Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the month “October, 2016”

9 problems associated with writing for FREE

Problems when you write for free

Starting your freelance writing career can be very daunting with many challenges along the way.

One of the most challenging aspects is landing work; gaining clients; winning writing jobs.

What can sometimes make this difficult is that potential clients want to see your portfolio. But hang on! You don’t have one because you’re just starting out! So how are you supposed to get work without a portfolio? And how are you supposed to create a folio without any work?

So, you decide to write for free for a while, until you build up a worthy portfolio to show your potential clients. Right?



Problems when you write for free

While it may seem like an easy solution to your problem, writing for nothing can actually lead to more problems — for you and for your fellow writers.

Problem #1: You set the precedent that you will continue to work for free.

Once a client or editor realises they can get writing from you without paying for it, guess what they’re going to do next time they need something. Yep. Ask you to do it — for free. Why would they begin paying you when you didn’t request payment the first time?

Problem #2: You tell people your work is not valuable

When you don’t place a monetary value on your work, you send a message that you don’t see value in your work. And if you don’t see value, why should they?

Problem #3: Exposure means nothing

Many potential clients will offer you something called ‘exposure’. That is, they will promote your work on their social media channels, etc. While that sounds appealing, ‘exposure’ rarely leads to paid work, because their target market is usually not YOUR target market. Besides, most of us write to make money, and last time I checked, you can’t pay for your groceries or your mortgage with ‘exposure dollars’!

Problem #4: Writing for free actually costs you

You might think you’ve got nothing to lose by writing a few articles for nothing. But how much time do you spend doing that? Time is money. And if you’re not earning money with your writing, then you should be spending time working on tasks that WILL bring you money, or building your business. Don’t use your precious time or your talents making someone else successful at your expense. You’d be better off getting paid employment.

Problem #5: You encourage the exploitation of writers

Every day, in every city, around the world, writers are asked and expected to write for nothing. In short, this is exploitation. When you agree to work for nothing, you’re sending the message that it’s okay to exploit the writing profession in general. Stop doing that.

Problem #6: You undermine the value of artistic industries

Artistic and creative professionals have always struggled to be considered as valuable as other professionals. When you agree to work for free, you contribute to this misunderstanding and perpetuate the problem.

Problem #7: You make it harder for other writers to earn a living

Each time you say ‘yes, I will write for free’, you empower that editor to ask the next writer and the next writer the same thing. Soon, there is a belief amongst editors and businesses, that it’s not necessary to pay for writers, and so they stop investing in the industry.

Problem #8: You contribute to poorer writing standards

You may be a top-notch writer, but not everyone is. When clients no longer believe they have to pay for writing services (see problem #7), they will go looking for people who will write for nothing or for very little. Those who are willing to work under these conditions are usually those who can’t write very well or simply sit and churn out article after article with little thought to the quality of their writing or their target audience. What we are left with, is a bunch of hacks writing content, and poorer writing standards.

Problem #9: You waste your education, experience and talents

How much time and money have you invested in gaining your skills as a writer? How long did your education take? How long have you been honing your craft? Remember, the whole point of gaining professional writing skills was so you could make a career out of it. So why would you suddenly agree to work for no pay, now you’re out on your own?


Some final warnings…

Before I move on to when it is okay to write for free (because sometimes it is), I want to warn you about a couple of tricks found in job ads for writers.

Trick #1: “We aren’t in a position to pay right now, but there is the potential for payment down the track”.

Don’t fall for it. The likelihood of you ending up being paid later on is remote.

Trick #2: “We aren’t currently making a profit right now, so we can’t pay our writers, but you’ll get your work noticed”.

Don’t fall for this one either. That’s like you going into Officeworks and telling them you’re just starting out as a freelance writer, so you can’t afford to buy all the office equipment and stationery you need. So, instead of monetary payment, you’d like to write an article about how awesome they are. Yeah. Not going to happen. Besides, if you landed a position at a not-for-profit organisation, they would still pay you a salary for the work you’d do.


