Friday, June 18, 2010

Should Writers Blog For Free?

By: Carol Tice
Originally published on Carol's blog at

I was recently asked why, given all the stumping I do about writers standing up for themselves and demanding better pay rates, I'm here blogging for free on Make a Living Writing. And recently I signed on to also blog once a week for the WM Freelance Community.

So I've told writers not to write for $15 a blog, but I write these free blogs. What's up with that? Great question!

I believe blogging for free can be incredibly helpful to the progress of your writing career – or a total waste of your valuable time. It depends on your situation. Here's why I do it:

1. It's a marketing tool. I started blogging because I knew I was going to write several ebooks about the writing business, and I wanted to start building an audience for my products. I can say it's been a big success for that – I've built a substantial list of potential ebook buyers by spreading my blogs through social media and attracting more viewers to my Web site. That led to invites to guest-blog on sites such as About Freelance Writing, which brought more leads.

2. I learn. Having the blog has brought me questions and comments that have really shown me what needs to be in my e-book – I learned what writers want to know about how to break in and earn more. So it's improved my product.

3. It's increased my productivity. I'm writing more now, and not just writing about surety bonds or venture capital or one of the fascinating business topics at which I make the bulk of my living…I'm getting to write about my own thoughts and feelings about the career of writing. And I'm just plain writing more, which means more time spent honing my craft of playing with words. That's going to pay off in a million ways I can't even quantify.

4. It's awakened my passion. I discovered something about myself doing this blog and the WM blog: I LOVE helping other writers write better and earn more! I've been at this for a while, and now realize I really have some expertise to share. And it feels good to know I'm helping other writers navigate this tough marketplace.

5. It helped me write my ebook. Often, as I'm answering a question on my blog, I realize: this needs to be in my ebook! And I go over and add more points to my ebook draft. So the blog has been a way to break down the sort of intimidating task of writing a 50+ page ebook into more manageable chunks.

I think ultimately it depends on the kind of writer you are whether a free blog is worth the time. The key question to ask yourself if you're starting a blog is: Why?

Why are you going to blog for free? What do you hope to accomplish? Maybe you need to hone your writing style, develop your voice, or explore topics to see what niche you want to write in. A free blog's good for all that. Or maybe you have a great expertise niche (I gather tattoos rock) and want to put ads with your blog and make money, and become one of those $100K-blog success stories. Or maybe like me it's primarily a marketing tool.

I think the dynamic of writing your own free blog is completely different from being radically underpaid to write someone else's. The first is your passion project; the second can feel like exploitation.

But have a goal with that free blog, and keep a close eye on the clock. For me, it's a marketing cost, so I try to make sure it doesn't eat my whole day, as my primary business is to find lucrative clients and do their assignments.

One other thing I was asked about is blogging for free for others, and whether that represented "selling out." I think to "sell out," you have to be given money! While it's not selling out, it certainly isn't a smart career move.

Blogging for others should always be for pay, in my view. Sure, plenty of startups and site operators are out there trying to get someone to blog for free for 'experience' on their site. All you have to do is say no. If you have no clips, maybe do it for a week, or a month. But then it's time to get paid.

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