Before you say yes to another writing gig, or agree to another pro bono post, stop and think about why you write.
I've started thinking more about why I do things and prioritizing what matters to me. I have a chance at a new start in life, and I'm using this change to focus on things that I think are important and even evaluate some of the writing I do.
As I move forward, I want to know why I write, and make sure there's a purpose for every post I write. Before you decide to move forward with another assignment, stop and think about why you write, and figure out if what you're doing fits into your current priorities and preferences.
Find a Purpose for Each Post
Whether you're a professional blogger or some other freelancer, it makes sense to know that everything you write has a purpose.
Sometimes that purpose is that you need to make rent this month.
When I first started writing, the purpose for everything I wrote was to put food on the table or keep a roof over our heads. I was the primary breadwinner, my then-husband was in school, and we had a young child. I wrote pretty much anything for small amounts of money.
I still have to write to ensure that my son and I are well taken care of, but I make much more per article, and I can pick and choose my clients. Some of my earlier hustle has been lost, but I've still got the drive to make sure my son and I are provided for. And now I have some ability to write other things — things that maybe I'm not paid for.
The other reasons I write, beyond just getting paid, include:
- Helping a cause or organization I believe in
- Providing service to friends or family
- Building up my own properties and business
- Working on partner projects
Sometimes (but not often), I even accept less for my writing because the terms of the gig are so easy. I might be promised long-term work, or I am fortunate enough to be working with someone who will let me write as much or as little as I want, and turn in my work on my own schedule. That kind of flexibility and freedom means a lot to me, especially when it comes with the added bonus of allowing me to pay for something a little more.
I sat down and figured out what my writing priorities should be, and now everything I produce goes toward a goal that matters to me. That goal might be helping a local charity or political organization I believe in, helping my friends or family with things they need, or even working on projects (my own and partner projects) that have the potential to make money down the road.
Not everything I do has to be for the express purpose of putting money in my pocket right now, thanks to the work I've done for 10 years. As you figure out what your goals are you can determine why you write. There's nothing wrong with writing just because you need the money. But if that's your main goal, you need to limit what you do for free until your position changes and you have the freedom to do more work for free.
Writing for Visibility and Prestige
Right now, I'm not fond of writing for visibility and prestige, although I know that's a valid reason to write for free. In fact, if your goal is to grow your reputation as an expert and you feel like writing for a major publication — even if you don't get paid — can be worth it. Many people I know want to be viewed as thought leaders and improve their prestige. Writing for a major publication for free can help them boost their profiles. If that's why you write, find out what you need to do in order to make it happen.
Even if no one reads what you write, you can still have a purpose for everything you write. Many people write for self-fulfillment. They might write because it's cathartic, or because they enjoy writing fiction. I'm always thinking of stories, but when I start writing them down, I'm often dissatisfied. As a result, writing fiction is often frustrating for me. For others, though, it's a labor of love and something that is worth doing.
Next time you are offered a gig, or you sit down to your computer, take a moment to ask why you write — and why you are writing this specific item. Figure out if you're meeting goals and priorities and consider moving on to something else if you aren't getting what you need out of your writing.