Warning: If you’re not a blogger, then you might want to sit this one out.
Please come back tomorrow when I’ll have a fun post up about a cute back-to-school hair style for girls and I’m feeling less salty. If you’re still reading, let’s get it cracking. I want to talk about bloggers and brands who want bloggers to create content for free.
Let me start this off by saying I’ve been blogging since 2006. Yes, you can go back and read through my archives but I should warn you — I didn’t believe in page breaks and paragraphs back then. Anyhow, I blogged for a solid four years without making a dime. No brands, no sponsors, no ads — just me pounding on a keyboard for shits and giggles. It wasn’t until 2010 that I started to earn a paycheck for my writing from BabyCenter. Soon after I began to discover I could actually make a living doing this blogging thing.
And I think I’d be pretty successful at it too, if brands weren’t always trying to get me to create content for free.
As in, no money.
No gift card.
Nothing to help me pay my bills.
Nothing to feed my six kids with.
Nothing to show for the time I spent writing, researching, adding links and assets, taking photos, editing photos, etc.
Nothing to show for the time spent away from my family.
Nothing to show for the sleep that I didn’t get because I was up all night writing, which is what stay-at-home-and-work-from-home-mom bloggers usually do.
Just some lint when I dug in my pockets.
Let me clarify that it definitely isn’t always about the money. There are lots of brands, organizations and causes that I really like and will write about without expecting payment because it’s organic — something I’d naturally do. There are also other brands that I will do stuff for free on occasion, all in hopes that we can build a mutually beneficial relationship in the future. If it’s an event that my family will enjoy, I’ll attend and share with all of my social media channels even if there is no paycheck involved. This is, however, becoming more and more rare. But like I said, it isn’t always about the money.
But then again, it kind of is. I’m an artist. I’m a writer. I’m a blogger. I’m a creative entrepreneur. Pay me for what I’m worth, which is not necessarily a huge following with thousand upon thousands of page views. Pay me because this is a business and it’s the right thing to do. Pay me for what I’ll bring to the table: creativity, authentic storytelling, lovely images, all spoken in a clear voice that people trust because I’ve been doing this for the past eight years. I still have the same people who’ve been reading me since 2006 leave me comments to this day.
That’s called engagement. It’s what brands are desperately clamoring for these days.
This topic has been covered by many other bloggers and I don’t want to beat a dead horse but I recently received an email from a large photo publishing site that just made me want to pull out my trusty bat and start whacking. On the dead horse, not them. Ahem.
Does this sound familiar?
“Occasionally, I’m gifted with the opportunity to reach out when I happen upon a site that wows me…we are smitten with the creativity you bring to life. Our team seeks inspirational, organic posts with a story to tell…we don’t seek a product review or even posts that are ‘all about us’, as you may be used to seeing with companies. Instead, we are hoping this collaboration will become a powerful and engaging resource tool that people see as inspirational. Feel free to send me a preview when the post is almost done. I can help be a second pair of eyes/add in some strong keywords before it’s live. Once it’s perfect, I can send it off to my directors for their thoughts. As hundreds of thousands of eyeballs see our social accounts every day, it’s important that this post is done thoughtfully. Please note that this has a strong social media backing to it, and is in no way tied to a sponsored post.”
All that buttering up to say…no, we ain’t paying you squat.
I wrestled with this one. Their Facebook page has over a million likes. They have about as many Twitter followers. They weren’t kidding when they mentioned the amount of eyeballs would come across my post, which they would share, of course. I could try and be flexible. So I pitched an idea to them which they liked. In the pitch, I asked for a coupon code so I could purchase the necessary items to facilitate my post. They said no, their sponsorship/review team handled that. However, if I signed up for an account with them, I could get a few free prints with their current promotion– would that be enough?
Would that be enough.
In my experience, the brands that have enough faith in me to pay me to create content for them (either on my blog or theirs), they will always come back to continue our business relationship. They’ve invested in me and my site. The brands that want bloggers to do free stuff? They are the hit-it-and-quit-it-type. They’ll get their post today and be gone tomorrow because they’re off searching for more bloggers who will do it for free.
If you are one of those bloggers, I’m not insulting you. I’m not downplaying what you do. We’ve all done it. In the beginning, I did lots of craft projects for nothing but a couple bottles of paint and stencils in return. In the end, I chose not to work with this brand. I wish I could say circumstances such as these were few and far between but that isn’t the truth. I can’t tell you how many of these “opportunities for exposure” come across my inbox.
Exposure doesn’t pay the bills, booboo.
I implore you, dear blogger: know your worth.
If you keep saying yes to working for free, brands are going to keep asking. The sooner you realize that this is a business and the people in this industry are trying to get paid, the better it will be for all of us.