Attention novice and not so new writers: You CAN get paid to write!
I am an avid social media user. I love surfing the web to different sites hoping to find a contract that catches my fancy. A magazine that might be looking for a feature article, a literary magazine that might want to publish my prose. All too often, the ads read great, and they have me hooked, until I see the last line, which usually reads something like: We are sorry but we cannot pay our writers at this time. Great for your portfolio! Also great for students.
The last two statements are and aren’t true and/or helpful in many ways. While some publications honestly do not have the capital to pay writers for their work, there are plenty that do. So why settle for less than you deserve? To the comment regarding great for students: That’s what magazine and newspaper internships and college and university papers are for!
There are two sides to this page, I mean post, metaphorically speaking. It is beneficial to accrue clippings together that demonstrate to an editor you are a writer capable of procuring great articles, stories, essays or whatever form of writing it is you happen to be working at. At the same time, there are ways that are more beneficial to you as writers to do this yourselves, without sacrificing your talents to a publication that A) May not have built a solid reputation in the writing industry yet. B) May have volunteer staff editing your work. (This means they too are in the building their portfolio stage) and therefore your work could be likened to their sacrificial guinea pig and C) You might have sold to a publication that pays if you had given it a shot. Did you try querying editors before giving it away? If not, why not? Try making a list of the pros and cons to trying this out.
A lot of writers starting out sell themselves short by thinking that their best bet is to work for free before seeing if a paying publication is interested in their work. In my experience, the protocol of a volunteer writing position is not much different than a paid one, except at the end of the day you may be the one who is not getting a pay cheque while someone with equal experience has grabbed life by the balls, so to speak and demanded what is rightfully theirs: pay for their blood sweat and tears.
A writer who volunteers their writing for publication and writers who are paid for their work are not very different at all, both write rough drafts, edit, get feedback, edit their work, resubmit and eventually (hopefully) have their work published after all that effort, except that one of them is getting a pay cheque. Which writer are you?
Contrary to what I’ve said, there are instances where writing for free is absolutely a grand idea. Writing for free is great for personal enjoyment, if it is a personal quest, if it’s for your church bulletin, if you are participating in writing events with other writers like http://nanowrimo.org or https://gointothestory.blcklst.com/2015/10/zero-draft-thirty-write-a-script-in-a-month-challenge.html.
As a child do you remember knowing anyone who got in trouble at school and the teacher tells/told them to write a line twenty or thirty times? This kind of writing was ALWAYS done for free.
Memoir writing, again because we often do it for ourselves is a great form of writing that I would encourage anyone to do for free, but I would not encourage anyone to part with their work for free who has done so. I started writing a memoir a while ago and never got back to it. It is a genre of writing that takes a great aptitude for storytelling and a lot of knowledge of how – to on the genre, which I am still acquiring.
Retractions when appropriate, should always be written promptly, freely and with sincerity. Confessions to the police – seek legal counsel, I’m a writer. Writing letters to your mom or dad may be old school but never goes out of fashion and these letters should be written freely and where at all possible sealed with love. Writing memos not to forget your ten or fifty-year wedding anniversary, you betcha it better be written on the calendar or somewhere visible to you and you better not expect to get paid to do it (I hope).
Writing random acts of kindness notes, I’m not sure what the term for that is coined, but those notes that people leave in random places, like in lipstick on the bathroom wall, You are awesome, keep believing in yourself and such things to make people feel good, those are great too. Those may never get published but they are bound to make someone feel better about themselves and that in itself I find is always rewarding on some level.
Contributing your work towards anthologies that benefit causes like finding a cure for cancer, absolutely take the time to invest your work voluntarily. It is a feel good thing when you know your work is going to result in funding that will help worthy causes.
The last exception I would make for myself on when it is a good idea to write for free is if you are maintaining a blog on something of interest to you. I do and the rewards come in coffee breaks and meetings at my desk with my muse which often leads to writing work for which I am paid.
But (yes I started another sentence in a post with the word but again) please, if you have researched a subject, interviewed your sources thoroughly, sourced or taken photos that go with your article, take a chance on yourself and query editors before giving away your hard work. The same goes if you have written any other form of prose or poetry.
I took on a photography contract recently, which is odd because if anyone asks what I do for a living, first I say I am a mom and then I say I am a writer. The word photographer never comes into play. So someone randomly asked me if I was a photographer and I said, “No, I just like taking pictures.”
“You take pictures, so you are a photographer,” the person replied. “Too many people think you need a certificate to be an expert at something.” I smiled because understood what the person was saying.
You write, so you are a writer.
Now take a chance on yourself. If you have a tendency to volunteer your writing to publications, next time query an editor with something you have written.