Should You Write Content For Free?
This is a question I see asked in blogging groups time and time again. Should you write content for free or for ‘exposure’? Unfortunately, it’s often met with a big ‘no’ by the blogging tribes. Arguments for ‘your time is too valuable’ to ‘you should be paid for all the work you do’ are repeated over and over again until you start to feel like you should be getting paid for every little thing you do in your life.
But it’s not that simple.
What Does It Mean To Write Content For Free?
When I talk about writing content for free, I am referring to submitting your content to a site, or writing a blog post for another site, without monetary compensation.
There are several ways this can come about.
A large number of sites have submission policies where you can submit your content to be posted on their site. Some of these sites pay for content, some pay per number of pageviews you receive and others don’t pay at all.
Or you can be approached to guest post on someone else’s site.
As I mentioned earlier, I often hear people saying they would never write for free or that writing for free devalues those who charge for their content. While I do believe this is the case in some circumstances, I don’t believe it’s quite so black and white.
What Writing For Free Can Give You
As a writer, editorial feedback is invaluable. Often when you submit to these sites, they are quite rigorous in how they want their posts presented and written. This can be an opportunity to write under different circumstances. Then, more often than not, you’ll receive some sort of feedback on a post if they choose not to run it. Some sites will even give you ideas for edits and encourage you to resubmit.
These guys know their audience, they know what works and what their readers want. It’s always a great experience learning how to write in different ways, especially if it is a little out of your comfort zone.
Exposure Is Real
No, you can’t pay for your bills with exposure, but you also can’t get advertising for free. And that is pretty much what you’re getting by putting your content on another persons site. You’re being given access to their audience, and are able to put your work in front of them. Seems like free advertising to me.
For this to be of the greatest benefit, you need to ensure the audience you’re writing your submission for is similar to the audience you’re wanting for your own site. There’s no point in submitting a post to Scary Mommy if you’re a food blogger who only posts recipes. Totally different demographics.
In addition, you need to make sure you have your links to your site and full credit to your work on your post.
How many sites have you been to where you see that lovely display of sites they have been ‘featured’ on? How many of those do you think they were paid for? It may not be as many as you may think.
I have a list of sites I’d love to write for and sites I’d love to pitch to one day, and I guarantee I won’t be expecting a payment for all of them. The authority (not to mention the challenge and big push beyond my comfort zone) that comes with publishing on these sites is way more than I could pay for, let alone be paid for.
Influencers often speak at events for free too. This takes a lot more time and effort than writing a post, they are often sharing incredibly valuable information they could more than likely charge for, but they do it for free. Why? Because of the authority that comes with it.
Backlinks from Websites with a Higher Authority
All websites are ranked with a domain authority – in a nutshell, it is a number that symbolises the popularity and influence of the domain (between 0 – 100 and the higher the better). Links to your site from another site with a higher domain authority than yours gives you a boost in SEO – just one of the 250 odd elements Google looks at when searching your site and determining where your posts rank in searches.
So How Do I Maximise My ‘Free’ Content
There are a few ways you can ensure you’re getting a good return on your investment:
Be Sure To Include An Author Profile
Most guest posts and sites that call for content will do this anyway, but don’t assume. Always make it clear that an author bio with a link back to your site is required.
Add Links To Your Site Within Your Post
If you have relevant content you can link to within the post, be sure to do so! Just make sure you’re upfront about it and not trying to ‘sneak’ in links, be very clear that you’d like to put links in the post or read the submission guidelines if you’re submitting to another site. Also be sure the links are completely relevant and add value.
Add a Free Lead Magnet To Your Post
Tools like LeadPages give you code you can embed on any site that will provide a lead magnet and collect emails for your email list. Some sites will even allow you to add a lead magnet to your post because it provides extra value to their readers and it allows you to maximise your return on your time and skill investment.
Ask Yourself ‘What’s in it for me?’
It’s okay to be a little selfish! You need to be getting a benefit from this exchange and if you can’t quite work out what that benefit is beyond ‘free exposure’ then you need to reconsider if it is worth it. What exactly is the exposure you’re getting and to who? Submitting to a site with a 1 million monthly readership of people in your niche? Brilliant. Submitting to a site that gets around 2000 views a month and you’re not even sure what their niche is? Maybe not.
At the end of the day, you need to ensure you’re doing what is best for you. Trust your gut, you’ll know when something doesn’t feel right or you’ll feel like you should be paid for your work. At the same time, be sure to take a full assessment of the situation, ask yourself what is in it for you and don’t cut off all opportunities to write for free purely because some people say you should always be paid.