Friday Speak Out!: Giving It Away

Friday, March 31, 2017
by Laura Yeager

After a writer has acquired a few good clips, one of the first rules of freelancing is “don’t write for free.” Writing for free is seen as a demeaning and thankless job. Most people don’t have the luxury of writing for free. It’s not something a writer can do very often unless money means nothing to her, or unless she is independently wealthy. Isn’t one of the reasons most of us are writing is to get paid? I love receiving my checks in the mail. I love that people will pay cash for my ideas. I don’t make much money, but what money I do make is greatly appreciated.

What about working for free? Are there any reasons to sit down at the keypad and pound out an essay or a short story and then turn around and give it away?

One of the most logical reasons to write for free is that doing so might lead to paying gigs. If a writer gives a publisher a “free sample,” the publisher may eventually purchase other work that the writer has to sell. Perfume counters pass out free samples all the time. So do grocery stores. It’s a good marketing technique. Don’t you love going to the store on free sample day, and making a meal out of yummy tidbits? I admit; I’ve done this a few times. Who hasn’t?

Another reason to write for free is this: say you just can’t sell a piece, but you want to see it out there in the universe. You want your message heard. If you’ve got something you want to say, does payment for it really matter? Being heard is remuneration in itself.

They say all publicity is good. Write for free to get your name out. That is definitely worth something.

They say the same thing about experience. Do it for the experience. All experience can be used by a writer in her future creations.

In our abundance, we are blessed. Giving of the self (and her writing) is good for the individual. It feels good to give. Try it. Write for free just once.

Who says doing a favor is ever wasted? My husband and I watched “The Godfather” this weekend. Personal favors were a big deal in the mafia culture of this film. After Sonny was killed, the Godfather went to his mortician friend and asked him to make his eldest son presentable for an open coffin, for Sonny’s mother to witness. Their enemies had killed Sonny with machine guns. The Godfather’s unforgettable line is “Look how they massacred my boy.” Of course, the mortician cleans the son up. He’s repaying the Godfather for doing him a previous favor.

Who knows? Maybe you will be repaid somehow by the publisher of your free work. Your favor might be returned. One day, when you least expect it, the publisher will pop back up in your life and return the good deed.

And here’s a thought: even though you won’t receive money, you will probably receive a bio and a link to your website.

But honestly, if you’re going to write for free, do it with no expectations of receiving anything in return.

All professionals work for free at some point in their lives. Dentists fix teeth. Lawyers practice law. Teachers tutor children. Hair stylists color hair. All for absolutely nothing. It’s a way to give back to the world for all the good energy they’ve received.

Start a revolution!

Give a little bit.

It’s worth it in the long run.

* * *
Laura Yeager has been writing for over 35 years. Her fiction has appeared in journals such as The Paris Review, The Missouri Review and The North American Review. Currently, she is a mental health writer at Psych Central. She also writes religious essays for venues such as Aleteia USA and Busted Halo. A graduate of The Writers' Workshop at The University of Iowa, Laura teaches writing at Kent State University and online Creative Writing at Gotham Writers' Workshop in New York. Laura Yeager is looking for an agent for her novel MILLENNIUM RAILROAD.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Margo Dill said...

I think you make some good points here. I do think it is a fine balance between writing for money and writing for free--you have to know your reasons WHY you are writing for free, and if these reasons meet your overall career goals or personal goals, then yes--I think it is fine. Thank you for giving us something to think about. :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Laura--If you're not expecting any monetary compensation--for example, you're writing for free because of a cause you believe in--you won't be disappointed.

Thanks for the post.

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