Make Money Writing Online: Should You Write for Exposure?

by AlexandriaIngham

Are you being offer the chance to write for exposure, which really means writing for free? It is a common question that those who make money writing online are asked.

People like to get anything and everything for free. We live in a world where most information is available at the drop of a hat, and you can find people all over the world to do a job for 90% of the cost of a company to do it. While you’re trying to make money writing online, you’ve probably run into this problem from time to time. People want you to share your skills with them for free. They claim that you get exposure.

But the question many freelance and hobby writers ask is whether they should actually do this “writing for exposure.” If you speak to some veteran writers, they’ll say an outright no, but I’m in two minds. It really depends on your situation and experience. Here are a few things you might want to consider when you’re asked to write for exposure and not money.

Should you write for free?
Should you write for free?

How Long Have You Been Writing For?

If you're just starting out, you could find that writing for exposure is just what you need to start making money from it.

If you’re just starting your make money writing online journey, then chances are you do need the exposure. You want to get some clips out there, and show your skills. Once you have a few articles with your byline, you can use them to share with prospective paying clients.

Writing for free can help you with the long term goal of making money online through writing. It just depends on where you’re writing, the type of content you’re doing and the exposure you will really get.

However, if you’ve been writing for longer than a year, there are chances that you already have your clips online. They could be on your own blog, through a company newsletter that you created or even on residual writing sites. Wherever they are, they have your name and show off your skills. Do you really need to write for free to gain any more exposure?

Will You Really Get Good Exposure?

Think about the place offering the chance to give your writing some exposure. Is it really going to help you make money writing online?

If you need the clips or think that exposure will still do you some good, then you might want to consider writing for free. It seems like a backwards way to make money writing online, but with some careful selecting it can really help.

However, do your research. You need to learn more about the company offering you this “opportunity.” What is its Google ranking like? Does it have a bad reputation elsewhere? Is it expecting more than just the one piece from you for nothing? What is its reader base like?

These questions will tell you more about the morals of the company, and whether your content there really will help your own writing business. If the company has a very negative reputation, you end up as a writer with a negative reputation by association. It may not completely destroy your writing career, but it could affect it enough that it makes it hard to find good paying clients afterwards.

Googling the company is a great way to find out just how good your exposure from this company will be. You’ll come across some reviews, and maybe even reviews from other writers.

You may also want to go through the company’s blog or other articles posted and research some of the writers. Many will be willing to answer questions to make sure it is a legitimate exposure opportunity, and share the work they gained (if any) afterwards.

Are There Other Benefits to Writing for the Company?

Could you benefit in other ways by writing for free?

This company could be within the niche that you want to break into. No matter how long you have been writing for, there are chances that you have other niches that you want to get into. You just need the clips to make it a success. If you’re one of these writers, do the research above and determine whether this is the perfect place to share your skills and knowledge.

Could you actually gain other benefits?
Could you actually gain other benefits?

Another benefit could be adding a link directly back to your blog. This is known as guest posting, and often the way to build relationships and actually gain exposure. If you’re not getting paid, it’s worth asking about adding a link to somewhere, even if it is your Twitter profile.

Even if you are getting paid, it could be worth asking about linking back to something connected to you to gain more exposure. Most bloggers and companies will be happy to do this. Having the link helps people who have read your post find you elsewhere online easily. It just makes it much simpler for a client to trace back to you, so you really do make money writing online.

A third benefit could be residual income. I’ve had a few businesses contact me offering residual income for my content. This is usually a percentage of the advertisement revenue gained or based on the donations to the site. I have certainly considered some of these, but I’ve looked into the company and considered whether it is a good idea for me at the time.

Saying You’ve Written on a Specific Site

What if you just want to say that you've written for a specific blog, website or business? Is that enough to justify writing for exposure instead of money?

There are certain websites that all writers would like to say they have been published on. It doesn’t matter what niche you write in. This is different type of exposure. It’s the time of exposure that you can put on your own blog and be proud of having there. It’s possible to have the logo of the site on your front page under a “also featured on” or “where you’ve seen me” headline.

There are many writers who write for major news outlets for nothing at all, just so they have the prestigious names on their “where I’ve written” list. It’s not even just about exposure for some, but just about ticking certain publications off their wish-lists of places to write for.

In the end, it really is a personal decision whether to write for exposure. However, you do need to be careful with the site that you choose to “write for exposure” for, because there are plenty of scammers out there. Anything that you do for free needs to help you make money writing online somehow in the future.

Updated: 05/29/2014, AlexandriaIngham
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Digby_Adams on 02/09/2015

I never write for exposure only. There are so many places that I can write that I don't feel this is necessary. I have to say that places like Wizzley and HubPages provide a lot of exposure and the hope for payment.

Mira on 05/30/2014

Oh, I see now. Thank you!

AlexandriaIngham on 05/30/2014

Frank, you do have a very good point.

Mira, residual income is like Wizzley. The income happens afterwards over a period of time. Some people are willing to offer an ad space or will offer a set percentage of the site's profits in return for content.

Mira on 05/30/2014

Frank has a good point there :-)
Nice article, Alexandria. I'm curious about the residual income you mention. How does that work exactly again?

frankbeswick on 05/30/2014

I might write for exposure, by choice, but if some asked me to write for free, for exposure, I would refuse, as it would be most likely someone trying to exploit me.

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