It genuinely amazes me how many people email me asking for free writing, simply for exposure. Look people, if I wanted exposure, I’d travel down to New Orleans and show my tits to a stranger.
Weirdly, they aren’t quite so accepting of it when it’s not Mardi Gras. Instead of beads, you just get a summons for public nudity. Such bullshit.
I don’t write for free. When I’m working for a client, I charge industry average based on my experience. That starts at 10 cents per word and works its way up to 25 cents per word, depending on the complexity of the article. While those prices might seem high, I can personally guarantee that people will pay them if you’re good enough.
I’m not just good enough. I’m fucking great.
But I wasn’t always this good. Once upon a time, I worked for content mill fees. The first client I got to pay me 2 cents per word, I rejoiced like a fool. Two cents per word!!! I only had to write 50 articles a week to live! So I wrote until my fingers bled and I was thrilled at the fact that I could live on my writing. After all, I was getting exposure! I had clips!
Anyone who has ever tried to break into freelancing before, you probably know how precious clips are. To get clients, you need to show you have published articles on websites. That’s probably why so many people are willing to write for free to get those clips.
But you all need to stop. You ruin your credibility and cut yourself off at the knees when you work for sites that aren’t known to pay people for their work. “A Huffington Post author applied for this job?” The client will say. “That means they’re good, and they’re willing to work for peanuts!”
Is that the reputation you want?
The big companies that do this, Huffington Post included, piss me the hell off. These people are raking in billions of dollars in content views and affiliate sales every year, while the people the write that content get nothing.
Oh, not nothing. I forgot…they get exposure. But did you know you can get exposure without lining someone else’s pockets? Here are some tips on how to do it.
#1 – Start your own website and post your writing samples. You all might notice that I have a page on this site called “Essa’s Writing Samples”. There, I link to a bunch of internal pages I created, covering a large variety of topics. These articles came about when I got scammed on a job. To prevent the scammer from using my original work, I posted it all first. In short, I made lemons of lemonade.
Now, when I’m applying for a new job, regardless of subject, I always have a link to something relevant. I own all the rights, so I can resell the articles if I want. As I’ve always said, never give up your rights in exchange for nothing. That’s just stupid. If someone wants the rights to post your work, they should offer something more than exposure. You can get that yourself by creating your own writing sample page.
#2 – Don’t underestimate your blog, but don’t turn it into a marketing page either. I’ve never really seen Essa on Everything as a moneymaker. That’s why I don’t try very hard to stay professional and PC in my articles. On Essa on Everything, I write for the fun of it. I let myself go and the passion shows through in my writing. It isn’t exactly PG-13. I don’t try to make it that way.
But this blog had gotten me more clients than any completed application. From my “Passion of the Christ” article, I got a movie reviewing job that has lasted at least two years and has led to other work. From my article where I wrote an algorithm to keep myself from drunkenly purchasing things on Amazon, I got a job writing tech articles with a high-profile software company and I sold the algorithm. I never expected to make money on either of these articles. I just wrote what I was passionate about and people responded. I didn’t turn my page into an advertising page. If I had, I would have concentrated on staying PG and none of it would have worked out the way it did.
#3 – Write a book. KDP makes it so anyone can publish a book these days, but not a lot of people realize that. One of my biggest selling points in ghostwriting is how many books I’ve published, their status as bestsellers and how many good reviews they’ve gotten. While you might not hit bestseller status on Amazon with a book, it is a good way to show you understand ghostwriting.
People, you do not need to work for free. Breaking into freelancing is hard, but if you’re willing to work hard and pay your dues, you’ll find your niche. When I started, I expected to be writing dating tips and product reviews for a penny a word. Over the years, I’ve learned that my niche areas are sex and tech, for a much higher amount. They’re very different, but they both pay high and despite what people may think, clients are willing to pay a premium price for premium content.
Google has changed. Their algorithm now rewards page rank based on article quality, and not quantity. That means those keyword stuffers working for peanuts will soon be out of business. So stop working for free. If you think you’re good enough to write for a living, then expect people to pay for it. If you don’t want to get paid for you work, might I suggest working for a non-profit instead?