You bring up good points — the sad fact of the matter is, there just aren’t very many paying gigs for writers anymore. Meanwhile people are devouring more “content” (i.e., writing) than ever before. The model is simply put, relying on exploitation. While it’s great that you were able to leverage your free work into something paying, that’s not always the case. I’m old enough to have a thick stack of “clips,” but young enough that I’ve never had one of those old-model jobs. I’ve written for free, or for a pittance, for years. It’s not a “foot in the door” to the paying gigs. It’s exploitation. I know it’s not your fault, but that’s what it is.