Do non-paying gigs have value for new writers? (Reprise)

By Katharine Swan On Monday, December 26, 2005 At 4:37 PM


About a week ago I wrote about whether new writers should commit to non-paying gigs for "exposure." This week, WritersWeekly.com ran several pieces that I thought were related to my own posting.

WritersWeekly.com runs a weekly e-zine for freelance writers, which includes the weekly column Whispers and Warnings. Christmas week, one warning dealt with a publication that is posting ads for paid writing gigs, and sending emails offering non-paying writing gigs in response to the letters of interest that they receive. This bait and switch type of advertising was made illegal in retail years ago - stores were taking advantage of people by advertising something really cheap, but when you walked into the store all set to buy your new whatever, they (deliberately) didn't have the cheap one available and instead sold you the expensive one. They got you hooked and then changed the rules, and that is exactly what Sole Proprieter Magazine is doing. Angela Hoy, the woman who publishes WritersWeekly.com, posted all of her correspondence with this publication, as well as that of other writers who wrote in to complain about the publication. I recommend reading it, particularly the responses from Sole Proprieter Magazine - it's appalling that anyone claiming to be a professional could write such juvenile-sounding emails.

There was another warning on WritersWeekly.com about a publication that was posting ads for paid writing gigs, yet having no intention of paying their writers. Again, Angela Hoy posts all of her correspondence with the publication. Infuriatingly, the spokesman of the company justifies not paying writers because he says he receives so many writers willing - nay, eager - to work for nothing, simply for the honor of being published. I implore the writers that happen across my blog - do not fall for this type of scam! Getting published is NOT worth working for free! As I said in my previous post, you can easily find low paying gigs that will give you exposure and a paycheck. Obviously you won't break into the top magazines without experience, but that doesn't mean that you have to work for free!

Another article on WritersWeekly.com, "Should You Consent to an Editing Test?", warns writers of another method of scamming writers. Often when you apply for a writing or editing job, the employer will request one or more writing samples. That seems fine to me - just send a link or a scan of something else you've had published. However, sometimes employers will request a writing sample written to their specifications, or an editing test that they provide. As David H. Levin, the writer of the article on WritersWeekly.com, says, it could be an attempt to get you to write or edit their material for free. I'd be wary of ever writing or editing material to a prospective employer's specifications. Even if the gig is legitimate, if you don't get the gig you'll have wasted all the time it took to write the sample or take the editing test for them. And if it's not legitimate, you've handed over your work for free. At the very least, if a prospective employer asks you for a custom writing sample or requests that you take an editing test, ask questions. If they are not willing to answer your questions or provide more information, I'd say their legitimacy is questionable, and you should keep looking for other, more reputable writing gigs.

WritersWeekly.com runs helpful articles and columns like this on a weekly basis. This e-zine is a valuable resource for writers, and I highly recommend checking it when it is published each Wednesday.

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Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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