I get asked to write a fair bit. It’s nice. I’d like to get asked even more often, but the inbox is ticking over, thankfully. I still get a buzz from receiving an email that reads something like: “We’ve seen your stuff, and we like it, and it would be great if you could do something kinda similar for us.” I feel lucky to get those emails every now and then.
Often, though, when you read to the end of one, they boil down to either of the questions in the post title. Will I write for free? Will I write in exchange for a link from your site? Every writer whose name is out there gets these, a lot, even relative small-fry like me.
I’ve been intending, for ages, to write a standard reply. Or, at least, standard-ish; two requests are rarely identical. Now I have and, just to make things nice and transparent, I thought I’d stick my five guidelines up here:
1. If you are a profit-making business, as a general rule I won’t write for free and I won’t write in exchange for a link. If the sum-total of your request boils down to this, and we have zero relationship to date, then my answer is “no way.” I can’t eat a link or live in it, and I don’t really need the exposure. I’m not a celebrity or a brand ambassador, and I don’t want to be either. I’m a professional writer and writers, as they say, can die of exposure. Anyway, people who need to find me can easily do so. I’m on Twitter. I’m on Google+. My name makes it pretty easy to find me on Google. Anyway, your request is reminding me so strongly of this:
Actually, you were asking me to design a logotype which would have taken me a few hours and fifteen years experience. For free. With pie charts. Usually when people don’t ask me to design them a logo, pie charts or website, I, in return, do not ask them to paint my apartment, drive me to the airport, represent me in court or whatever it is they do for a living.
In fact, if this sounds like your request, please don’t email me in the first place. If your business model is such that you need content but can’t afford to pay anyone to create it for you, then your business model sucks. Your email to me is wasting bits, bytes, pixels, your time, and mine.
But there are exceptions. Big ones. We’re only on rule 1, of my 5… so read on.
2. If you want to propose a quid pro quo that has real value, then let’s talk. Say, if you’re looking for a content swap involving my new Smart Phone Traveller’s Guide to… books, then I’m all ears. There’s some amazing money-saving stuff in those, on buying voice SIMs and data deals for travelling to Australia, Canada, and the USA (and more destinations soon). You want some killer content… I want to get these £2 Kindle books promoted… bingo. Or maybe you want to co-promote one of my Tuscany guidebooks? And so on. You get the idea.
These are good reasons to contact me, and if the deal works for both of us, then I’m interested. Payment doesn’t always need to be in cash. This is one of those proper, grown-up, “new economy” deals you hear about.
3. If we have a pre-existing relationship, let’s talk a bit more. Maybe there’s something we can work out. I’ve probably enjoyed writing for you in the past, and always look at a two-sided relationship with the long view. I’m an optimist; there might just be jam tomorrow.
4. If you’re a not-for-profit (a charity, say), let’s talk a bit more. I’m a sucker for a good cause. I give, what I can (including regularly to these two), but it’s also good to do. If I can help, I will.
5. And if you’re already a friend and you are starting a new venture, and think my words can somehow help, then the answer is “yes.” But don’t email me: I’m more of a DM-slash-SMS-slash-GChat person. Also: buy me a drink. This works.
I think that covers most of it. Have I forgotten anything? Do my rules need a tweak? I’m not sure.