You see them every week on Craigslist, help wanted ads from publishers or Websites that need writers but can’t afford to pay – but you’ll get clips and the exposure will be great!
And yet – I’ve never met a grocery store, credit card company or mortgage company that accepted “exposure” as payment.
More information is moving to the Web, where the technological barriers to getting into the publishing business are a lot lower than in print – anybody can put up a blog and call themselves a news organization. The result has exacerbated the write-for-free phenomena.
Little start ups and no-name publishers aren’t the only ones trying to get something for nothing. Some of the biggest sites in the blogosphere don’t pay bloggers – The Huffington Post, for example.
There are a few instances where it might make sense to write for free – if you’re switching to freelancing from a different profession and need to show the world you can do it. But even then, after a clip or two or a summer internship, that time should be over.
I’m not the only one harping on this. Michelle Goodman, the Seattle-based freelance writer who maintains The Anti 9-to-5 Guide blog and just came out with a new book on freelancing, gives her 2 cents on the subject in this week’s Shifting Careers column in the New York Times.
Harlan Ellison has a wonderfuly blunt, albeit foul-mouthed, take on the phenomena: