Say Goodbye To Working For Nothing

Doing free work may be necessary on occasion, but most of the time it is counter-productive and totally avoidable. You may also be working for free without even realising it. You need to establish what free work is in terms of a writing career, why you do it, when you need to do it, and when and why you shouldn’t do it.

Free work includes when you:

1. Give away your time for no exchange

2. Provide value to someone for nothing

3. Spend valuable time chasing up responses

4. Provide more than you originally promised (against your will)

5. Waste time on something that will not give you a better future.

Examples include:

1. Writing stories for general submission opportunities over and over again in an attempt to get ‘exposure’.

2. Offering free chapters or free whole books to try to prove to a general audience that you are a 'good writer'.

3. Spending hours on correspondence with potential publishers that leads nowhere.

4. Spending hours interacting with other writers on social media that leads nowhere.

5. Editing and revising work based on others’ input that you don’t really agree with, just in order to get published.

6. Sending editors free samples of work to try to get their attention.

The reason that, as a writer, you need a framework for your career that eliminates free work forever is because once you have spent the hours on any or all of the above, if you made no money or created nothing that would make you money in the future, that time is lost. And as a writer, that time could have been better spent.

For a writer, Time is the basic commodity needed to build a career.

So let’s figure out how not to waste it on things that lead nowhere.

‘But,’ some of you will protest, looking over the above examples, ‘that’s just how it works! I have to submit work everywhere, offer excerpts for free, spend hours on social media etc etc — that’s the only way to get my work to readers! How else am I supposed to build a writing career?’

The first realisation that you must have for real is that you are already in possession of your biggest asset.

Imagine that you owned a piece of land. And you knew by geological survey that beneath that land lay several motherlodes of gold, criss-crossing in glittering rocky threads right under your feet, worth a fortune. Apart from a few digging tools, what would be the primary thing you’d need to get at that lovely gold?


You’d need time — preferably lots of uninterrupted time — to spend mining that gold, right?

So let’s take a serious look at how you can get that time — and how you can stop wasting it on things that leave that gold buried.

When you are doing free work for publishers, you are necessarily not mining your real gold, specifically the kind of gold that could rocket the value of your name and reputation as a writer. These are activities that can make you more and more profitable over time as a writer. They include:

1. Analysing your own work for its innermost themes and patterns.

2. Extrapolating on your own ideas and images to make your own work more powerful and resonant with readers.

3. Engaging with the right people on social media and giving them the right value (in the right amounts).

4. Developing your own community (as opposed to being part of everyone else's).

Some of this looks like unpaid work in the sense t