[image source: Behance]
Every few months, I get a variation of this email:
I love your writing. It's so uplifting. Would it be okay if I posted your articles on my little blog that's going to revolutionize blogging because no one else on the Internet likes smiling every day but me?
It will give you some great exposure.
First of all, my name's not Natalie.
Secondly, I had over 800,000 views on an article a few weeks ago. I don't really need your "exposure."
Thirdly, I can't give away something for free that I've already sold to someone else. That is unfair to my client and STUPID for me. It's career suicide. Clients won't trust that they're getting original content AND they will be able to justify not paying me since other folks are getting my words for free.
Fourthly, just HIRE a writer. If you want to launch your very own Nadine-style blog, hire someone to write cool Nadine-style stuff for you. There are a lot of writers who need work. Many will work for less than I do, as they're building their portfolios and/or are doing it as a side gig. If the blog takes off, man/woman up and PAY THEM MORE.
Finally, most writers out there CAN'T AFFORD to work for free. I'm not going to screw over my colleagues by being a scab. If you won't pay them, you're not going to get away with not paying me either.
— — — — — — — —
Once upon a time, I worked for free. It was worth it. I had a full-time job and needed to start building a portfolio. Then I started making $3 a post. Then $10. Then $18.
That editor started demanding SO MUCH WORK from me…for $18. He would send articles back to me to rewrite. Yes, for $18. And demanded interviews with designers, et c. I made $2 to $3 an hour at that rate.
Then I interned for a producer who essentially had me write his movie for him. After three months, I handed him a third draft of a film. He said he would count it as Draft 1.2, which made zero sense. In the real world, writers only have to submit three drafts: first, second, final. He wanted me to write more and more for nothing…..
I walked away.
I knew I was worth a paycheque.
And I knew that if I was going to write for free, I'd rather do it for myself, thankyouverymuch.
Less than two years later, I had built up my career to include a few substantial enough clients to consider myself having "made it" as a writer.
This is my livelihood. I don't just do it because I love it, I do it because it pays the bills. I'm reasonably good at it — I'm not pretending to be Charles Dickens, Aaron Sorkin or Robert Munsch — and it affords me the schedule and lifestyle that I need to enjoy my non-writing life.
Being asked to hand over my (already-sold) hard day's work for free is the single most insulting thing I encounter in this field of work.
So don't do it.
And, writers, don't work for free. Your work has value. Demand that others acknowledge that.