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Why You Should Stop Blogging for Free

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Have a seat. Grab a cup of coffee or tea. If it’s happy hour, then by all means grab a cocktail (only if you’re of drinking age in your country 😉 Let’s chat for a few minutes about a topic I know many of us feel strongly about, and could be quite controversial. Anything dealing with money can always be controversial, so why wouldn’t I talk about it?

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I can’t explain how much it annoys me (not beating around the bush here) when bloggers blog for free. Just because a brand sent you a $20 dress, does not mean you owe them a dedicated blog post, a tweet, an Instagram post, Facebook mention and even a pin. Are you crazy? Keep in mind I am not pin-pointing any one blogger or saying your way is wrong and that you should ONLY collaborate with brands if you’re paid, but when it comes to these random unheard of brands and you’re not being paid it’s just so silly and not worth your time, or anyone’s for that matter.

Here’s why:

Your time is worth more than a $20 dress. Let’s be honest. Wouldn’t you rather get three hours of your life back to spend with family, friends, your dog, your significant other? Is a $20 dress worth that time? Abso-freakin-lutely not. This is how you have to weigh your income and what you accept from brands, because if it’s not worth it in the long-run then you really have no business accepting these items and getting into an agreement about what you’re going to post for the brand.

You’re cannobolizing the blogging industry. Yes, you! If you are accepting any and all opportunities for free, you are cannobolizing the blogging industry by setting the standard. If brands know they can get bloggers to blog and post on social media for FREE, brands will continue not having a proper budget for bloggers in their next marketing budget the following year. We need to change that right away, because brands have to understand that print marketing is not going to be as effective as blog marketing. It’s just the way the internet has evolved. The longer you’re doing work for free, the longer brands will choose not to pay bloggers for coverage.

Accepting samples is okay. Most brands do send samples to their PR list. It’s okay to be on a PR list and receive samples, but what I’m saying is you should never be required to do anything or say anything for those samples. They’re samples for you to try, share your honest opinion if you wish to do so and if a brand requires you to write something because they sent you product, then shame on them and you don’t accept the product, unless you 150% know you’re passionate and want to review the products or you know you’ll have a positive review. I know that a lot of businesses start somewhere, and they don’t have the budget to pay bloggers but they also shouldn’t require you to write anything about them in exchange for a few $10 rings which will likely tarnish. 

Tell them to leave you be. Sometimes a PR firm or brand continues to follow up asking when there will be a post or feature. While you want to maintain the relationships in the long run so you continue to receive samples, you have to be honest with yourself and them. If you don’t like a product, tell them so and that you won’t be featuring it anywhere unless they are okay with you bashing it. I have actually told brands to “stop hustling me for coverage” and to leave me be. They back away slowly and never email me again and sometimes that’s okay. Keep in mind that if you’re in this for the long haul (and you want it to be career-worthy) you can’t burn every bridge, but it is okay to burn a bridge here and there in order to stay true to yourself and your morals.

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Don’t get into blogging for free shit. Seriously? Hearing bloggers want to blog because they get free things makes me want to scream into a pillow for five minutes. You want some free makeup so you’re going to magically create a blog that gets recurring traffic? I’ve been blogging since January of 2013 and it is hard work, doesn’t pay off for several years and it’s not willy nilly blog here and there when I want a free lipstick. Half the brands I work with now had to be convinced why they should send me anything ever, even with the social following I’ve acquired over the years. A brand isn’t going to send you products just because you have a blog. There’s so much more to it than that.

Alternatively, don’t get into blogging for the money. You will be quite saddened to know it takes years to make a profit, let alone a true salary you can live off of. I mean, unless you’re a celebrity or a celebrity’s child or something, building a loyal following takes years. Before you can monetize your blog (I wrote a post all about monetization) you need to develop your blog, make sure it’s clean and well designed, user-friendly, and that you actually have a product that’s worth a brand’s time. If five people read your blog, it’s unlikely a brand will work with you in a sponsored collaboration. It’s unlikely they send you product altogether, so you need to be patient and build yourself over time. 

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Be clear in your disclaimer. My disclaimer is located on my Contact page but it explains that I accept PR samples, but I will not guarantee coverage of a product unless we’ve agreed on a sponsored collaboration. 

Know what you want. When you contact brands, be clear and concise in regards to what you’re looking to do. Are you wanting to collaborate once? Do you want to be added to their PR list? Do you want a sponsored (paid) opportunity? What are you wanting? Set the precedent from the first communication.

