The question is not should you write for exposure? The real question is why would you write for exposure?
What are you exposing? And, what are you getting? Those are the two questions you need to ask.
A lot of companies make it sound like a golden opportunity. They talk about how many visitors or pageviews they get. They’ll try to sell you on the idea that you’ll get your name in front of thousands of people and you’ll have a byline you can use to lure other clients.
It’s all bogus. Everything they’re telling you is part of a pitch to get free content.
Visitors and pageviews mean nothing to you as a writer. Those are metrics for people who own websites, and therefore, benefit from getting web traffic.
As far as getting your name out… Well, sorry to tell you, but that’s just not how reading on the web works.
Most of us freelance writers would love to hear that people are dropping our names at dinner parties, but they usually aren’t.
Think about the articles you’ve read lately. Were any of them published by popular publications? The Washington Post, The New York Times, Forbes, CNN?
Now, do you remember who wrote those articles? I’ll bet in most cases you don’t. If you’re like a lot of readers, including myself, there are times you read without even looking at the writer’s name.
So ask yourself, if writing for a major publication doesn’t make someone’s name stick in your head, what type of exposure are you going to get from some random little startup that doesn’t have the money to pay you?
But isn’t there a possibility that among those thousands of readers, there could be people who will see your work and hire you?
Yes, there’s a possibility. But it’s so slim you may as well forget about it. I don’t know of any situations, either from personal experience or other writers, where an editor read an article on a non-paying site and reached out to hire the writer for a paid writing job.
And what about the idea that you’ll use bylines from non-paying sites to get high-paying writing jobs?
Most sites that peddle the idea of writing for exposure to get a byline don’t have enough clout to make that byline valuable to you. When you send your resume to seasoned editors with a bunch of links to rinky-dink, non-paying sites, they’re going to know you didn’t get paid or you didn’t get paid very much.
And in some cases, showcasing amateur work will hurt your chances more than if you took a different approach.
But what if it’s a reputable site and all they’re offering you is exposure and a byline?
Then you need to ask yourself why. That sounds a lot like they’re exploiting their position to me. You know…kind of how pimps do.
If you’re going to argue that lack of experience is a valid reason for a big publication to get free writing from a new freelancer, let me rebut that idea immediately.
Being unpublished or inexperienced is not a justification for working unpaid. If your writing is good enough for a company to display it for their audience, it’s good enough for them to pay you.
What it boils down to is that writing for exposure is a clever way to say you’re working for free.
Believe that you’re better than that. Don’t get pimped. Get paid.
Note: There are a few instances when writing for exposure may be worthwhile, such as when you’re discussing your products or services in the article, and stand to gain customers. But this article is just focusing on the general practice of writing for exposure.