The issue of payment for writing services has once again come up in my twitterverse. This blog post was spawned off by two comments, one from a higher up at a rather large sex toy company, and another from a well known blogger in the sex toy world. Both comments, to me, were prefect examples of writers being taken advantage of when it comes to being paid for their work. While I’m not going to name and shame at this point, suffice to say these are two quite ‘influential’ individuals in the sex toy world who really should have known better.
So when it is appropriate to write content for free? First, let’s define was free isn’t. To me, receiving anything that I would value in return for my work is a form of payment, and therefore isn’t free. Obviously, money is the most common form of payment. But what when it’s not as straight forward as a cash exchange? What if you’re getting ‘something else’ and don’t want to be taken advantage of?
Sex Toys – The majority of sex toy review writing is done by the company or manufacturer providing a toy in exchange for a review. When in this situation, it’s important to know that a toy that would cost you £40 to buy online doesn’t cost to supplier £40. For a 3rd party sex shop, it may be worth £20 to them. For manufacturers, as little as £4. Keep this in mind when negotiating. Don’t be afraid to ask for a monetary payment on top of the toy itself if the value of the toy is too little.
Exposure – In a twitter conversation yesterday, someone said to me (and I’m paraphrasing), “I don’t write for free anymore, except for guest blogging for the big companies.” The first thought that popped into my head is that person’s a sucker. The biggies are just as capable of paying you your minimum rate as the small fries are. This is a common ‘trick’ I see with larger, well-known companies. They are offering you the ‘privilege’ to write for their brand. So what do you get in return in this type of situation? For some, it’s an ego-stroke. For others, it’s the potential to expose their writing to a larger audience, which could lead to increased revenue down the line (either in traffic to your own site, or jobs coming in from other writing gigs). How do you balance this ‘exposure’ value with the fact that potentially you could get nothing in return? When I’m asked to write for ‘free’ for larger companies, I never do a series. I’ll do a one-off piece to see if I get the ‘return’ I’m looking for off that piece. I’d consider doing an occasional piece for the company in the future if the return was valuable. If we’re talking a regular spot, then I’d want the cash, no matter what.
Link Juice – Links have value. That’s why there are huge underground markets for buying links, and why Google has those little ads all over the place. If you’re not familiar with the term link juice and what it means, check out this post. (It’s even got flow charts!) “We’ll put up a link to your site in exchange for this 400 word piece.” Do the calculation that I discussed that sex toy companies do in my original The True Value Of A Blog Post blog. If they’re using “no-follow” tags, the link is useless as far as juice goes. Don’t be suckered in.
Contests – Now, this is a BIG area that I’m going to dedicate an entire new post to, once I’ve got some background work completed. Suffice to say, this is a huge grey area when it comes to writing in exchange for something. Depending on how the contest is set up, you may well be writing something for nothing. If you don’t win, you won’t be getting the money / toys / gift cards that are usually up for grabs. If the company doesn’t ‘post’ entries, you’re not getting exposure or link juice. This may fall into the ‘writing for yourself’ category as it does for me, unless the potential return is worth it. A contest wanting 500 words for the chance to win a £50 gift card? No. 500 words for a chance to win £1000 in sex toys? Maybe. A house? Yes.
The Potential To Get A Job – Writing pieces just for your portfolio may be ‘free’ now, but will pay dividends down the line. Something to note for those starting out in the paid-to-write world – some potential employers will ask you for a specific sample of writing in order to “test” you for their job opening. This happens a lot on freelancing websites. If you have a large portfolio covering both general topics and the niche(s) you write in, offer one previously written rather than a fresh piece. Too many times people posing as employers ask for a “sample” from the 200 people applying for that role, and now have 200 pieces of free original material. Using your previously published work not only saves you the time on writing a new test sample, it’s also of little value to them if they are going to steal your work for their web sites, as the duplicate content penalties will apply.
So when do I feel is appropriate to write for free? When I’m writing for me. But even in this situation, there’s usually an ‘exchange’ of some kind. Writing this blog post was done for free, but I know that keywords in this text may draw readers from elsewhere, who may click on my ads. It was also an emotional release for me. Writing for friends and family gets me gratitude. Writing for charities makes me feel warm and fuzzy. It’s all a form of ‘writing for me’ in some way. For some, those are more important that then tangibles you can earn.
The line in the sand is your own to draw – be sure you know where it leads, though.
Filed under: Ruby on Writing
Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!