I’ve not found myself in many places in life where people ask me to do something, which I should very much be paid for, for the exposure alone. This is, however, fairly common in the design world, and to a lesser extent for bloggers. While there have only been a handful of times which I was approached and asked to ‘syndicate’ content on this site to another1 , I still find this a decision I have to make on a regular basis. Writing for another site, at the cost of that writing not being on this site.
This isn’t a subject many people talk about in a permanent form — typically choosing to dole out advice around this on Twitter where it is forgotten 5 minutes later — and that’s safe for everyone. But it has always bugged me that this isn’t a topic talked about more on blogs so others may find the information.
A few “daring” readers have written to me asking how and what I think about this stuff — giving away some of your writing for free in hopes that you will get more traffic — and I have tried to respond the best I can. But I have also failed in documenting those thoughts on this site, in a form where people can look it up without having to ask me. Until now.
In short: never give your writing away for free. Even if you don’t make money on your site at the moment, don’t give your writing away for free. One more time, all together now: don’t give your writing away for free.
It’s not that it is easy to sell your writing, it’s that it simply won’t make a difference if you give your writing away, so why not post it on your site. Nothing will change if you go for ‘exposure’, except your work is not all pointing back to you now.
Yes, it was very kind of that other site to offer a full bio, or to say in an intro that this content was originally for your site, and give you a link. We see this all the time, you see this all the time, and when is the last time you clicked through to discover more about that person — to subscribe and begin reading their site? If you are like most people, your answer will be: never.
That’s essentially the traffic you are going after too: none.
The site may be massive with millions of page views, but you won’t see any substantive amount of it. You won’t gain readers worth fragmenting your writing over. You just won’t — and you really should trust me on this.
You know what will happen though? The site which published your content may gain some more readers, and may gain a nice little extra money too. Of course you won’t see those readers or that money, but think of all that exposure. Your name will be known, I mean not to people that may come to read your site, but most certainly to the site you gave away free work to — that’s who will know your name “contact Ben, he gave us free content once.” Isn’t that just all warm and fuzzy feeling?
Instead of doing things for the exposure, do things for the money. Money is always better than exposure, and both cost you your content.
How do you give away content for money when you aren’t known?
Fuck being known. It’s not all that it is cracked up to be. Instead look at the sites you read and find the ones which ask for contributors and see how much they pay. And if that’s enough payment for you, write for them. Sure, you may get rejected here and there, but you aren’t a writer if you aren’t rejected a lot.
Do you ever wonder why I write for The Sweet Setup, or Tools and Toys? Sure Shawn Blanc is friend, but more importantly he pays me cold hard Square Cash to come write there. It’s basically easy money. I make more per post doing that, then I do writing here. It’s really not a hard decision for me.
You can do the same too. And if you do it well enough, you just might get money and exposure. But at the very least, you get money. Money is always better because you can buy things with money. I tried to buy dinner with exposure one time, and it really didn’t go over well. Money always works though.
You might wonder: how do you get time from your spouse to write for money? It’s easy, you use math. You say, ok my website costs me ~$30 to host each month and this site will pay me, say $100, so that leaves me with $70. Turn to your spouse and say: I’ll take you out to dinner when they pay me. That works for me just about every time. Win-win. And here’s another secret: no dinner tastes as good as the dinner which is paid for by writing.
But let’s say you just can’t get your writing in front of a site to pay you for it. Or none of the sites you can find want the kind of stuff you write (non-reviews like opinion pieces, are hard to get paid for unless you are “known” whatever the fuck metric is used to gauge known-ness). If that’s the case, you get exposure in a way that won’t cost you your content.
You copy the link.
You send the link to some people to check out.
Little known fact, if you send me a link on Twitter (unless it is a paper.li link, fuck those) but if you send me a link I will read it. No joke. Without fail, I will read it. And if it is good, I will link to it.
You know how this site got popular? I sent Shawn Blanc a link on Twitter one evening and he posted a link on his site to that article. That’s literally the only reason.
You can do the same. Maybe my one link won’t get you “known”, but I can assure you that a link from any other site than yours, which is telling their readers to read your writing — that will net you actual exposure to new potential readers.
Don’t ever give away your content for exposure.
Always be willing to try and contribute to sites which pay cash.
And never be shy to send people links to things you have written. Most people I know will always click a link if a follower asks them to check it out. And those same people will never mock that person for trying. We all got our start somewhere.
Where’s your start going to be?
Fuck you Business Insider. ↩