Writers are frequently asked to donate their time and services to various organizations or to individuals. Maybe they're asked to send some free books to a library. Maybe they're asked to write copy for a charity newsletter. Whatever the case may be, the question always comes up, "Should I be donating my services when I could be charging and making money? Will my worth be devalued if I donate?"
When I first started writing, some of the members of my writing community were very vocal about this. "If you ever want to be taken seriously, you shouldn't give anything away," they'd counsel. "You've worked hard, and you deserve to be compensated for what you've done."
This is good advice, and it's certainly true. And yet . . .
I've been in the industry since 2002. In that time, I've had many opportunities to donate, not only books, but editing services. I haven't given every single time I was asked, but I have quite a bit, and I have to tell you something . . . there really is something about that whole "pay it forward" thing, and also casting your bread upon the waters. I've been blessed with help when I've needed it, and I've also picked up paid jobs through contacts made as I've donated. I've seen many of my mentoring clients go on to become published authors, and that's so fantastic, I can't tell ya. Some of these rewards are things I couldn't have purchased with the money I would have been paid if I'd charged money.
Now, I do need to feed my family, so I can't do absolutely everything for free, and that's not fair anyway. My editing clients have helped put a roof over my head, put gas in my car, and paid for my kids' glasses. Money is a super-awesome tool to have, and I'm grateful for it. But I believe that I'm happiest when I look for ways to help others out just a bit, and I believe it's made my career even more fun. You can't buy respect, and you can't buy friends, and I've gained both as I've worked with those who have truly needed my help.
So, should you donate your services? That's a judgment call that only you can make. You'll probably want to take it on a case-by-case basis rather than making a blanket rule. You want to avoid over-committing yourself or being put in situations where someone's taking advantage of you. But I encourage you to consider it for all the sweetness it can bring into your life.