Copywriting – Should You Write For Free?


I’ve been working as a freelance copywriter now for about three years. Over that period I have been frequently contacted by new copywriters asking advice about how to get their fledgling freelance careers off the ground.

One question that I am always asked is whether they should ever do work for free.

Is free work beneficial?

When starting out you immediately find yourself in a Catch 22 – you need to find clients to build up a portfolio, but potential clients want to see your previous work. So how do you get those first few clients?

It is a difficult one, especially if you are coming to freelance copywriting without any specific previous experience. If you have worked as a copywriter within a company or agency, you at least have examples of projects you worked on. But if you are new to the industry, the chances are you have nothing.

So should you work for nothing?

My usual reply is ‘no’.

So have I ever produced work for nothing?


Rather contradictory? Yes, but I have only ever done a freebie under certain circumstances. It looks as though I’m not the only one too as this post by Lorraine Thompson shows –

Copywriters: Should You Write Copy For Free? 5 Cases For Working Without Pay

The only occasions I would consider free work are:

  • As a donation to a charity I support
  • As a barter
  • When it’s a great portfolio enhancing opportunity
  • For friends and family
  • To self promote

But if you are approched for free work and you’re tempted, stop and think about it.

Will it help you? Will your business benefit from it in some way?

Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons otherwise it will be an expensive use of your time – that you won’t get paid for!

Sally Ormond – freelance copywriter

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#1 Nabeel | Create Your First Website on 08.20.10 at 12:36 pm


I think you provided some good reasons to offer your services for free.

Sometimes, it can be used as self promotion and to boost your portfolio. These two I think would be my biggest reasons.


#2 Lorraine on 08.22.10 at 5:34 pm

Hi Sally:

With time and (sometimes painful) experience, the “right reasons” for writing pro bono copy become clearer and clearer.

Thanks for the shout out!

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