First piece of advice.
Stop writing for pennies. Just STOP IT.
If your writing has value, why are you giving it away? If you obviously do not value it, why should others?
That being said, getting publishing credits is a good thing when your first starting out. But there comes a point where you must eat and pay the bills. Publishing credits are only good if they can then lead to a paying gig.
Writing is a tough life. There are a lot of ways to make money doing it, but with so many people giving it away for free, it is even more difficult than ever.
I stopped writing for free (and cheap) many years ago. If a writing gig cannot make me money, then I have to ask:
What other benefit is it bringing to me? If I write for a publication and I get no money, will that exposure bring in business to me in another fashion?
Not only that, I ask: Am I spending more money than I’m bringing in to have that gig?
With the change in the industry (publications cutting staff, funds drying up, companies going out of business) my business suffered hugely, as did the businesses of a lot of other writers I know. We’re all starving. So I made the decision to move forward on huge projects (novels) and music (songwriting) and work on shopping those. The novels decision was four years ago, and the songwriting was three.
The last two have been spent in pushing hard meeting people in all those industries and finishing, editing, and producing novels and songs. I’ve been investing in my own future and not waiting on others to recognize my talent.
The writing life is tough. There are no shortcuts. But you must act like you value your output and stop begging others to take your words for free. To do that is called “Standing in Line.” It’s called “Waiting on Someone Else to Validate Your Worth.”
Which brings us to another subject? Publishers and agents. But that’s for another time.