So the catch 22 of freelance writing is this: you need clips to show editors that you can write, however, you can’t get clips if you don’t get the gig. So what’s a writer to do? Well you could fall for the old “write for me for free and exposure” and gather clips that way.
The problem with this method is that often you’re fattening the editor’s pockets at your own expense. “Exposure” could mean anything, your name in byline lights on a heavily visited site or your article cast among many on a teeny tiny Web site somewhere out in cyberspace. Will that kind of exposure help you? Probably not. Will it give you good clips to use while you persue a better gig? Maybe. If the site is junky and there’s a lack of good editing on your work, you’re likely to hurt yourself more than you help.
The other thing about writing for free, it hurts other writers. If there are a vast, teaming pools of writers willing to work for free there will surely be vast, teeming pools of editors who feel it’s their right to not pay writers for their work.
Deborah Ng, a prominent freelance blogger, said something to the effect of people don’t ask plumbers who are just getting started to work for free and she has a great point. Where else, in what other profession would people ask that the newbie do it for free? Would McD’s require that their workers work for free until they really get a handle on washing the lettuce and cooking the fries?
So how do you break in? I’ll have several tips on Friday!