From the moment you start out as a writer, you’re offered two competing messages:
1) Never work for free, it cheapens your work and hurts other artists by lowering expectations and devaluing work.
2) Giving away your work for free (like on a blog, or for a good cause, or for a great opportunity) increases your visibility and your reputation, and will bring you more opportunities in the future.
Both are correct. Both are overstatements. And that, in a nutshell, is the experience of being a writer.
I give away a little work for free every year. I do some pro bono writing for nonprofits and other charity organizations; I help friends with resumes and websites; I do some activism. It is always a worthy investment.
But it has to be an investment: something that will grow, a seed that just needs water. I choose carefully, because time is limited, and working for free is costly. Effectively, I’m paying in to an idea, with the hopes that I’ll reap the rewards: a better world, happier and more successful friends; meaningful progress on issues I care about.
What would you be willing to pay into, if you felt confident you’d get a reward from it?
It’s January 1, 2018, and starting today I’m paying into something I believe in: this website. It’s an investment I’m proud to make.