I have a pretty strong opinion about writing for exposure and it is this: you probably shouldn’t do it. I’m speaking as someone who is still trying to make it as a writer, using the skills that I have in that field to pay my bills. I’m not someone who is on top of the mountain of success; I’m still climbing it every day.
As a writer or artist especially, you may be approached at some point to work for free because it will help your career in the future. But here’s the thing: what about your career now? If you start working for free, spending your valuable time and effort and skills on a project, and see no returns, then where will you be? And what if the exposure that you were promised never turns out to exist? It’s hard to measure any actual gains you may receive from these gigs.
There are a few scenarios in which you might want to consider working for no pay (because that’s what “for exposure” means – it’s a fancy way of saying, “I can’t/won’t pay you.”), like guest posts on an established blog or for a major publication with a huge readership. But then, if a major publication is offering you work, definitely ask yourself why they aren’t offering you compensation, too.
More than just a matter of not getting paid now, consider this: agreeing to work for free in the present makes it harder to negotiate better paying jobs in the future. It’s like admitting that writing – your writing, particularly – isn’t worth anything.
Also, if you ask me, it’s just insulting.
Insulting to your own hard work and insulting in that it implies that creative skills are worth nothing. Your hard work isn’t without value. Never forget that.