Should a trainee copywriter work for free?

I received an email this week.

*cue dramatic music in manner of cheesy quiz show*

It talked of an "exciting opportunity," a "fascinating project" that offered me "amazing experience"...

Wow, I thought, that's just what I'm looking for. I continued to read... "potential," "portfolio building," "more opportunities in the pipeline."

Excellent. Finally have chance to be real life writer.

*cue screechy static of record halting abruptly*

Haaaaaang on a minute.

They want me to write for free? Nothing? Nada? They want my copywriting for zero spongolis?

Surely that's not fair...

...Or is it?

As a trainee copywriter can I really expect people to pay me actual hard cash for my work? For my words?

Do I need to just accept that I'll have to beg for titbits of unpaid work, and then go back cap in hand for testimonials, not to mention permission to use my freebies in my pathetic excuse for a portfolio...?

And then what happens next time? Does client A assume I'll always work for free? Do they tell client B I'm easy? What if everyone starts wanting a free bit of me?

How's that for confidence building? There's nothing like thinking your work isn't worth anything! 

And what with all that free writing I won't have any time for marketing myself to find paying clients. Not to mention feeding my family, working, showering etc.

No, no, no, no, no...

Don't get me wrong, I was tempted. It could be something to add to the old portfolio y'know?

But then I thought about it.

I have now spent the best part of a year studying and researching and practising, and reading and practising and studying. I have read a billion blogs via Twitter and chatted to experienced copywriters via email. I have loads of great assignment marks behind me and a tutor to vouch for me.

I do know what I'm doing.

Of COURSE I don't know everything, I know that, but I also don't know nothing!
I've come across copywriters who've walked out of English degrees and decided they can write copy, copywriters who've decided to just give it a go with nothing behind them but "a passion for words" (yawn!)

And good on them...

But if people will pay them, why the hell can't I expect them to pay me? Even a trainee hairdresser gets a fiver for a haircut in our local salon!

But then I came across this amusing infographic.

It made me realise that maybe there is another way. Maybe it shouldn't be an outright no. Maybe it depends for whom I'm working and what I'm doing.

I have loads of friends with fledgling businesses, and start-ups in all sorts of areas, from accounting to interior design to beauty therapy. What if I could use (in a good way obviously!) them to get some experience and gain some confidence? And even better, what if I could make a difference to them at the same time?

Surely that's got to be better than agreeing to do free work for a scamming stranger offering me an "amazing opportunity".

So it's a, "thanks but no thanks to your kind offer."

*cue slightly smug feeling of not letting self be taken advantage of*

What do you think, good idea? Bad idea? 


Find out where it all began: CA - Copywriters Anonymous

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