Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Should you Write for Free?

I know many writers who have no problem giving their work away. I'm not talking about those who do it because they really truly have no desire to get paid for their work, I'm talking about those who have the misguided belief that God somehow doesn't approve of them getting paid for something they feel He called them to do. And while there certainly is a time to write or edit for free (or pro bono), I don't make a habit of it. In fact, I'll go so far as to say I don't believe God wants me to make a habit of it.


Glad you asked.

The Bible tells us that God gave us all (and, by the way, in Hebrew, the word "ALL" means ... ALL) gifts and talents. And yes, we should use those gifts and talents to further the Kingdom. Yet, there are many, many writers who believe that because one of their gifts is writing, they should give it away because, you know, it's for God's glory and everything and they just want to "be a blessing."

Hey - it's a noble idea. An honorable idea. But it's no more righteous to give away your writing than it is if you're a plumber and you ... plumb?...for free or if you're a hair dresser and you cut everyone's hair for free or if you're an accountant and you do everyone's taxes at no cost. If you did, you wouldn't be a good steward of the talents and gifts God gave you. You also would probably be living in a cardboard box.

Of course, there are exceptions. If you know a single mom whose three kids have hair the length of Rapunzel because she just can't afford to pay for haircuts, good grief - offer your services for free. Or if someone you know is struggling financially and their sink clogs up and they can't afford to hire a plumber, for Pete's sake, go fix their sink! This is what Christians do.

But...and I insert a huge BUT here ... God gave you gifts and talents to bless you, too. Those gifts were given to you so you can work in order to bless your family. After all, if we ALL gave away our work for free, as stated above, we'd ALL live in cardboard boxes. And I don't know about you, but that just doesn't appeal to me. Plus, you can still bless people with those gifts and talents AND get paid for it (gasp!)

I have to admit, submitting articles and stories to magazines for pay may seem a lot easier than, say, editing an article for a friend. I have definitely had times when I almost feel guilty for charging someone to edit or critique their work. Especially when we get to know our clients, it's difficult to keep business, business. But just as I pay my friend to cut my hair because she's providing me with a service she's skilled in, I should also get paid by a friend to provide a service in which I'm skilled.

You may have never thought about this before, but The Proverbs 31 woman was a working woman. Here's what it says in verse 24: "She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants."

Hmmm. God gave her a gift and she's using it to make garments to SELL. Not give away...SELL. The chapter also tells how wise she is with her money - she buys fields and uses her earnings to plant a vineyard. I'm assuming she SELLS the grapes and wine that comes from that vineyard.

If you're a writer who truly feels called to regularly give away your writing, God bless you. But if you're one who would love to make money for doing something you love to do (and hopefully are good at!) but believe that God wouldn't approve of you getting paid for writing, please prayerfully reconsider.

Don't sell yourself short. If God gave you a gift of writing, and you feel called to write, getting paid might just be how God rewards you for using the talent He gave you.


Nicole O'Dell said...

Amen, Sista! ;)

Jan Cline said...

No, now tell us how you really feel!! Great post. I may have to reconsider a few things. I thought that since I was just starting out, that having something on my resume would help - even if I wasn't getting paid. Thanks for showing us another side to the story.

Lynda Schab said...

Jan, Don't get me wrong. There are definitely reasons to write for free and building a resume' may be one of those reasons. I have given away work for free but only when I felt God was telling me to. The thing about building a resume' is that many publications don't take you seriously if all that's included is stuff you didn't get paid for. But it certainly doesn't hurt to include it - especially if it's really good writing! :-)

Wendy said...

I've read such conflicting advice on this...I'm glad to learn your thoughts.
~ Wendy

Karin said...

Here, here.

I also don't understand the thought process that because I'm a Christian I shouldn't say anything "mean" when critiquing (such as, "that doesn't make sense" or "you should cut that").

I'm willingly taking some low paying jobs right now, but to get the experience.

OH!! Was that YOUR name on the Genesis finalist list??

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

I totally agree with what you are saying. Nothing precludes Christians from getting paid for honest work, even work that brings glory to God. I feel like I'm still trying to find my niche as a writer (it takes some of us longer LOL). I have had some opportunities to write for pay, but haven't felt good about the assignments. Maybe I'm being too picky, but I want to believe in what I'm doing. Sometimes I feel better about giving articles away for free, because at least I've written what was on my heart. Does that make sense?

Lynda Schab said...

Totally makes sense, Sharlyn. Again, you have to follow your heart. And I'm sure when the right opportunity comes along, you'll be saying, "show me the money!" LOL

Matthew Robert Payne said...

Hi Sister

I have had a person prophesy over my life and say that one day I will be a best seller writer. I find not many Christian publishing houses will publish an "unknown" in the Christian world.

At present I have 475 articles published on Ezine articles as Matthew Robert Payne.

I find having 8000 people a month reading what I have written brings me great joy.

The ezine articles have made a prophecy site I run number one on google in the world under the search terms "personal prophecy"

The Lord Jesus has commissioned me to write one article for every verse in the sermon on the mount. I think this will be 111 chapters in a book.

I am going to give the book away as a pdf book.

Today I got $185 for my first article published in a Salvation Army magazine and I am giving that $185 to my soup kitchen that we provide food for the homeless.

On my prophecy site, we do all the prophecies for free, and don't even have a donate money button.

Some Christian prophecy sites charge money and I think that is welcoming bad spirits to prophesy through you.

I admire you, and I pray that you will get a novel published.

One day I will be published, but I love the verse of Jesus which was, "freely you have received freely give."

May you be blessed sister