Thursday, April 19, 2007

will work for free

At the recent Ed2010 Toronto Happy Hour, I was asked about volunteering and writing without getting paid. At some point, every writer and editor feels the pressure and need to work for nothing in order to build up his or her resume. But whether it's money or some other benefit, you should always get something for your time, effort and talent. Here are a few quick thoughts; watch for more on this subject (and about internships) in the coming months.
• Volunteering for a cause or nonprofit organization is a good thing. Getting involved with groups like Ed2010, the National Magazine Awards or your charity of choice gives you an opportunity to learn, network and give back to the community (yes, the magazine industry is a community worth giving back to).

• Writing for free makes sense only if you need the clippings. If you're not getting paid, there needs to be another benefit to doing the work. If you're at the beginning of your career or trying to cover a new beat (say, you're a business writer aching to wax poetic about food), sometimes the only people willing to give you a chance are the ones who don't pay. Advancing your career is a perfectly good substitute for cash.

• Working as an editor for free is an entirely different thing than writing for free. Taking on the editorship of a small independent should exempt you from doing an internship. And it's much better experience.

• Don't do it forever. No matter how much you love it, eventually you'll burn out. Always ask yourself, "What do I get out of it?"

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