Skip to main content

Should You Ever Write for Free?

Should you ever give your writing away to a publication? There are times when you can indeed write for free.

"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money," the 18th-century author Samuel Johnson once declared. Well, call me Blockhead. Even though I consider myself a professional writer, I've written for nothing in the past and strongly suspect I'll do it again.

Why would anyone write without the prospect of a paycheck? If you're just starting out, writing for publications that can't afford to pay you is one way to build a portfolio of clippings (published samples) you can then send to editors who do pay. Clips from publications that don't pay are better than no clips at all. And chances are, the editors you send them to won't know, or even care, whether you were paid.

Once you're established as a writer, you may still want to do the occasional free piece for your alumni magazine, club newsletter, or whatever—simply because you're a good sport. Other times you may decide to let a no-budget publication reprint a piece that has appeared elsewhere (and that you at least got some dough for the first time around). You may also find that giving an article to a small newspaper or trade publication can be an effective way to publicize a new book or other paying project.

Just don't let yourself be taken advantage of. Any publication that can afford to pay you should pay you. Otherwise, we're all blockheads.

Read more about You Can Write for Magazines

6 Habits Writers Can Learn From Athletes

6 Habits Writers Can Learn From Athletes

Author and athlete Henriette Lazaridis shares six tips and habits that writers can learn from athletes.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Last Chance to Nominate Your Favorite Writing Websites, Our Historical Fiction Virtual Conference, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce the deadline to nominate your favorite writing websites, our Historical Fiction Virtual Conference, and more!

4 Tips for Writing a Modern Retelling

4 Tips for Writing a Modern Retelling

From having reverence for the original to making it your own, author Nikki Payne shares four tips for writing a modern retelling.

Faint vs. Feint (Grammar Rules)

Faint vs. Feint (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use faint vs. feint in your writing with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples. Plus, we answer whether it's "faint of heart" or "feint of heart."

6 Books to Cozy Up With This Winter | Book Recommendations

6 Books to Cozy Up With This Winter

Here are 6 book recommendation perfect for winter reading.

12 Things to Consider When Writing Fight Scenes in Fiction (FightWrite™)

12 Things to Consider When Writing Fight Scenes in Fiction (FightWrite™)

Trained fighter and author Carla Hoch shares 12 things all writers should consider when attempting to write effective fight scenes in fiction.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unreal Character

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unreal Character

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character turn out to be less than they seem.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2022 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 15th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.

Valeria Ruelas: On Teaching Tarot, Brujeria, and Witchcraft

Valeria Ruelas: On Teaching Tarot, Brujeria, and Witchcraft

Author Valeria Ruelas discusses the process of writing her new book, The Mexican Witch Lifestyle.