Blogging is a job. I spend hours taking photos and editing them. Then it takes me hours, sometimes even days, to write content to match the photos. Whether it’s a review of a lipstick line, a travel diary, a recipe, or pairing an outfit together, it doesn’t matter. It is a job whether we want to admit it is or isn’t, and it should be treated as such. It’s my favorite when a brand asks me to pay for their shipping of the product. That’s like my boss asking me to pay for the envelopes I have to use for work. It makes no sense. One brand even tried to have me pay for half the product. I was so aggravated I didn’t even reply to the email because that is preposterous. 

So tell me, what are your thoughts about this topic? I would really love to know in the comments below!

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Disclaimer: We spent a few hours at The London Hotel in West Hollywood, and that’s where these beautiful photos were taken. The last photo is edited for Pinterest, but was provided by Helene from Helene in Between as part of a free collection of stock photos.

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Comments

As a brand-new blogger, I think I really needed to read this. I’m definitely not to the point of receiving products for review, but this definitely made me take a look back at my pre-blog writing (to prepare, I wrote a list of the reasons I wanted to blog). Getting so involved with my blog over the past few weeks kinda made me forget what I’m here for. Reading this definitely put it back in perspective. Thank you!

Great post. I did a post for a company without discussing compensation. Boy did that not end well. They contacted me to do the review. Then once I wrote it and posted it they asked me to remove the part about them reaching out to me to do a review. A couple weeks later I saw a blog on my network did a sponsored post by the same company. Lessons learned.

amen! so many times I’ll flat out say “oh, so you are just wanting free coverage?” It’s not super rude and gets the point across that you can’t just email me a pitch and say oh I don’t have any budget – especially big name brands. of course they see the value or they wouldn’t have taken time to email! I do occasionally do gifted/free posts, but they usually have a purpose! like you said, time is SO important. It’s all we really have – especially when we work other jobs.
elle
Southern Elle Style

Oh my goodness. I NEEDED to read this and I’m SOOOOOO happy you wrote this. I’ve been struggling lately with this. The past 6 months I shifted my focus to fashion blogging and built my Instagram for just fashion. Since then, I’ve been getting sent LOTS of free dresses. The months of June and July, I had to blog and post on all social media accounts for dresses for like 5 different companies. At first getting all the clothes was awesome! But then, It was exhausting and I felt it wasn’t worth my time. Like you mentioned, writing a blog post and posting on my IG, FB, Pinterest and Twitter is NOT WORTH a $20 dress.

Oh and don’t even get me started about companies that make you pay shipping! Learned that one the hard way. Will never partner again. Ridiculous.

One of my goals this month is actually to transition into fashion blogging for money vs. free shit. Question for you; how do you land those opps? I’ve had some success but it seems that not many companies are willing to pay you to post their clothes on your blog. I think I just need to build my following up more. It will come. I’m at over 13K on IG but I feel like these opps only come to bloggers with over 50K. I’m learning so much! LOVED THIS POST. and I’m new to your blog. LOVE IT

GIRL! I so appreciate this post and am so happy you posted it. I completely agree with you and love hearing your thoughts on the topic! xo

Couldn’t have said it better myself!
Just yesterday I got an email saying “I’d love to gift you these $10 earrings for 1 blog post, 2 instagram posts, and 4 other social media posts.” I shook my head and deleted the email.
However, if the request is reasonable, I’ll quickly send a note like: “Thank you for reaching out. Please note that my fees are as follows….” then if they respond, I know they are willing to collaborate the RIGHT way.
xoxo,
Amanda | http://www.TheChambrayBunny.com

SUCH a honest and well written post. Couldn’t agree more. I think it’s important to differentiate between being on a PR list/receiving samples and being sent something “for review”, as you did. SO many companies claim to not have a budget, but THEY DO. They’re just choosing not to allocate those funds to you or the blogging community. And trust me, I know. I’ve been on the other side of influencer marketing for two years now and have seen it first hand.

Found your comment in a blogger’s thread on Facebook and had to come check out this post — Thank you for writing!

This post is so well written! I couldn’t agree more! Now we just need to get all of the companies to see this! Until then, I love the idea of standing up for what we believe!

xo Ashley

I love this post so much! You hit the nail on the head with each and every single point. I just recently started over with blogging (I started back in 2009) and knew that with doing so I would lose a lot of profit. However, I am totally okay with that because I want my blog to represent me. My previous blog sort of lost sight of me because of sponsored posts and the like.

