Writing for Free vs. Getting Paid for Your Work

In the world of creativity, many writers – of any and all genres – have to fight tooth and nail to squeeze money out of companies who don’t “budget for content.” It’s frustrating and, most of the time, it devalues the very hard and very real work that writers do. When it comes to sex writing, this is one of those constant problems that can leave some writers demoralized and dejected.

Because so many of us blog about our personal sex lives or the sexy fantasies in our head without ever receiving compensation for our time and effort, some companies think we should do the same for them. “In your free time” or “the writing you do for fun” gets bandied about. Sure, in all that “spare time” I have, I’ll whip out a few hundred words for you.

Look, I love to write. I wouldn’t have dropped an entire other career to do it if I didn’t have some amount of passion for it. I wouldn’t spend hours working on my own personal sex blogs (four!) if I didn’t love what I do. But let’s be clear: writing is work. It requires effort. By the end of the day (like today), I’ve written three articles on real estate, one on insurance, and four on sex. My brain and my fingers are tired.

So yes, I believe in paying sex writers for their sexy and not-so-sexy words. But that doesn’t mean writing for free doesn’t have its place.

Getting Paid to Write About Sex

Anyone who considers writing their career – or their future career – has to think about money. Yes, even if it’s part-time. How much will you accept? How much will you charge? Are you willing to negotiate? What you probably shouldn’t have to think is, “Will this exposure lead to a bigger payday?” The answer is no. Maybe not as strong as a “Hell fuck no” but definitely (probably) never. I can’t say it’s impossible. Getting struck by lightning is possible, too, but I’m not betting on that happening, either.

The bigger the company approaching you for content, the more you should expect payment in return for your work. I know really small sex toy companies like Kink Craft and Godemiche (full disclosure: I’ve written for both), who are two-person operations and they pay their writers. If they can pay, so should bigger companies with bigger budgets and more staff. You’re not asking too much if you expect to get paid.

Sometimes You Have to Ask

When a website (not your own) with a product, service, or advertising to sell wants to use content created by someone else, compensation should be part of the discussion. One of the first questions I ask after “How many words” and “Do you want me to pitch ideas” is “What compensation is being offered?” Some (it can feel like most) companies say they won’t pay. At that point, I say, “Thank you so much for the opportunity but I will be unable to write for you at this time.”

Could I say, “I can’t fucking believe this shit! What do you mean you don’t pay your writers?!” Of course I could. I might even think it. But unless the other person becomes derogatory, I walk away as a professional. Why? Because I am a professional, and I want them to see me as one. Someone else (sadly) will take exposure as payment but if I want to be treated like a professional writer, I’m going to act like one. And frankly, you never know when that company might approach you with an offer of payment in the future. I’d much rather they remember me without a bad taste in their mouth.

On Writing for Free

Writing for free gets a bad rap. Some writers absolutely refuse to consider doing any work for a site not their own without payment. If that’s how they feel, cool. I take a slightly different approach. While I’m always looking to get paid for my work, I also want to build strong relationships within the sex writing community. No, this doesn’t mean I let a sex toy company use my writing for nothing, especially if I had to pitch the idea, do the research, and spend the time writing it. But yes, I can and do write for free…sometimes.

If you can’t imagine under what circumstances you’d write for free, consider this:

  • Another personal sex blog that morphed into a business wants to amplify positive information on different topics but doesn’t have the skills or time to do so. I just sent in a guest post to a blogger just like this.
  • A friend and sex blogger who kindly promotes my work and podcasts to her own followers asked me to guest blog for her. I couldn’t say yes fast enough.
  • A website written by someone I admire with an audience I’d love to get in front of (figuratively, of course) offers random guest post opportunities. Sign me up!

My willingness to write for free happens for two reasons: I like, know, enjoy the website or person behind the website and I see some small benefit for myself. Does this mean I gain thousands of views or followers (ya know, all that exposure we’re usually promised?) from the deal? Not at all. I lend my voice and perspective to a website or person I believe in. At the same time, I am given the chance to get in front of an audience not my own.

Being Part of Something Bigger

The other time you’ll catch me writing for free, and it is rare, is if I believe in the project and the mission. I want to work with them or their project because it’s meaningful to me and I think I can help. Yes, I assume I’ll get my name in front of new people that don’t know me yet but that’s not my driving force. I want to be part of something bigger than myself.

These opportunities are rare. People who care about things like compensation often want to offer something. I don’t mind volunteering (because I can and yes, I recognize my own privilege) and I’d rather they put the money back into the site or pay another writer. After Eroticon last year, I had this conversation with Molly Moore about goals she had for the Eroticon website. We haven’t worked it out yet because we’re both going in too many directions, but I put the offer out there, and meant it. I believe so strongly in the mission of Eroticon that I’m willing to donate my time to help in some small way.

Should You Write for Free or Demand Payment?

That’s a lot to take in, I know. And if you’re just starting out, it can be hard to imagine the circumstances where you don’t need the money or would work for free. Not everyone feels that way, either. That’s okay. All I want to make sure you understand is that payment should absolutely be part of most discussions you have about content. But that writing for free isn’t always the awful, evil thing you may have been told it is.

When it’s a choice you’re making and not one being thrust upon you, you can decide for yourself what to do. When you know a company will gain an audience, views, and ultimately sales from your work, yes, you should expect payment for that. Getting paid to write doesn’t make your writing any less creative or necessary. Writing for free doesn’t mean you’re selling out. As with all things, you have to find what works for you and the balance between the two that feels right.

Kayla Lords

Kayla Lords is a freelance sex writer, podcaster, blogger, all-around sex content creating human, and she really likes creating content. As a writer, she focuses on sex and kink primarily on BDSM and power exchange. She works with private clients to write their content and manage their social media, while also co-hosting two podcasts, running a YouTube channel, and managing multiple blogs. Let's just say, she stays busy and wants to keep it that way. Kayla is an international speaker and an award-winning sex blogger. She believes we are stronger together as a community than we are isolated and apart. We all deserve to get paid for the work we do, but until we understand our cumulative power, we'll all wonder if we're "the only one" doing this smutlancing thing.

2 Responses

  1. Zara Smith says:

    I just stumbled across this article today when I have offered to be involved in a project which will mean writing for free and it’s the second time this month I will be doing that. I figure that the project is worthy and as a writer starting out in this field a little bit of exposure can’t hurt. In the future though I’d like to think I can charge for most projects. Thank-you for this post it’s only the second I’ve read and I’ve subscribed already. I may even share one of your posts for SoSs.

    • Kayla Lords says:

      Your contributions to the project will make for good examples of what you’ve done in the past for future writing jobs – which is definitely a way that writing for free can pay off later. 🙂

      So glad you found the website, and thanks for subscribing! 🙂

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