Why The Huffington Post Refuses to Pay Writers (But You Should Write For Them Anyway)

Jon-Head-Shot-bylineIt’s because they are a bunch of greedy bastards!

At least, that’s the word going around the writing community.

But is it true?

Well, not exactly.

You see, The Huffington Post does pay writers. They have a small group of staff writers who get paid a reasonable salary.

The Huffington Post doesn’t, on the other hand, pay freelance writers, also known as “guest bloggers.” Instead, they offer a byline link at the bottom of the article that looks like this:

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Why would any self-respecting writer work in exchange for a measly little link?

Well… there are lots of reasons. For starters…

Reason #1: You might not deserve to get paid… yet

You’ve heard of college football and basketball, right?

They don’t pay their athletes, and yet talented young men and women line up to play for free, mostly as a chance to prove themselves. Not because they are idiots, but because it’s the only way to earn a multimillion dollar contract as a professional athlete.

In fact, if you look around, just about every profession has some sort of “proving ground” for newcomers. Doctors, for instance, have to go through an internship, followed by a residency, followed by a fellowship. That’s three separate stages where they have to prove themselves!

Thankfully, it’s much easier as a writer. Instead of working 48-hour shifts under immense pressure for measly pay, all we have to do is write a few articles for free.

WhyImage2That’s one of the reasons why so many people happily contribute to The Huffington Post and other sites who don’t pay their writers. It’s the equivalent of a “minor league” or “proving ground” for writers, and if you do good work, you can quickly graduate to paid assignments.

Take Jason Linkins, for instance. He wrote for a Washington, DC news site called DCist for three years before, ironically, getting a paid job as a staff writer for The Huffington Post. In his words:

At no time did it escape me that my contributions to the site were enabling the personal enrichment of the people who ran [the site]. If the time ever came where that arrangement bothered me to the point where I could no longer make those contributions in good faith, I was afforded a fantastic option: I could stop doing it. I could just take my work somewhere else. Put it on my own site, if I liked. And exercising that option would have come at no cost to me.

Obviously, I didn’t stop contributing. Not even after we started paying our editor-in-chief. I kept contributing because it was a very enjoyable way to pass the time, mainly. But it was also an opportunity to hone my skills, get criticism, and earn a readership. Eventually, that “exposure” I received enabled me to earn a living writing for the web.

Ask around, and you’ll find lots of writers with stories like that. Personally, I wrote for free for sites like Copyblogger and Problogger for the same reasons.

And it paid off. Within two years, I started getting offers to become a paid columnist for sites like Forbes, BNet, and Entrepreneur.

To the shock of editors, I also turned down all the offers, though. Here’s why:

Reason #2: Writing for free can actually pay really well

WhyImage3Huh? How is it possible to earn money writing for free?

Well, let’s take another look at an example.

Anne Ricci is a trained nutritionist and dietitian. She’s lived in and traveled to over 40 countries, learning the cooking traditions and secrets of just about every culture.

Obviously an expert, right? She could probably get a paid column somewhere.

But she writes for The Huffington Post for free.

Why?

I don’t know her personally, but I’m guessing she makes more money that way.

On her site, Anne offers a variety of coaching and training programs for women who want to lose weight. For instance, you can book a 90-minute session with her for $127, or you can pay $897 for 12 weeks of intensive coaching.

More money than most nutritionists charge, right?

But I would guess she has all the clients she can handle. Not only because of her qualifications but because The Huffington Post promotes her in exchange for writing for them.

At the bottom of every post she writes, she has a byline like this:

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The blue link at the bottom is a link to her website where Huffington Post readers can learn more about her coaching and training programs. Not only is she getting exposure to thousands of potential customers, but she’s also positioning herself as an expert with her posts.

I used to do the same thing. I wrote about marketing, and I offered my marketing services to businesses at the end of my posts. On average, I earned $7,000 in consulting and training fees from every article.

Not bad for an article I wrote for “free,” eh?

The truth is, though, it’s hardly special. Everyone from graphic designers to copywriters to life coaches are now writing articles for sites like The Huffington Post in exchange for the free publicity. Chances are, you can too, assuming you have something to sell.

And if you don’t?

Well, why not strike out on your own?

Reason #3: It’s a great way to build your own audience

Melissa Fenton is one badass mom. In addition to raising four boys, she also finds time to keep her husband Rick in line, plus writes her own blog for other moms to help them with the joys and tortures of parenting.

But finding an audience for her blog proved a little difficult. One day, though, she had an idea…

Why not spruce up one of her best articles and republish it on The Huffington Post?

Take a look at what happened:

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Over 200,000 likes on Facebook! Holy crap!

And look at the link she sneaked in at the bottom of the post:

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After receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, do you think that post sent some traffic over to her blog and won her some new fans? You betcha.

It’s a great way to grow your own audience, regardless of your following. When I decided to launch my site, BoostBlogTraffic.com, I wrote posts for all of the biggest blogs in the social media space, linking back to my prelaunch page and offering them the chance to subscribe by email.

The result?

The biggest blog launch in history. The site picked up tens of thousands of readers and made over $500,000 in revenue in only the first year. Nowadays, it’s a multimillion dollar business.

And it all started with writing some posts for “free” for other sites.

Have I beaten the point to death by now?

All right, let’s wrap this up…

The Huffington Post Is Not Your Enemy

In fact, it’s a huge opportunity.

To be honest, I’m not really a fan of the site. Not my style.

But if I were a beginning writer?

I would write for them in a heartbeat.

When somebody offers to put you in front of an audience of 120 million monthly visitors, you don’t whine about not getting paid. You seize the opportunity, and you leverage it for all it’s worth.

Standing on your principles and demanding to be paid might feel good, but it’s shortsighted. Like any career, you have to play the long game, even if it means making some sacrifices in the present.

Once you’ve honed your craft, and you’ve built a fan base of your own, you’ll find it’s quite easy to make a comfortable living as a writer.

But for now?

Find the biggest audience you can, and write your heart out.

Maybe that’s The Huffington Post, maybe it’s Forbes, maybe it’s Scary Mommy. Wherever your audience congregates.

At worst, you’ll get knocked around and learn a thing or two. At best, your writing will go viral, and you’ll find book publishers chasing you to give you a book deal.

It’s happened before. It can happen again.

But you’ll never get there by making excuses. You’ll get there by writing.

So, what are you waiting for?

Go for it!

Want a step-by-step guide to writing for The Huffington Post? Click here to download our free strategy guide.

About the Author: Paralyzed from the neck down, Jon Morrow has nevertheless become one of the most successful writers online, reaching over 200 million people with his work and training thousands of beginning writers in the craft.

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