How Christian Writers Can Avoid Exploitation
If you’re a Christian, you want to serve the Lord. Not only from a heart of love for all the Lord has done for you, but also because the Lord commands it in Matthew 28:19-20.
So, if the Lord has given you a heart to write blog posts and books, it’s a good thing. You can use your gifts and abilities to honor the Lord through your writing. It’s a ministry like preaching and teaching.
But there is a dark side to this. There are many people who will gladly exploit you. They want you write free to support and grow their business or ministry. You become a means to their ends, not particularly the greater glory of God. That’s never a happy situation.
What is exploitation? The dictionary defines it as, “The action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.”
If you are a Christian writer, you have a ministry. You don’t have to volunteer your ministry skills just because someone else thinks you should. Paul warned young Timothy about such exploitation in 1 Timothy 5:17-18.
Let me give you an example of what I mean in the Christian blogging world. I’m producing an online course on Content Writing, so I’ve been monitoring some of the sites known for exploiting workers.
I found one where they say they are looking for writers for a new blog dealing with the Christian life. Here’is a paraphrase of their online advertisement reduced to bullet-points:
- Want to reach everyone
- Not paid “to start”
- They say it’s a “great opportunity” (as all requests for free labor do)
In an email, they indicated they were expecting a one-year commitment for no pay.
Since I have three decades of writing and editing experience and started my first Christian blog in 1999, why do offers like this seem like exploitation to me? Because today, low entry-level blogging pay starts at 5 cents per word and goes up substantially from there based upon your skill and experience.
“Reach everyone” is a red flag
It’s a clue these people are clueless about the purpose of a blog. You cannot construct a blog to “reach everyone” for Christ or anyone or anything else. Blogs succeed because they are narrowly focused. They aim at one tiny segment of the population. That’s a major reason there are over 1 billion blogs on the Internet today.
People who start a blog to “meet every need” have failed already. You don’t want to be involved in an enterprise like that, Christian or not. It is blowing “holy” smoke.
They intend to make money –they say they’ll start paying you “later”
That demonstrates to me they probably don’t have a plan. They are not “counting the cost before they build,” (Luke 14:28-30) and that’s a huge spiritual principle to ignore.
Since they have no capital to start paying qualified people from the start, they are freeloading off your skills and try to justify it because it’s “Christian.” Non-Christian “start-ups” try to exploit workers in the same way. But you expect Christians to count the cost in advance and be fair with the people who are supplying the content that will make their blog a success.
Here is another important consideration. If they have no budget to pay writers, it’s unlikely they will be able to pay for site promotion either. That means that even new writers “looking for exposure” won’t be able to use the site to showcase your writing. The site will likely disappear once the domain name expires. It takes money and prayer to have a successful site. Lots of both. Christian sites are abandoned every day for lack of one or the other.
What they offer is not a “great opportunity”
There are needs everywhere so there is opportunity everywhere. Many blogs and magazines pay. As a writer, you should have enough self-esteem and Christ-esteem to know that God wants to help you provide for your family through your writing ministry.
If you are going to write free for a new, unknown site with little or no traffic, then you are better off creating your own site and writing your own blog posts. That way you can build your own writing ministry, not become the victim of someone who wants to exploit you for their own so-called “spiritual” purposes.
Steps To Guard Against Exploitation
Is it okay to volunteer your services? Yes, of course. We are exhorted as Christians to be “rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share (1 Timothy 6:18).
But that is far from opening yourself to exploitation by someone who expects to build a website and earn money off your free services.
Keep in mind, writing services are never free. Your education and experience are the foundation of your ability to write. In addition, time is the most important commodity you have in this life. Paul urges all Christians to “make the most of our time” (Ephesians 5:16). You waste your time when you yoke yourself with some well-meaning but misguided, perhaps inept visionary.
How can Christian writers guard against this exploitation?
- First, know your writing has value. Always write for the income you deserve at your level of expertise. Even new writers with a Christian message should not have to beg for payment.
- Second, there are situations where you may not get cash, but you get payment in kind that recognizes your talents. For example, we do not solicit people to write for free here at CWT. Occasionally, we like guest posts from others, but we have been around about 11 years, have decent traffic, so writers normally get value from the link to their own site which is in their guest post. That’s called Quid quo pro— which is ”something for something.” That can’t happen if the site you’re writing for free has few or no visitors like the case I mentioned above.
- Third, if you do consider writing free, check out the people who may end up exploiting you. If you see the offer is on Craigslist.com, you know it is highly suspect. On the off-chance the work request is legitimate, change places with the person requesting your services. They may ask you questions, but you want to ask them questions too. Lots of questions. View their site. Check their references. Talk to the other site writers. Do all that before you even think about working pro bono.
I’m on record as saying these kinds of “great opportunity” offers should be avoided. But if the Lord has blessed your writing, you may want to pick an established ministry and offer them discounted services or a free monthly post.
If you are inclined to do Christian service in this way, where should you find people and sites that won’t exploit you? In my experience, the best way to find worthy sites is by referral. Ask responsible Christian people you know to recommend a person or site who can use the offering of time and talent you want to make.
The Heart of the Issue
In conclusion, let me say that while blog content writing is a fertile field for exploitation, it’s not the only one. It’s happening in the Christian book publishing world too, and I have written an ebook on that topic.
The real message here is that you have value as a writer. If you are called to write, God can and will prosper you. If you make buckets of money, you can donate large percentages to the ministry of your choice. But don’t become the victim of anyone who wants to exploit your skills and abilities to further their own questionable goals.
Some will spiritualize their work and make you feel guilty if you don’t write at no cost, a penny or two a word, or buy into their “pie-in-the-sky” offer of payment in the future. Flee such people.