Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Catch me if you can!

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!


Sarah said...

Hi Terrecce, What do you think about writing "pro bono" - ok, that's a fancy way of saying free, but what if it's for a good cause (like nonprofit newsletters)? You risk having work out there that may not be well-edited, but it's a way to get clips and feel warm and fuzzy.

Terreece said...

Hey Sarah!

I think pro bono work is great, especially if you can get people to refer you for paid work. Non-profit work can lead you to working with other non-profits that have the budget to pay. I'm really more concerned when new magazines launch or new websites that have advertising so someone's getting paid and yet they expect writers, new and old, to work for free until they are deemed "worthy." THAT's bull :-)