“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” — Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is right! Giving is a truly amazing thing; however, we need to know when and where to draw the line. People love doing things to help other people; I’m no exception. It’s part of who we are as a race; everyone wants to give and help people without expecting anything in return. We do these things out of the goodness of our hearts and it’s a truly beautiful thing, but we should learn to draw the line between doing good for those in need and wasting our time without compensation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t help those in need. I’m saying when we are doing things for other people we shouldn’t do it for free.
Let me share a quick list of things I’ve been asked to do for free that I’ve asked to be compensated instead. This should give you a better idea of what I’m getting at with this article.
- Articles for a website design company
- Multiple other articles for various brands & companies
- Blogging website for blogger — contacted via business email/site
- SEO optimization on YouTube & websites
- Website creation for small companies
- YouTube video creation and optimization
- Many other things
If you’re a writer doing freelance work on the side, it’s common for most companies to request “trial articles” which is a great way for a company to see how your writing is and if it fits with their brand. The downside of this is, they typically want you to do this writing sample for free. My suggestion, don’t do it for free nine times out of ten. Request a paid trail article to be commissioned, even if it’s for cheap. You should not do anything for free when it comes to your professional career.
This is a complex topic so take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. This article is meant to be aimed at freelancers who are working with multiple different clients; however, I strongly believe it’s a good principle for life in general to find a balance between being walked over and being a dick who asks for money to do every little thing. Hopefully, we can find that nice medium and maybe I’ll give you something to think to think about!
Something I’ve noticed over the past few years when I’ve been freelancing and talking to freelancer friends is that “trial work” isn’t uncommon at all. It’s almost expected of most freelance writers at this point.
Let’s look at a piece I’ve written as part of a “trial contract” as an example. When I was first beginning my freelance work I noticed that the majority of the companies I was looking to do work for were asking me if I would mind doing trial articles. I expressed my discontent in doing trial articles that I’m not being paid for as it’s fairly unprofessional to not pay for the work I’m doing. By doing this the majority of the companies opted to pay me for my work. Out of the companies that I did work for, only two still weren’t willing to pay me for the trial articles they wanted to have done. One company was looking for an 800-word article while the other was looking for a 2,000-word article. What I ended up doing was pointing these two companies to my Medium blog as well as a few other articles I’d written for other companies. They can decide based off of my previous work whether or not they want to hire me or find someone else but I elected not to write fresh articles for them without compensation.
Why Do This?
Allow me to elaborate on this ideology a bit more so I don’t come off as a brat who wants to be paid for every little thing I do. I’m someone who donates a portion of my time and money to charity to help those in need annually. What I’m not too keen on is doing things for free for people and companies who are looking for work to be done but don’t want to pay for it until you’ve written an article or done work specifically for their company. That’s the distinction in my mind between doing good for people and getting thrown under the bus by companies that should be paying you.
There’s nothing wrong with being stubborn with your professional career and not wanting to do things for free when you’re freelancing. It may cause you to lose some gigs but it’s up to you to determine what’s worth it for yourself of course. There’s also nothing wrong with trial articles that aren’t paid but it’s always a much better use of your time if you are getting paid for your work from the start. As with anything in your professional career as a freelancer, it’s totally up to you with how you personally conduct your business interactions with clients and companies.
How To Go About It
It’s not highly difficult to go about asking if someone would be open to the idea of allowing for a paid contract for trial work as opposed to a nonpaid contract. It can be a bit confusing because you’ll want to be sensitive with the way you ask since it is money we’re requesting. As long as you’ll be courteous and kind to any companies you’re talking to for work you’ll find that a majority of companies don’t mind throwing you a bit of money for your time.
I usually start out an email or message by saying that I’m excited they would like to work with me and they enjoy my previous work that I’ve provided links to. I then typically make the request by saying something along the lines of “Instead of doing the trial contract for free, would you mind if we had a set amount or cents per word like a normal contract?” I then usually go on to explain in the same message or email that I’d like to have compensation for my time and then go on to disclose that I wouldn’t mind if instead of $0.12 cents per word we could do $0.09 cents instead or on the other hand instead of $200 for an article to $150 or even $100. Truth is, you have plenty of bargaining power as a freelancer when a company says they like your previous work it gives you the ability to ask for something in return usually. From what I’ve found if you request some form of payment for your time they will almost always give you a bit of compensation for your time as they understand this is what you do for work and they’ll have a budget for you or your job position from the get-go.
If you’re speaking with a company and want to get paid and you’ve already discussed a per article price it’s almost always viable to request compensation. A great example of this is I’m making videos for a client and the contract price per video is set at $300 per video so I went out on a limb and requested compensation for the two trial videos the company requested. They said they’d be happy to do paid trials and instantly offered $250 per trial video when before I’d asked it was going to be free according to our negotiations. However, If they’d shot back and said they’d do $100 for the two trial videos I still would have jumped on it in a second because it’s far more than they’d offered previously. All that matters is you get some form of compensation for your time. It puts more money in your pocket and builds a reputation for you in the companies eyes that you value your time. In future negotiations that will open the door for you to negotiate further later in your relationship with this company.
If you take anything away from this article it should be to value your time and figure out where to draw the line between helping people in need and being seen as a pushover in your professional career. When I first began doing freelancing I didn’t think twice about doing free contracts until a friend of mine talked to me and told me it was always a good practice to ask for compensation because 90% of the time it can happen in some capacity. Next time you’re talking through a job just give it a chance and ask about it. I wish you all the best of luck in your freelancing endeavors!