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Should Writers Get Paid?

Updated on October 29, 2012
For many, writing is an impulse and a desire.
For many, writing is an impulse and a desire. | Source

Why ask this question at all?

Depending on who you are, this question can evoke some strong reactions. But, it is a worthy point of consideration. Below, I will discuss the situation and add my personal opinions at the very end. So, be sure to read all the way through!

Disclaimer: I work as a freelance writer and have an English degree, so I'm rather biased.

1. They offer something to society.

Literacy, in all forms, is a positive trait for societies. It took us millions of years to develop the ability to write and read language, and we're fortunate to live in a time where many people are considered literate.

Writers, whether of fiction or not, offer their unique perspectives on existence and thought. From something as simple as a newsletter article to a ground-breaking piece of literature, writing is an incredibly valuable service.

Why pay them?

One way to show appreciation of the literary craft is to offer financial recompense. For authors, many write for years without a single penny of income. Publication allows them to earn revenue from their past hard work, but they are rarely paid up-front.

For freelance writers, many other people hire their particular services to do something they would not be able to do as well or at all. Sure, any literate person should be able to write, but not everyone has the critical eye and experience required to make particularly engaging or useful content.

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2. They're performing a job.

Just like plumbers, teachers, and mathematicians, writers offer a specific service. They are often trained through degree programs in a variety of fields, and must study for years to perfect their particular writing style.

For those with natural skill and flourish, that artistry is an additional asset, which can be used to create works of art.

But, even on a basic level, a writer does something like all of the rest of us. They train to master a craft, and use that to help other people communicate more effectively. We can try not to pay our plumbers for offering a service we think we shouldn't need, but that won't keep you from getting sprayed in the face when your pipes pop under the sink.

In our society, we exchange services and products for money or additional products and services. Writing is part of that exchange. If you need blog posts for your website or help with your product manual and hire a writer, you need to pay for their time at a mutually-agreed upon rate.

3. The arts are essential to humanity.

Many writers work in very specific fields that are intentionally empty of artistic flourish and details. For those with the ability to work in more openly creative fields, they are giving back to humanity.

The arts are an essential production of society and humanity. Without them, we tend to lack the deeper skill sets and philosophies required for human growth. I know this sounds a little obtuse for a somewhat simple question of "Should writers be paid," but an appreciation of the craft itself must be obtained.

When you purchase a piece of art or even buy a novel, you provide the means to allow that person to continue on with their artistic endeavors.

We can try to break rates down according to the number of words written (and many contractors do), but that only covers the final, published version. On the path to perfection, writers might go through scores of editions full of revisions, red marks, and changes. There's no way to put an hourly amount on it, otherwise each piece could require thousands to millions of dollars. The only way we can show that we appreciate this work and the author's specific abilities is to fund the path for them to continue on this journey.

"Should I write for free?"

Within the freelance writing world, this question shows up on job boards and forums across the web. Especially when we're breaking into the field, freelance writers wonder whether or not to offer their services free of charge.

There are quite a few different opinions on this, but it requires very careful consideration of the writer and the situation.

Personally, I do not write for free unless:

  1. It is for a cause I support dearly.
  2. It will help develop my portfolio in a clear direction.
  3. It is for the first client in a new aspect of the field.
  4. The work is very minimal, and could build a good rapport for future work.
  5. I'm related to the client.

Often, I do provide my thoughts for free, and I'm always happy to look over a website or review some text to see if it works but I always charge for the writing unless it fits the criteria above.

My Two Cents

As a freelance writer by trade and lover of literature and philosophy by birth, I accept my deep bias towards the thought that writers should be compensated.

Of course, it all depends on the project, the quality of the work, and the writer themself. I might volunteer my services to a specific cause and expect no money to come my way. That's perfectly acceptable. If someone asks me to spend my time and lend my insightful eye on their project, suggest professional-quality changes, and write content, I consider this "doing work." To me, "doing work" means simultaneously creating an invoice to send on over. Just because I can write better than many others doesn't mean that ability should be taken for granted!

And as always, if you want it for free, do it yourself. :)


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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Excellent reflections on why people write. I am perfecting my skills, and soon plan to take my writing to the next level. Your advice is valuable to me and I appreciate your sharing from your experience.

    • rmcleve profile image

      Rachael Cleveland 4 years ago from Woodbridge, VA

      always exploring, I understand and appreciate that! Especially on HubPages, we're quite a mixed breed. Some write for passion, some write for money, and some write for both! I consider myself part of the latter. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I write because I love it. I do not write for money, many do and I applaud their efforts..

    • rmcleve profile image

      Rachael Cleveland 4 years ago from Woodbridge, VA

      mvlucas, exactly! It's a great foot-in-the-door, but so many people begin to send emails and text messages asking for free help if you don't toughen up a bit. Thanks for sharing!

    • mvlucas profile image

      mvlucas 4 years ago from California

      I totally agree. You can write for free when you're first starting out, or under a few other circumstances as you noted, but there comes a time when you need to start charging for your services. Otherwise, people are taking advantage of you and/or you're not letting people know what you're worth.