If you’re a fledgling writer trying to jump start your audience base, or even a mature writer trying to break into a different arena, there’s few words your target audience wants to hear more than the word ‘Free’.
Giving your writing away with no strings attached can be an incredibly powerful strategy, when you stop to think about it. It requires a minimum amount of risk on their part, since they don’t have to balance potential money lost versus potential gain. That pause, or hiccup, in their evaluation of your writing automatically predisposes them against you. Offering your writing for free eliminates the loss/gain mentality and lets them dwell more on your strengths rather than your weakness’s, and makes them much more willing to take a chance on you. If you have good product and give away enough writing so as to build up a loyal fan base, you now have a ready made megaphone for the writings you want to start charging for, along with, hopefully, several writing streams who appreciate your good work and are more willing to pay for it now that you’re established.
By giving your writing away you establish yourself as a writer with such an overabundance of talent you can afford to gift your writings away. This reputation paradoxically keeps people coming back for more, even if they have to pay money for your other books or take the time to subscribe to your newsletter.
By giving your writing away you create a human connection with your audience. You show that you aren’t just after their money, that you honestly want to speak to them, and encourage them to respond to your genuine human-ness. They’ll keep coming back for that connection, just because we humans want be around that level of passion.
Giving your writings away can let you begin effectively communicating in much less time that slogging your way through rejection after rejection looking for someone willing to take a chance and pay you, but there are a couple caveats and distinctions you need to understand before you jump right in.
First, when you advertise using the word free you will attract a certain percentage of people who just want ‘no cost’, and who no matter how brilliantly you write will not pay anything at all when you do start charging. Some newspapers are on a totally volunteer basis and won’t pay you when you do switch over, no matter how often you’ve written for them. As long as you understand this and make your total audience base large enough, it shouldn’t take too large a chunk out of your readership. Of course, even after you start charging, you can and should still write for free. Giving of the fruits of your labor is good for the soul.
Second, your writing needs to actually be good for this to work. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because it’s free, they’re going to accept any old thing that gets submitted in their general direction. Editors, bloggers, and business’s all have standards and reputations to maintain. Once they accept your work, it now reflects not only on you the writer but also now on them. You don’t have to write like John Updike, but if you keep getting rejection after rejection, take a moment and honestly evaluate your work. Look for where you as a writer can improve your craft.
Lastly, you must be genuine. Folks can spot a con a mile away, and if you give just so that later you may receive, the hairs on the backs of their arms will eventually prickle. They’ll still take your free stuff, but once you want to start charging they’ll back way off, because you’ve lost that human connection with them. Remember, human-ness is what you’re going for; creating real, memorable connections that will last. Fail in this, and you’ve just sabotaged yourself over the long term. Succeed, and you’ll see the effects for a very, very long time indeed.
Begin to hold your hands wide open, daring to let your writing go where it will and you’ll find unexpected blessings returning to you, in ways so fantastic you need to experience them to believe! Don’t believe me? Leave a comment and we’ll talk about it…have a story about the power of free for your own writing? Let me know!