In the world of writing, do or do not, there is no try. Either get paid a big chunk of cash that makes it worth your while or do it for free.
Write for what you are worth or give it away but never send the message that your work is cheap and your time worthless.
Getting stuck in the middle just shows that you have no idea what you are doing. Publications that pay but offer a pittance (less than 12p a word) are either ripping you off or don’t know what they are doing. Get paid or go home.
There is always more cash than they admit
When a company pays you for writing, they do so because they themselves are getting paid somehow. If they are unwilling or unable to pay you a better hourly wage than McDonlands, then either they are incompetent and can’t capitalise on your work or you they are hoping you are too stupid to realise they just ripped you off.
You average 30p fashion magazine can afford to pay £25 for a hundred word letter. If they can, surely any publication making money from your writing can afford to at least match that. When they can’t afford to keep up, it means the publications is badly run or, and this is often the case, you are being taken advantage of.
Sites like The Huffington Post could afford to pay writers a living wage but they offer only the exposure writing for them brings. That’s still better than writing for too little. At least they can offer exposure.
When you write for too little money, you are signalling to the publishing community that your work is not worth basic minimum wage.
When to write for free?
Some publications actually don’t have any money. Usually, because they are a hobby project. For outfits like that, it is sometimes okay to write for free. Even then the only reason to write for free is that you really want to. Maybe it strokes your ego, maybe you really, really need the attention. Whatever – I’m not judging you – write for free in those cases.
If someone else is getting paid because of your free work – what are you doing? If you decided that you just want to do a kindness and support someone by writing for free – that’s your call. Just be sure that you want to do someone else’s job for them.
Why would you want to work hard on writing something so someone else can earn a profit? Tell them to pay up, or at least offer you a 50:50 share of the ad revenue and see what happens. If they know what they are doing, paying you a living wage is cheaper.
Write for free if you want but never, ever write for peanuts. It is a lie that you need to start small and ern your way up. Anyone who tells you that is a predator that sees you as their next meal.
Anything less than £12 per hour of your time sends the message that you are cheap worthless and your work too. Good luck getting paid once that reputation settles in.