‘We Would All Be Better Served As Workers If We Refused to Work for Less Than We’re Worth’
Mike Barthel, PhD student and Awl contributor, approaches the should-you-write-for-free question as a labor issue, and argues that there are many instances when writing for free is perfectly fine (i.e., for publications with no money, if you don’t have experience or clips) but one instance when it really isn’t:
If you’re a writer who can make a decent amount of money, because you have before, and you’re offered less than that by someone who can pay you more, it’s up to you to say no. The problem with that, as is always the problem with labor, is that this in absolutely not in your individual and immediate self-interest. It’s a collective action problem! We would all be better served as workers if we refused to work for less than what we’re worth, but that’s not always a decision we can afford to make at the time. Unions exist to take that choice away from us, to force us to think about the collective good, and to pool resources so as to lessen the blow of those momentary decisions.
(For now, most of the writers on our site are unpaid, and you can read about that right here.)