Blogging: Why I won’t work for free anymore

Blogging: Why I won't work for free anymore
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.
Sin dólares.
No check.
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.

If you’re a blogger, how do you handle requests for free content? 


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There are 22 comments

  1. Xenia Galaviz

    I read a discussion in a FB group just last week that bloggers were offered one of those lame blog for a chance to win contests and only 1 out of maybe 10 asked for compensation while the other 9 got heated and deleted – and guess what – he got the money. I think most of the time people get scared to ask and the other part of the time they just assume there isn’t a budget and will delete. I can’t stand when bloggers don’t know their worth though – it brings our value down too.

    1. Denise Cortes

      It really does bring down our value as a whole. If there is a possibility a brand is a good fit for me, I will always ask about their budget. It’s better to know right off the bat. But sure, there are lots of emails I just delete right away. But seriously, if you don’t ask, then the answer will always be no, nothing, ZERO.

  2. Donna

    I have a template I use for anything that I’m interested in now. If the product/service isn’t a fit, I will pass but I rarely just delete anymore. It doesn’t always pan out, I sometimes still get a ‘no budget’ reply, or not reply at all, but some actually have written me back at a later date and others come up with money. I’d rather give it a shot — this a business and sales won’t always come to us easily. (I just re-designed the blog so I’m really business-focused anymore. Now that school’s back in session, this is my time to make it happen!)

    1. Denise Cortes

      I agree–look at this like a business because that’s exactly what it is, a business. An email template–thanks for the great tip!

  3. April @ illistyle

    Preach, preacher. I am with you. We have all been there – creating, writing, editing, and submitting posts for free… or almost free. But, much like our 20’s, there comes a point where you have to say, “I am worth so much more than this.” No more skeezy one night stands with brands. Mutually beneficial relationships and partnerships – it’s like the 30’s of blogging. I wonder what the 40’s hold?

    1. Denise Cortes

      I’m in my 40’s now (eek!) so for me, that would be feeling comfortable in my skin, embracing my gifts and most definitely, knowing my worth. *fist bump*

  4. Eva Smith

    Well said! It is so important for bloggers to know their worth. I applaud you for speaking your mind and making sure other bloggers who may not be aware of their worth to value what they do. Bravo!

  5. Mayra

    Love this post! I am with you! I always reply with a proposal so they know I am glad they contacted me, but that I will accept if we can work something out. If not, then that was not for me. God knows what I need and I am not desperate. Right now I am so in peace with that. Thank you for this post.

  6. Hydrangea Hippo - Jennifer Priest

    Right there with you! I try to look at total compensation (exposure, product etc in addtion to money) but even that is harder tocome by. And in the end, “no” is really powerful. Or “no but I would do it for XYZ”. This book is a must-read:

    And no, it’s not an affiliate link, just an organic share of a book and a guy I really like and his philosophy.

    I think we have been brought up to believe the myth that exposure will get you some dream job. Exposure gets you more exposure jobs. But if everyone knew that, the whole house of cards would fall down — this is true in acting, design, craft design, blogging….anything creative where alot of peole are competing for what seem to be few jobs. Keep on fighting the good fight, woman!!!!!

  7. Myrah - Coupon Mamacita

    GREAT POST Denise! If only every single blogger would understand their worth and treat themselves as such. But I do understand, we all go through the learning phase. I get a TON of these types of emails as well, and feel I spend most of my day responding, cause I do respond. I don’t delete. I like to teach them a thing or two before deleting their message.

    1. Denise Cortes

      Sometimes I respond too. But the ones that start out with “Dear xxx” or “Dear Pearmama Blogger”….DELETE. Thanks for stopping by, Myrah!

  8. AlexandraFunFit

    I am so cynical nowadays after 4 years of blogging and getting those “great exposure” offers that I have to talk to myself before responding. But I am polite 99% of the time. Sometimes they really do turn into something. Now when Big Company with Big Money writes and says how they want to “work” with me (translation: I can post their stuff on MY site), I answer back “I’m so glad you want to work with me. I’ll send over our radio sponsorship pricing package. That’s so great you want to work together.” Put the ball back in their cheap ass court.

    1. Denise Cortes

      I always strive to be polite and professional, even when I know once they understand that I am requiring some type of compensation, they will keep scrolling. 🙂

  9. Becky W

    This is a great post! I don’t delete, I usually offer them my rate or I ask what they have in mind. Once I thought it was an email to do it for free, and they came back with more than I normally charge. At that time I raised my rate, so that told me they wanted something more than nothing. 🙂

  10. j. wilson

    Yikes! i get those emails all the time. what irks me most is the implied “we’re doing this for you” rather than them needing us to write. sigh. i haven;t had an offer with a paycheck since 2011 and I’m bummed. I searched and sent and pitched ideas all over town but no bites. I still need to write for my personal blog as at heart I am a writer and a storyteller and while there are no bites on my diy projects I seem to get pinned all over high heaven. I do not do ads, I have done sponsored posts but I no longer respond to emails such as you posted and when sites ask for my high resolution photos I send them an invoice. 😉 cheers!

  11. Anonymous

    I am diligently working on a new blog, and didn’t realize how much hard work it is. I used to write some content for free, but realized it was wasting my life’s energy. Thanks for many great tips. By the way, my Great-Grandmother is Spanish, from Spain. Am I Latino?

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