver been tempted by a writing for exposure writing gig? Most of us have, particularly in the beginning of our writing careers.

What what is writing for exposure?

The idea behind writing for exposure isn’t inherently a bad one.

The basic thought is that writers can benefit if their writing is exposed to the public, even for free. Such exposure, it is argued, gives them a writing credit and may be seen by possible clients.

Often the people offering to ‘let’ you write for them are sincere, maybe not-for-profit types. They are naive and have been told that writing for exposure instead of for pay is something many freelance writers will do because they want that exposure. They may really believe they are offering something of value in lieu of pay.

Then there are a fair number of people out there that simply hope to get something for nothing. They are aware that offering writing for exposure is usually a bad deal for the writer, but a good one for them. These folks hope to get writing they can use, and often they can.

Why is writing for exposure usually not a good idea?

The real reason writing for exposure is generally not a great idea is you have no idea what kind of exposure you’re going to get, if any. Think about it. What does the fact the individual or company isn’t willing to pay for writing say about them? They either have almost no budget or they are just plain stingy.

While many small businesses and non profits are started on a shoestring or less, that low/no budget approach doesn’t bode well for the longevity of the business. If they go out of business it’s likely that you will never know and your writing will disappear.

The stingy business owner is someone who probably doesn’t value writers or writing at all. If this is the case, how well do you think they’ll handle your unpaid work?

There are a few exceptions

Yes, there are some exceptions. When you write for a cause you believe in you may actually get some decent exposure, but it’s by accident. Your purpose was more to speak out and to support than for any particular gain.

And yes, once in a while you’ll spot an ad for writers that is on a topic dear to your heart, and one you’d like to have some credits in. Maybe in those few cases it’s okay to write for exposure. Keep in mind, however, that it might make better sense to simply write that piece for your own website and show it as a sample.

Your ability to write is valuable, to you and to others. Treat it well, don’t sell yourself or your writing cheap – there’s no need.

What’s your experience with writing for exposure?

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer


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