This thought-piece is prompted by a fabulous post from travel blogger Angie Away on why she won’t work for free (a big thank you to Sara from Belly Rumbles for sharing). It’s a brilliant read and one I suggest that every blogger checks out.
As Angie mentions in her post, many bloggers get loads of emails from companies and PR agencies, asking for free content, promotion or exposure. And Angie is right – every business relationship should be a win-win for BOTH parties.
Early in my blogging life – for more than the first year – I did a lot of work for free because I was new to the game, I was still establishing my voice and audience and I saw it as an opportunity to gain exposure and start creating a portfolio of work. I was winging it, learning as I went and I didn’t have the knowledge and advice that many new bloggers have thanks to all the blog-help websites and brilliant conferences like ProBlogger.
Fact: running a food and travel blog isn’t cheap, and it’s not all freebies and openings.
On top of budgeting for regular outings at cafes and restaurants, here are a some other recurring expenses that come out of my pocket:
- Website hosting / internet usage
- Ingredients and background props
- Courses, seminars and workshops
- Blogging conferences
- Travel and accommodation
I’m sure some think it must be great receiving free products or food (and of course, we all love getting presents) but that’s not where some suggested unpaid work ends. You then need to research recipes, purchase extra ingredients, spend time cooking the dish, styling the shot, taking and editing photos and then researching, writing and editing the piece. Let me tell you, a free packet / bunch of something = time AND money. The same can be said for events, travel or venues – the work isn’t done once you leave, there’s a lot of effort going on behind the scenes.
Sometimes, a brand offering a gift understands this and hats off when they do. This is an excerpt from an email I received recently and it’s statements like this that remind me I’m on the right track when I reconsider all those ‘work for free’ requests.
“Please note that we highly respect both you and your readers and understand that our invitation to discover X does not guarantee coverage in your blog or social media.”
Bravo – totally gets it.
If you want me to work hard creating something, you should damn well pay for it, just like you would any other business or service.
Don’t be hating on me, it’s not all about the money. It’s about being recognised and rewarded for talent and hard work. Most bloggers will tell you they pour countless hours of their spare time into their blogs because it’s a passion, a big love. Now that I’ve been around for a while and have put in the hard yards to build the blog and gain credibility, working for free is no longer an option.
How do you say no?
- Be clear about what you will and won’t accept – your blog, your rules
- Don’t undervalue yourself – know you’re worth. Check out this handy Secret Bloggers’ Business calculator to see what you should be charging
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate! The worst they can say is no
- Get schooled – subscribe to sites like ProBlogger, Brand Meets Blog, Bloggers Bazaare and Sarah Von Bargen who have great blog advice
- Always, always stay true to yourself
My policy is that any gifted product or event / venue invitation will not guarantee blog or social media exposure. It’s as simple as this: if I like something and I feel it is aligned with my blog, I’ll mention it or talk about it. On top of that (and this is SO important) I always disclose when something is sponsored, gifted or I was invited.
What I love about Angie’s post is the suggestion that bloggers stand together:
“If we all agreed, as an industry, not to participate in these ridiculous contests or accept “exposure” as payment, we might actually stop getting these insulting requests and start commanding some respect as an occupation.”
I’m in. And Aretha knows that I’m talking about. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Sock it to me.
Friends, it’s over to you – what are your thoughts on bloggers working for free?