When should you write for free?

Even though there are numerous problems when it comes to ‘gifting’ your writing services to others, there are a couple of circumstances when it is okay.

  1. You donate your services in-kind for a charitable or community organisation that you feel strongly about.
    There is nothing wrong with doing this. Many professional writers donate their services to support charities and their local community groups. It’s no different to volunteering or donating money.
  2. You provide free writing services as part of an internship.
    An internship is a great way to gain experience as a writer and to put together a portfolio. However, under the guise of internships, the person performing the work should be getting the main benefit of the arrangement. Further information about internships (paid and unpaid) can be found at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/pay/unpaid-work/work-experience-and-internships

Finally, I came across this video which may help explain it in real life terms.

Don’t sell yourself short. Your writing is valuable and so is your experience.

If you’re not a writer, but would like to hire me (for money), please contact me. Not only will you receive high-quality writing with exceptional customer service, you’ll be entering a partnership with me which includes a promise to never take your business for granted.





How to spot a good copywriter

How to spot a good copywriter

Unless you’ve been given a personal recommendation, it can be hard to know if the copywriter you’ve chosen is good at their craft or not.

While spelling and grammar are both important when it comes to copywriting, they aren’t the only measures of success you should be looking for. So to help you discern the good writers from the hacks, here are a few qualities to look out for.


They have a portfolio

A good copywriter will have a portfolio (e.g. samples of published work) and will be happy to share it with you. They should also be happy to provide you with a list of clients they have worked with. Understand however, that due to the nature of some projects, writers aren’t always able to provide you with actual copy they have written for some clients. In this case, client testimonials may also work well.


They prefer to work to a brief

An experienced writer will ask for and prefer to work to, a client brief. A brief is important for both parties. It contains vital information to assist the copywriter to come up with the type of content you are seeking. It will also save you money, as it reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings, and the need for expensive re-writes and revisions.


They ask questions

You know you’ve found someone who will do a good job when they ask questions and seek clarification when they are unclear on something. Steer clear of the copywriter who seems self-assured and seems to ‘know it all’ when it comes to your needs — unless of course you have delivered a very detailed client brief to them!


They know how to research and reference their work

The craft of copywriting sometimes requires the writer to undertake research. This is particularly the case when it comes to health and medical writing. If your content needs some background research, make sure the writer you engage knows how to research, where to research, and how to correctly reference this information. After all, YOU will be responsible for the accuracy of the end copy, not the writer you hire.


They have a good understanding of the industry they are writing about

This is not a pre-requisite, but it does help. Engaging someone who understands your industry will save you time and money. For example, if you need someone to write about diabetes, hiring a health writer who understands the key health concerns facing the general population will result in better and cheaper copy, than someone who specialises in financial technology. Better, because they are familiar with the topic and the health concerns unique to diabetes, and cheaper because they won’t need to spend as much time researching the topic as the fin-tech expert.


They are flexible, yet firm

Flexible but firm? Yes. Your copywriter should be reasonably flexible when it comes to considering suggested changes and revisions to text. They should also understand that you, as their client, have other priorities to juggle, which may mean you can’t always drop everything to attend to their queries.

However, they should be firm when it comes to providing you with a quote, their terms and conditions of contract, as well as changing deadlines, or the scope or focus of the project. If the deadline or scope of the project must change, then you should both negotiate these changes. Chances are, they are juggling more than just your project, and need to fit your needs in with the needs of their other paying clients.


They focus on building a partnership

When engaging a copywriter, you should want more out of the relationship than just good copy. Look for someone who views your working relationship as a partnership. While price is obviously a factor in hiring someone, having a good working relationship with someone who understands your brand, your needs and the way you work is priceless. Once you find someone like that do all you can to keep them. You will find they will go the extra mile for you.


By all means, the above isn’t an exhaustive list but it will certainly give you a few things to think about when selecting a copywriter.

Want to know if you’re a copywriter’s dream client, then click here.

And if you’re ready to work with me, or have some questions, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.


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