If you’ve been a freelance writer for a considerable amount of time, then chances are you’ve accumulated a significant amount of articles, posts, etc. whether they’re at a portfolio-quality level or not. Perhaps, every so often, you’ve gone through some of this work and wondered if it could (or should) be updated in terms of not just content, but format. It’s important to consider any potential professional repercussions before you start repurposing your work.
Back from the Beginning
Let’s assume that you’re the sort of writer who retains a copy of most of the things you’ve written, be it professionally or personally. When you began freelance writing, was it from more of a journalistic approach, writing articles for online or print media outlets? If so, you’ve almost certainly signed an agreement stating that the content was then the property of whomever you were writing for.
You’d think, then, that the content you wrote couldn’t be repurposed, and mostly, it can’t. However, you might be able to still reference that content in whatever newer project you’re working on. As for including it in your portfolio, if you were allowed to have a byline, that shouldn’t be a problem, provided you cite it accordingly.
What about content you wrote a long time ago just for the sake of getting your name out there, and that site no longer exists? This is common for freelancers who started out writing articles and posts for websites that paid a small amount for something like every 1,000 pageviews, in addition to that byline.
Take the content you’re considering repurposing and run it through a plagiarism checker. You might find that the content was absorbed into another site (with or without your byline). In a case like that, you could pick and choose some of the more interesting aspects of the content and rewrite the content using that previous work as a rubric of sorts.
However, if you ran the content through a plagiarism checker and found that it was deemed completely unique content, then you might be able to repurpose it in some other way, like taking one of those old SEO articles and making it a blog post. This is still assuming, though, that you didn’t sign a non-disclosure agreement – if you did, it’s better to treat the agreement as perpetually standing.
When in Doubt, Throw It Out
It can be frustrating to find an old piece you’ve written that has almost certainly has been erased from its place on the Internet and know that, with a few tweaks here and there, it could be a great addition to your own blog or website. However, as previously mentioned, sometimes companies take the content that has been submitted to them and place them on other websites down the road. It goes without saying that you should NEVER try repurposing content you wrote for one client to use in work for another client.
So, a good rule to follow, in order to avoid potential problems professionally, is to revisit some of your old content and pick out things that might inspire new content, or just disregard that old content altogether. If you even have the slightest amount of doubt about repurposing content, take that as a sign not to do it. Get as much bylined work as you can, consistently send your best, original work out into the Internet, and you can’t go wrong.
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