Monday, 28 March 2011

Free Writing

There's been a number of writing jobs appear on the 'net recently. I haven't actively searched any of them out, just stumbled across them on my way through interspace. I'm not going to name them, but they've all seemed interesting and the type of thing I wouldn't mind writing.

Then I had a thought...

You have to apply for all these jobs - send off sample pieces of writing, describe how you'd suit the position, etc etc. Much like you'd have to do with any job. Except none of them are actual 'jobs'. None are paid.

These sites are essentially getting articles for nothing. This is fantastic for them - free staff! If someone writes rubbish, it doesn't matter - don't bother posting it and instead look to the next person. Easy! Some of these positions are for magazine sites. Why should they bother having an actual employed writing staff when people will do it for nothing?

Which made me wonder...

Are we (people wanting to write) being exploited here? Hell, we'll jump through all the hoops placed in front of us to 'work' for these people. What do we get out of it? Our name at the bottom of the article somewhere? Is that enough? Are we so desperate to get something published that we'll accept any opportunity that comes our way?

And then...

Am I not dedicated enough to writing because I question whether it's a good to participate in this kind of thing? Should I really be 'taking advantage' of the 'opportunities' these organisations are handing to me? Sure, it'll get my name out there, but will it really? Does anyone take much notice of who wrote what?


Since all these sites are free to readers (even those that sell physical magazines), I suppose it's not unreasonable for the writers to work for free. But is all this 'freeness' on the internet devaluing the work of authors? I mean, anyone can write stuff and stick it online for the world to read these days. Are 'regular' writers not valued as much anymore?

There are lots of questions (as you may have noticed) and I don't have any answers. I suspect there are lots of opinions, but as for the truth...


  1. The difference between what you write for free on your blog and what you write for free for someone else's website is that you can put the stuff you wrote for someone else's website on your CV and cover letter when you submit your writing to an agent and/or publisher.

    It's the fact that someone besides you has decided that your writing is of a sufficient level of quality. It's the same reason we have academic degrees. You can SAY you're a great computational chemist, but your degree certifies that OTHER PEOPLE say you're a sufficiently decent computational chemist.

    That said, people who expect you to write for their website for free are rubbish.

  2. What you say is true, and exactly the reason why so many people (including me) apply to do it. But if you're writing articles for a 'proper' magazine website whose aim, when it comes down to it, is to make a profit (from advertising on the site or bumping up their physical magazine sales) then I can't help but wonder if there's some exploitation taking place. Your article (or whatever) is taking the place of something an official paid employee would otherwise write. You ought to get something out of the writing other than a note on your CV. Free magazine subscription, bits of free tat, paid trip to somewhere...