Every freelancer has experienced it, the offer to be paid in exposure. Too bad exposure doesn’t pay the bills. It’s insulting at the very least and rude at worst. You are a professional providing a service and should be paid for that service.
However, is there ever a time when exposure can play a role in how you’re paid? I think so, but it depends on the exchange and the potential ROI on the exposure. If it will help you land tons of clients, it may be worth it, if it is literally just a byline, then it probably isn’t worth doing something just for the exposure.
Perhaps a reasonable exchange is that you are paid a little less than your normal rate in exchange for significant exposure. Or you receive some of their services in return.
However, if you have been blogging or working to build up your writing portfolio, you’ve probably heard about guest posting which is typically done for free, with the idea of beneficial exposure to both.
Just so you know, this post may contain affiliate links. Meaning I receive commissions for purchases made through those links, at no cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. You can read my disclosure policy for more info.
If you have absolutely no experience in writing for the web, then guest posting can be a great strategy to build your portfolio.
Similarly, if you are trying to build awareness of your website then guest posting on larger sites can be fantastic.
The difference between these two scenarios and working for free is the objective. In the first, you are being given an opportunity to demonstrate that you can, in fact, write well. In the second (as well as the first) you are working to drive traffic back to your website.
Working for free/exposure usually involves a byline but no link back to your website.
Another common theme of those wanting you to do work for “exposure” is they will solicit for workers/writers. They say they are looking to hire them and only once you apply do they ask you to work for free.
Guest posting, on the other hand, is generally understood to be an exchange, I give you content, you give me leads back to my website, credibility, and exposure.
Only if you have absolutely no experience. Chances are you have some experience, even when you think you don’t. While you may have never worked as a freelance writer or whatever career you are pursuing, you likely have extensive transferable skills that demonstrate experience with different aspects of the work.
Before you agree to work for “exposure” think about all of your previous work and see if you don’t have some experience and transferable skills that apply to your current pursuit. If you do then you should receive compensation in the form of more than just “exposure.”
Now, I’m not against exposure be part of the deal. My lowest paying client is my lowest paying because they allow me to link back to my site, my social media, and they promote my work for their site. They promote it through their own social media channels as well as having it republished on bigger sites like The Huffington Post.
Notice, that even though “exposure” is part of the deal, I do still get paid, just at a rate slightly below my usual rate.
Related: How to Set and Negotiate Rates
Exposure is only so good at the business it brings you. Either in the form of new clients or sales. Depending on the “exposure,” it can give you more credibility or authority in your niche allowing you to attract higher paying clients or sell your services at a premium rate.
So before agreeing to be paid in "exposure", make sure you can put a value on that exposure to ensure you are fairly compensated for your work.
Working for just “exposure” when you can’t put any value on that exposure is a sure fire way to end up living out of your car. While a certain amount of exposure is good and can absolutely impact the rate you negotiate, you should typically still be getting paid. If only to ensure the work you do is valued.
Freelance Writing Tools & Resources I Recommend
I use Grammarly as a second pair of eyes to help me clean up and proofread my writing/typing. The best part is that it is free to use. You can install an extension on your web browser and it will check any writing you do online. While there is a paid premium version, you can get by with the free version for a long time. I only recently upgraded. If you want to know more about Grammarly, you can read my review.
Personally, I found the course, 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success extremely helpful to get me started. It breaks everything you need to do, step by step so that by the time you get to pitching for jobs you are prepared and successful. For me, the course paid for itself when I got my first freelance writing job. I now earn between $2,000-$4,000 per month (check out my income reports) with freelance writing.
I used Contena when I was working my 9-5 and getting started freelance writing. It made it easy to find freelance writing jobs to pitch. While it's not a cheap Contena it is definitely worth it if you don't have a ton of time to spend looking for freelance writing jobs to pitch.
Contena pulls together pretty much all of the available freelance writing jobs out there into one place and will even notify you via email of ones in your niche. They also provide an estimate of how much you will make with each job.
Elizabeth Stapleton is the founder and voice behind Less Debt More Wine and ElizabethStapleton.com. She is a Pinterest marketer, online entrepreneur, and recovering attorney whose writing has been featured on Entrepreneur.com, The Huffington Post, The Penny Hoarder, Budgets Are Sexy, Credit Sesame, and Magnify Money. Additionally, she has been quoted in articles on Business Insider, Student Loan Hero, and Nerd Wallet.