Don’t Write for Free and Why Links Aren’t that Great

I’m currently in a cash crunch. There’s a bit of a family thing, and we’re watching every penny. Perhaps that’s why today’s email hit home.

People who hire me to write for them get a polished piece. The post or article is to your required length, will be SEO ready for optimization, spelling and grammar are checked. If you agree to pay for my services I will turn my work in on time. I can even share the piece to my network with a reach from a few hundred to as many as 30,000 people depending on the promotion choices.

I’ve been a blogger for seven years, and I have built a reputation as a solid journalist. I don’t write sensationalized crap, I rarely mention Hollywood celebrities, I don’t follow the trend of the day. My fitness advice comes from my 17-year career in the fitness industry through hundreds of hours of certification training and well over 10,000 hours training clients.

So don’t ask me to write for you for free.

Today Gabrielle Frank (@GabrielleFrank), the fitness editor at asked me to write a “fitness confessional” about what it’s like to be a Pilates Instructor in 2015. What is a confessional? I have no idea. I asked about compensation and received the following reply:

Unfortunately, we do not pay our contributors, but we get about 12 million unique views per month. Each author has their own bio page, where they can link off to their website and social media accounts. If a post does well, it could drive a lot of traffic to your site!

Please let me know if you’re still interested!

What she’s really offering me

OK, so I’ve been around the block a few times, let me break this down for you. The 12 million views is for the entire site over a 30-day period. Unless this post sits on the home page for an entire 30 days (it won’t) then I don’t have a chance in heck of my piece getting anywhere near that number of views. It’s likely that it’ll be under 1,000, maybe just a couple of hundred. So this is bait and switch advertising.

The bio page consists of a headshot and a few pithy lines about me on a landing page. Depending on the site, I might be the only person on the landing page, or I might be in a long list of other people who also agreed to write for free. Either way, this page will be buried deep, very few people will ever see it. The link juice I’m hoping for might come from this page or the blog post page (or both) but the page authority will be relatively low, and Google won’t care very much that I got a link on one page buried deep on a large site. It’s also possible they will “no follow” my links — this tells Google specifically not to track it. (I’ve had that happen before too.)

So a few hundred views, a link with little to no value and how exactly do I feed my family?

How they build wealth

Founder and CEO Jason Wachob viewed my LinkedIn page earlier this week. I got a little thrill because 1) I really do like his site and 2) I’m job hunting and was hoping I’d get a request for work. So to get a solicit for a free article was even more of a disappointment given that Wachob had at least glanced at my resume.

Speaking of resume, Wachob is coming out with a book next year entitled “Wellth: How I learned to build a life, not a resume.” I’m sure his book will gleam with nuggets on how to work smarter not harder. If I presented him with this blog post but substituted a different site for his, would he tell me to write the freebie confessional or skip it because it’s not a good value for my goals? (My goals are modest right now, paying rent and eating.)

But creating “wellth” by asking others to forego their “wealth” accumulation for a little link juice smacks me as disingenuous. Jason, I’m sure you’re awesome, and if you ever read this, maybe you’ll cringe a little bit, but I need groceries dude, not a buried link.

I’m using MindBodyGreen as an example because they were the proverbial last straw, but there are thousands (millions?) of sites that do this to writers.

So, I’m saying no more freebies, publicly and loudly. I’m not trying to be a jerk here, but enough is enough. Don’t exploit people by telling them half-truths that only help you. It’s not OK. I believe unpaid work is an ethical issue, and creative types, from interns to writers need to do better. I’m standing up for myself, but also others like me who value what they do. Who’s with me?