Pro Bono: Writing Beyond The Paycheck

Even excellent writers should write for free sometimes.

Whether you’re starting out in the freelance writing world or you’re a seasoned vet, chances are you’re looking for the next high-paying gig — and possibly not finding it. You may lack samples, the drive or just the passion that you used to have for the subjects you constantly write on. While writing for a paycheck is oh-so-sweet, there are also several benefits that come with writing for free, even without the monetary incentive.

Everyone Has To Start Somewhere

It’s hard enough finding a writing gig with clips and samples in tow; imagine trying to land your next client with no talents to show off on paper! By writing for clients or publications that do not pay, you’re able to build a portfolio that will offer a high return on investment once you start looking for paid work.

Several nonprofit organizations, startups, lifestyle blogs and fitness websites are constantly looking for contributors — and often don’t have the budgets to support paying freelancers. Writing for one of these websites, organizations or publications can help you boost your portfolio diversity, as well as make a name writing for some highly trafficked blogs. Later down the road, your name may come up for a permanent position or a paid writing gig.

Enter New Markets

Consider the following scenario: you’re an outdoorsy, adventure-loving writer who idolizes the likes of Thoreau and Muir, and you’d like nothing more than to make a living writing about nature, hiking, mountaineering, backpacking and more. There’s only one problem: you’ve never published anything on this subject before.

Without writing samples on a particular subject, it can be difficult to convince anyone in that industry that you have what it takes to produce content for them. In these cases, it doesn’t hurt to create some writing samples for yourself, focusing on those areas that interest you and in which you’d like to explore paid writing work.

Your Name, Your Writing

Writing pro bono often means that you can control whether or not you’d like to include your byline with the content. Because of this, you are not limited by a company or organization’s desire to only use ghostwriting (so that they may include their own name under the title). Writing for no compensation gives you the freedom to associate your work with your name.

Volunteer Your Skills

Many writers also wish that they could use their powers for good. Much like other volunteer work (planting trees, spending time at soup kitchens, etc.), volunteering your writing skills is a great way to give back to your community or to a cause that means something to you. Many organizations need writers for newsletters, brochures, blogs, and more, and there is rarely a budget to support this.

That’s where you come in.


Looking to get started in pro bono writing? Start with what you know:

  • Check out the blogs that you frequently read and see if they allow contributors. Come ready with a few article ideas (and maybe even a finished piece) to show off your skills.
  • Can’t find a blog that emulates the subject that you want to break into? Start your own blog! Chances are there’s a readership out there looking for exactly that.
  • Check out local organizations or causes that interest you and ask if there’s a place for you on their volunteer team. Let them know what you’ve worked on before (types of content, subject matter, etc.) and how you think you could help their cause.

There is a myriad of benefits that comes with pro bono writing. All you need to do is get started.

Do you contribute pro bono writing to a blog or organization? Tell us your story below!

See Below For More Writing Tips:

Balancing Fun and Writing This Summer
Have Your Cake (And Eat It, Too!): Work-Life Balance Can Be Achieved
Why Freelance Writers Shouldn’t Fear Content Marketplaces