Should Writers Be Paid? — WN 041

We hear it all the time: “We can’t afford to pay our writers,” or “Your payment will be exposure and experience!” But is that true? Should you take that unpaid internship, or write for a paid publication for free? Find out in Episode 041 of the Write Now podcast.

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Listen Now: Should Writers Be Paid? — WN 041

Do writers deserve to be paid?

In a word: Yes.

Writing is work (and hard work at that). And hard work deserves fair pay. I don’t think anyone would argue with me about that. So why is writing so de-valued? Why do so many companies and corporations think that they can get away with paying writers in “exposure” or “experience”, or not paying them at all?

It happens all the time.

Just ask Wil Wheaton. Or Harlan Ellison. Or the young writer who received hate mail decrying her audacity to charge $1.99 for her newest ebook.


Tweet in point.

What’s causing this problem?

Part of the problem is the societal belief that:

  • writing is fun
  • writing is easy
  • writing is a “soft” or “throwaway” skill
  • writing is a dying art
  • writing takes no particular cultivation of talent
  • there is no difference between amateur and professional writing
  • everyone took English class in high school and therefore knows how to write well

Some of these beliefs are true. Others are not. But all of them hurt the writing community because they de-value not only the work that we do but the amount of time, dedication, and practice that we have put into honing our craft.

For my part, I believe that everyone can write. By this, I mean I believe that everyone has the innate ability to become an excellent writer if they take the time to practice and develop their craft. That’s a big “if”. In fact, it’s part of the reason that I started this podcast in the first place — I want to help develop you as a writer, and help you become a master at your craft.

However, I do not believe that everyone can write well right out of the gate. It takes time, dedication, and practice to become a good writer. And that’s why I encourage you to write and read every day.

That being said, if you’re a new or aspiring writer, don’t be discouraged. I know you can get there — you just have to be passionate enough to want to put in the time and the work. 🙂

The unpaid (or underpaid) writer.

So if you’re offered an unpaid internship, or a writing gig where the pay is “getting your name out there”, do you take it?

Well, that’s entirely up to you. At one point in my life, I was convinced that money was evil, and that I would never “sell out” to make money from my writing. Then I graduated from college and found out that if you want food, clothing, and shelter, you need to have money. Life is expensive.

Unpaid internships are a huge problem. An unpaid internship is nothing more than a company taking advantage of new college grads and not fairly compensating them for the work they do. A new college graduate can’t begin to pay down their student loan debt with “experience.” They can’t pay their rent with “this great opportunity.”

I also believe that if you are asked to write unpaid and uncompensated for a publication that will be making a profit from your work (whether directly or through advertising revenue), you are being taken advantage of. And that is not okay.

Long story short: writers deserve to be paid. And yes, I feel very strongly about this — and so do many other writers, artists, and creators.

Tweet from Wil Wheaton about getting PAID.

What about you?

Do you get paid to write? Or has earning compensation for your work been a challenge for you? Should writers be paid at all? Let me know your thoughts via my contact page, leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com! 🙂

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Originally published at on May 17, 2016.

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