A client contacted me last week and offered me some work. She was one of my very first clients, and as a naïve beginner, I accepted a job from her for very little money. She continued to offer me work for slave wages, and I took it because she gushed over my writing and because I felt beholden to her for giving me a great recommendation.

So last week she requested a quote for a writing project. I gave her a fair quote. I think the quote might have given her a stroke (as evidenced by the stilted e-mail reply she sent me.) She probably swore at her computer screen. The terse e-mail she sent back questioned the sizable raise I had given myself.

In her defense, what I did isn’t a nice thing to do to a person. If I relied on a friend to babysit my kids for free, for instance, I would be stunned if she suddenly started demanding money. And not just money, but a LIVING WAGE. However, this woman isn’t my friend. She isn’t family. She is a client. And though I felt bad about refusing her paltry wage, when I realized I’d save more money cutting coupons for an hour than working for her, the answer to her proposal was obvious: no thanks, ma’am.

So, to fledgling and experienced freelancers: pay attention to these freelance writing pitfalls. There are people desperate for cheap labor. They will say some alluring things to get you to write for them for pittance or even nothing. *Avoid these scenarios: They are like sandtraps: you will spend a lot of time working to get out of them.

We can’t pay, but your articles do receive a byline: I read my local paper EVERY DAY and I can’t tell you the name of one reporter. Enough said.

Writing internship possibility: Internships are for college students. Unless the internship offers college credit, there is a good possibility that the business/ organization is just trolling for free labor. Don’t waste hours “gaining experience” without pay when you could be gaining experience with pay.

We can’t pay, but readers can link back to your website: The site you are writing for is not interested in making YOU money. And if the site can’t pay its writers, then it’s probably not a great site to attract potential clients.

As I was browsing the web, I came across quite a few writers who made arguments for writing for free or for far below minimum wage. Some insist that they write because they love to write: it is a hobby, a passion. Never in my life have I come across a person who declared that writing SEO articles about the drawbacks of owning a timeshare is their passion, but to each his own, I guess.

Serious freelancers project their capability and their writing quality through serious (albeit fair) wages. Freelancers who wish to make more than gas money do not settle for sharing advertising revenue on content aggregate sites. You will spend hours writing for pittance, and won’t have time to submit articles to bonafide publications.

I will get off my soap box now and ask what you think. Are there any circumstances where you would write for free? Has anyone found that writing for a content aggregate site (like Suite101 or HubPages) has helped them advance their writing career?

Further Reading:

I Was Sucked into Content Mill Writing

Slave Labor: The New, New-Media Profit Model

 How Much Should a Freelancer Charge?

* I do not include fiction and poetry publications in this rant against writing for free.

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