Should You Ever Write for Free?

Updated on May 5, 2020
Shaunta Grimes profile image

Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is the original Ninja Writer.


Is It Ever Okay Not to Get Paid for Your Writing?

I've been a professional writer for more than twenty years. During that time, I've heard lots of opinions, advice, and angst over whether or not it's okay to write for free or for very little.

If you're just starting out, you may hear that you should never write for free. But, in some instances, money isn't the only consideration.

You might consider whether your work builds community, gives you some sort of tangible reward other than cash, or will lead to paid work at some point.

5 Reasons to Write for Free

1. If You're Writing for a Good Cause

Once word gets around that you're a writer, you may be asked to use your talent for a good cause. You may also find yourself called to offer your services to a group or agency that moves you.

Even if you are an established writer who could command payment for your work, offering your services for free when the cause matters to you helps build readership and goodwill and may give you experience writing for a national market or doing a type of writing you're new to.

Once upon a time, I wrote a weekly column for a feminist magazine aimed at teenage girls and transyouth. I was able to write about a topic, body image, that was important to me for an audience that I continue to be invested in reaching.

That publication is now defunct, but I was happy to contribute without pay.

When evaluating whether or not you want to accept an opportunity to write for free, make sure that you won't be disappointed if it never leads directly to money.

It's important to remember that sometimes connections are not straight forward. It's been a decade, but I still occasionally hear from a reader who remembers me from that feminist publication.

2. When You're Writing to Build an Audience

Writers need to eat, of course. We have bills to pay just like everyone else.

But money doesn't grow on trees.

For writers, money flows from audience.

Sometimes, we're paid directly. We write a book, someone forks over $9.99 for a copy. We write a blog post, someone pays us to put an ad on it. An editor contracts us for work and sends us a check.

The one thing that all of those avenues to a paycheck have in common is readership. If we can prove that we have readers eager to consume our work, then we can convince an editor, a publisher, or an advertiser to pay us to reach those people.

If you have an opportunity to write something that will build your audience, carefully consider if even if you're not offered pay. This often takes the form of guest posting on a website or someone else's blog, or writing for free for a publication that doesn't pay, but does reach readers that you would also like to reach.

3. When You're Learning to Write

Writing is a skill. Like any other skill, you have to practice in order to get better. Having the chance to work with other writers or an editor can also be valuable.

If you have an opportunity to write in a genre or on a platform that's new to you--and you'll get the chance to learn a new skill or work with an editor who will help you learn--you might find that it's worth your time, even if you're not paid for your work.

Think about it like an apprenticeship or an internship.


4. When You're Writing to Build Your Resume

If I ever have the need to let someone know about my writing credentials, I can say that I've written for Huffington Post. Huffpo famously does not pay its writers. For that reason, I don't regularly write for them.

But they are well known and respected and the one or two posts I've written for the Huffington Post, without pay, look good on my resume.

If you're offered an opportunity to write for a publication that will build your resume, consider whether or not that is worth your time.

5. If You're Building Your Catalog

Often, in exchange for the lack of pay a publication will allow you to retain the copyright to your work. That means that you can use what you've written in another way, sometime later.

You might want to republish your work on your own website, where you have ads. Or gather a collection of your work in a book you can sell.

Make sure you understand what exactly you're giving away when you write for free. If someone pays you, they often want to own the work in perpetuity. You can't ever republish it or use it for another purpose.

But if you're not paid, usually they only ask that you allow them to publish it first. Sometimes, they don't even require that. In that case, especially if you're getting some other non-monetary benefit from the work, you might find that it's worth taking advantage of the opportunity.

What about you?

Do you ever write for free?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Gyanendra Mocktan profile image

      gyanendra mocktan 

      14 months ago

      Thank you very much for sharing your insight about writing. It has made me positive. Thank you again.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)