This is the kind of post i’ve been waiting to read. I’m a blogger and a full-time social media manager, I get paid to write on my clients website for SEO purpose. When I get ask to write a blog post for my personal blog on something, people (usually PR) think I’m mad when I say i don’t write it for free. I’m still finding it tricky to ask for money when PR send me samples or a sponsor post link. How do I ask for money? I can happily say to my clients that I write a 500 words blog post on duck for £50! But if someone want to send me sample to try out and review or to write a sponsor post on something, how do I bring the money conversation in? Seriously that the one thing I do struggle with my personal blog.

Any help would be appreciated. I’m not at the liberty to work for free – I have to make money – it my livelihood. I know that, but how do you have the money talk with people?

/sorry turned into a ramble and cry for help.

http://www.annanuttall.com

I’m just so glad you have blogged about this. I’ve been receiving e-mails and I don’t know what to do especially when you’re in a financial crisis, you really have to set some standards and earn a living. I’ve also been receiving messages from my stepfather that I shouldn’t be blogging for free. Hehe! Thank you for this! 🙂

Augustin Ra | Indie Spirit

I couldn’t agree more. I come from a background in advertising and marketing and know first hand how expensive the coverage bloggers give to brands. They absolutely should be paid for their audience as well as their time + talent. Although, with that said bloggers need to know their worth. It takes years to organically grow an audience that is worth advertisers actual dollars. I have come across many agencies and brands that have been burned by bloggers which in turn makes it harder for bloggers to be taken seriously and get paid in the future.

I totally agree! I did one review for a free product that was worth very little just to get my feet wet. That was the first and only time. I also did a review for a product I love, but it was worth more. Now that I have a couple under my belt, I have higher standards. I get a ton of emails asking me to contribute a post to blogs, or free samples and they want something in return. Companies need to realize how much work blogging is!

Interesting referendum on the blogging world. I suppose we all deserve to be compensated in some manner. As an attorney, I’m less concerned about money and more concerned about my online image.

If you could see me bowing down…you would…see me bowing. Seriously. I should print this and plaster it in public areas. Thankyou!

Your comment just made me laugh so hard, and I even gave you a special shoutout on my snapchat. Thanks for stopping by & being so funny! So glad you like this post 😉 xx

I agree with you – I have finally stopped writing for free. The time and effort it takes to complete a post needs to be compensated!

Thank you so much for shedding light on this important issue. A company redacted out to me offering a $50 massage or facial. I know my sponsored posts are normally 3-4x that rate so thought it couldn’t hurt to ask for both. It worked! If not, I honestly would probably have turned it down. Have to be selective as you grow!

I love this post

Thank you for taking the time to give bloggers a voice against brands!

Honestly, it’s crazy how brands just harrass you to get their name out but completely disregard any relevance to what a blog is for or about and the time and effort that goes into it creating a post.

Preach!

What Raj Wants

I’m new to this whole blogging thing and I didn’t have any contact with brands so as far as that goes I am not entitled to say anything.
But I do want to say that I really appreciate your honesty. You go straight to the point, no tip toeing around the subject. Keep it up, great job.

This is such a good conversation! I’ve taken things for review that I really wanted, but only if they have a certain value to them. (i.e. no lipsticks!) I did take an item worth $60 once just because I wanted to try it, but that has led to an on-going paid relationship for a product I genuinely love. It is a fine line, but these days I tell them they can send it to me and if I like it I’ll give them a shout-out on social media but don’t guarantee placement.

I am so glad you spoke about this! I really need to stop accepting product for free. I have only charged like 3 times since blogging and that was last year. I really just need to toughen out and tell them how much time and effort blogging really takes.

xx,
Amanda || http://www.fortheloveofglitter.com

This is such a great post! I am getting started as a blogger and am always looking for tips as I get further into this. Thank you so much for sharing.

I think you make some good points, but I see nothing wrong with newbie bloggers writing in exchange for trying out a few products or services. It can help them create some content and develop relationships with brands/PR companies.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree with what you’re saying. We bloggers work really hard and spend lots of time creating posts – for which we should be compensated appropriately. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and encouraging us all to put more value in our work!

