28 Nov 2016
If you are a freelance writer, there is one question that will always come up: “Should I write for free?”
No doubt you would have heard about various pros and cons of accepting pro-bono work, but you might still be undecided about whether this is the right direction for you.
To help you decide, we have gathered some of the top reasons why you should consider saying ‘yes!’
Tapping into new markets
When considering whether or not to work pro-bono, take into account the beneficial aspect of being able to tap into new markets that could eventually lead to paid work.
For example, if you are a freelance music journalist straight out of school, the likelihood of you writing for Rolling Stone within a week of sending out pitches is pretty much zero, as you have no published music-writing work under your belt.
However, if you broaden your scope a bit and start writing for different music blogs for free, not only will you gain a new potential market but also refine your skills and have relevant writing samples to send out for the industry you’re targeting.
Building a body of work
Having a decent portfolio is a necessity for getting freelance writing gigs. Pro-bono work is easier to come by, and having a long and varied list of published work shows prospective employers your skill and determination.
You have to treat yourself as a brand to be successful in the world of freelance writing, and one way to do that is by creating a strong online presence to showcase your portfolio. This is a lot easier to do when you accept pro-bono work.
Leveraging traffic/ building an audience
One particularly important aspect of pro-bono work is the fact that most gigs allow you to include your name and social media information in your byline, whereas for paid work your name is often hidden under the umbrella of ghostwriting.
And while you may not be getting paid up front for your writing, you are gaining something that is worth more than money in the long run: An audience.
For example, if you are writing movie reviews for free on many platforms, readers who like your style and opinions will go to your website, sign up to your mailing list or follow you on Twitter. And not only will those readers support your future blog – which could lead to your own monetized website – but most editors will be thrilled to take a writer with a strong following over a writer with paid work but no followers. Remember, in the freelancing world, being a ‘no name’ is a sure way to miss out on opportunities, so get your name out there with pro-bono gigs.
It often leads to paid work anyway
While reading the above reasons to consider saying yes to pro-bono work, you may have noticed this often leads to paid employment.
Important aspects of being a successful freelance writer, such as networking, come a lot faster to writers who are open to taking on pro-bono jobs.
For example, if you write an outstanding free article for a company that gets a real audience, another company in the same field might notice that and offer you a well-paid position, as long as your next, exclusive articles are equally good and bring some of that audience to them.
If you manage to write enough articles, you could even end up with a long client list based off a single pro-bono job.
All freelance writers need to start somewhere and often it is pro-bono work where you will be able to flourish, gain experience and most importantly, get paid eventually.
You may hate the idea of giving out your hard work for free, but if it allows you to sharpen your skills, get new contacts and regular paid work in the future, what do you have to lose?