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An editor contacts me to ask if I’d like to write for free

Hi Tim,

Thanks for your reply but we don’t do paid guest blogging.

But I assure you that if you write for us, we will promote your article on our social media profile which will surely be beneficial for you.

Do let me know your thoughts about this.


I don’t think you understand. I have regular columns for Forbes, for The Register, for the Adam Smith Institute. This is how make my living, a good one as it happens. You’re asking the equivalent of going into Greggs and asking for a free pastie: because, you know, you’ll tell people about how lovely a Greggs pastie is.

I have, in the past, written for the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Times, Express, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Philadelphia Enquirer, San Francisco Chronicle and even, yes, for the Daily Sport.

Writing for free on a green website in Scotland is going to give me exposure?


30 thoughts on “An editor contacts me to ask if I’d like to write for free”

  1. Photographers get requests like this all the time: “If you spend your Saturday taking photos of our wedding, we’ll promote you by, um, telling all our friends that you work for nothing.”

  2. I went to the maternity doctor in Manila with the wife the other weekend. Most of the consultancy was me giving her advice on athletic footwear for her kids before she spent 2 mins checking the wife and billed me for 500 peso. Count yourself lucky you’re asked to work only for free. 🙂

  3. Ask him if they pay their Web designers. Ask him if he’s paid to send out such stupid emails.

    I got an email which wasn’t just asking me the same thing but I’m pretty sure (I’ll need to check this) had exactly the same wording. Not the same site, but I wonder if it’s the same guy.

  4. I guess we’ve all written regular buckshee columns for trade papers/magazines on the basis of promoting our brand – either yourself or the organisation you work for. It’s part of getting the name out. But yes, much better to be paid.

  5. My wife has just been threatened with a pay cut for her writing. She’s said that if they cut her pay she’ll stop writing for them. I’m waiting to see if they blink; she won’t.

  6. @Frances Coppola,

    Except it isn’t good for customers. Those low barriers to entry mean that quality product is awash in a sea of free trash (not saying high barriers to entry are guarantors of quality but they do have an overall effect).

    The fetishism of cheap (or “free”) has a lot to answer for.

  7. And there’s always a trade-off between those that write professionally (journalists) but have a superficial understanding of the subject, and the amateur contributor from a specific discipline who knows what he’s talking about.

  8. Not always. There are those that write professionally and know their subject inside-out. Of course a decreasing number of journalists fall into that category because publishers want the cheapest possible, which means sometimes just about meeting the quality threshold. Being able to write correct English, or run a quick plausibility check on purported facts aren’t necessary any longer.

  9. “But you frequently ask for info etc for free Tim. Your latest post being an example.”

    Clearly his readers see enough value in said scribblings to provide information, news tips, etc. Equally clearly, Tim *doesn’t* see enough value in being promoted by Solar Porridge Wog Weekly. Even “free” has a price.

  10. And there’s a big difference between suggesting a couple of things to think about over a virtual beer, and offering to be a long-term consultant for free.

  11. One of the reasons that I stopped translating,
    Must be doing something wrong there bilbaoboy, there’s plenty of money in translation – been making a good living at it myself for nigh on 20 years.

  12. Peter S.

    I gave up over 25 years ago and my comment was about that moment.

    Then in Spain, it was a ruinous way to invest one’s time. Very late payment was the norm, even if they handed you 4 days work on a Friday to be ready for the Monday.

    So say friends used to try and get me to work for free even!

    Even then people working in other countries had better tariffs, but no internet so no real way of working remotely for better rates.

    Have no idea today. The market has changed, the technology even more. Working for the UN and the Eu must be good. An expert must be saleable too.

  13. “Not that I see much output except for ASI and Forbes. You don’t link to them much anymore, or am I just missing it?”

    Tim, I’m surprised by that too.

    For example, I see your Reg articles, but only because I regularly look in there. Is there not value in linking from here? Ie, increased hits on the other portal would presumably add to the perceived value (to the Reg) of that article?

  14. I dunno. It’s two columns a week for El Reg and every day at ASI. So, I sorta guess that people all know that by now.

  15. Tim, sure, I understand.

    I was just thinking that most people probably tend to have a smallish number of usual daily click / links, but will then often follow other links as appropriate?

    As I say, even though I know you do El Reg, I only end up clicking on those because I happen to be “driving through there” anyway. Otherwise, I’d probably not see them.

    Hence, “Timmy elsewhere” on here almost certainly means extra hits / exposure on the other sites – unless it’s distracting on here, or the numbers don’t warrrant it, or maybe you’re simply not fussed..:) That was all?

  16. Bilbaoboy
    Yes, everything has changed. Translation memory software (Trados, DejaVu, etc.) doubles your output, and if you live in a cheap country you can make a good living. I don’t know how long it will all last though.

  17. @Peter, I guess you have a small market with exacting requirements by the balls. I did DE>EN medical and technical, and IT>EN legal, so broader and to some extent shallower markets. The latter paid better. Medical textbook publishers paid the worst.

    It always amazed me that, for example, a car company would spend hundreds of millions developing a new model and then buy low quality translations for the user manual.

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