In my experience, the biggest transition from hobbyist to professional writer is not one of achievement but one of attitude. Not merely in our attitude towards our craft, and ourselves, but also the way in which we view opportunity.
When I first started out (feel free to imagine the music from the Hovis ad at this point - Dvorak's "New World" Symphony), anyone who offered to publish my work, or just to let me write something for them, was seized upon in a frenzy unheard of since the shower scene from Psycho. However, wearing a professional hat will very often necessitate looking at opportunities through a lens of, "What's the benefit here?"
The Internet is awash with offers to 'raise your profile' or 'build a portfolio' in lieu of payment, often by magazines that then charge their readers for the privilege of reading all that free work. And yet...and yet sometimes writing for free can pay dividends - whether it's fiction or non-fiction.
It's important to bear in mind that:
- Not everyone is in it for the money and not every creative project can be run on a profitable basis. That's why we have an Arts Council in the UK.
- In an increasingly competitive environment, sometimes getting a free piece out there can not only give you a track record and a publishing credit, it can also give you something to refer other potential editors to. (Which is why, if you do decide to offer a piece of writing for free, it's important not to treat it as a second-best option or to skimp on the editing.)
- Something written for free can garner you valuable feedback, which can help you improve said piece and perhaps rewrite it for a paying market. You may be able to withdraw the original piece from the Internet, but check the terms of any agreement carefully.
Here are three pieces of mine on the Net, now free to read:
Perfect Circle - a sci-fi story about a boy who discovers an unusual talent.
Saturday Night - Joe understands the importance of a rich, inner life.
When you comment, let us know where we can see a piece of your writing.