Xoxo,
http://www.fashionlingual.com

I definitely think writing posts for products you do want to try badly is fine (we all do that) but for an unknown company to demand you write a post in exchange for products that MAY or may not work is absolutely maddening. I don’t want someone to spend HOURS sharing a moisturizer that actually made them break out, or a moisturizer that was $5. It just doesn’t make sense in the grand scheme of things. I just wanted to bring awareness so bloggers understand they need to value their own time. Even prominent ones that have been doing this for years don’t always charge because they’re afraid to ask, etc. But I do lots of posts for free when I love products but I wouldn’t do a post for a $20 dress someone sent me – ain’t nobody got time for that 😉 xx

lol..I love the “stop hustling me for coverage”. I find some brands so pushy it is a total turn off. If I didn’t agree to something up front, don’t get upset if I don”t agree to do it after the fact. It seems to be unique to fashion companies because I also post beauty and food posts and I actually have never been asked to do anything for free.

I feel like if a blogger or YouTuber said yes to a shout out or quick share on social media in return for product and they agree to it then they should do it! It makes the blogger or YouTuber look unprofessional when they say yes I will share a picture on Instagram for you if you send me your product but end up saying no or maybe after the product is already sent! Just my thoughts on that. Also when someone says they like your product and you say hey I will send you a handful and you pick out what you want and all I ask is do a quick shout out and they agree… But change their mind after the product is sent to them.. That is kind of messed up!

Definitely do what you’ve committed yourself to, so I agree if a blogger doesn’t follow through it’s messed up! I’ve actually gotten into weird situations where I’ve done something that’s MORE valuable for a brand and they still request more. That’s when I’m really tipped over the edge and want to get really unprofessional via email. I also don’t like when brands follow up every day saying “when’s the post going up?” like we had an agreement or they feel like I OWE them something. I don’t owe anybody shit if they just sent me a product & I don’t want to talk about it. I’m not going to force ANYTHING on my readers and followers that I’m not passionate about NOR will I just willy nilly promote a product because I got it in the mail. I get a lot of brands asking for blog posts, not just a quick shout out on twitter. I’ll tweet about all kinds of things, but I don’t do blog reviews willy nilly for just anyone or any product. My time, just like yours, is valuable and extremely limited and it’s just not worth it to do blog posts for free. Blogging is a lot of work, and I would rather the brands not ask us to send a $10 product and get a blog post in review. Unless you just started your blog, that is unacceptable! xx

I am reading and learning. And, I totally agree with you. Fortunately, I have a career that I love and blogging is what I use to share my passion outside of work. I just talked about this in one of post that I am not in it for the money. So, when I get those email from brands talking nonsense I just ignore them.
Thanks for sharing!
http://www.comfycozyup.com

That’s definitely an interesting perspective. I like my job & what I do, but I know I don’t want to build someone else’s business in the long-term. I would rather build my own and make blogging my career long-term & do other things, so that’s why it’s really important to me for us as bloggers to know that if we’re accepting products from brands, we really can’t be doing it for free ALL the time! xx

Everything you said is so on point! Time is money and money is time! It’s not like these big brands can’t afford to pay the money either. It’s all tied into their monthly marketing budget.

That is a really good point. Those brands need to spend more with bloggers and less in other marketing arenas! xx

I hear what you’re saying. We’re a relatively new blog, so we don’t get crazy offers, but we do get decent offers which we’re happy to accept and blog about. There are products that make crazy requests that are absolutely not worth our time and it’s crazy that they even ask so much for free advertising! There was one brand that offered a 20% discount on their products for a blog post. Are you kidding me?

That is also one of those deals that makes my boil literally BOIL. 20% off your product + I’m going to do a product review? They must be insane. That is LITERALLY like your boss telling you, you have to pay him 80% of the total cost to do your job. It makes no sense and is one of the main reasons I actually wrote this post! I don’t care how new a blog is, brands should not expect that kind of a deal from ANYONE. I understand when you’re new, you’re looking to get exposed and working with a brand any way you can helps, but it really jeopardizes some of the bigger bloggers who need to get paid because it’s their full time gig. It does also depend on the brand because some brands have a budget for the big bloggers (500k+ following) and they’ll only pay them, but then again it’s really bizarre that people pay for product and then still do the work! xx

Totally agree – and wish I could create a better batch of moolah for the work I put in, but for now I am happy with the fancy perks I receive. Those have increased BIG TIME since last year and its all because of the dedication to what my blog/social media looks like/attention to detail/theme/all of it. Boom.

Karen | GlamKaren.com

I hear ya! This year I REALLY started making money, to the point that I can truly say this is a 2nd job for me and NO LONGER just a hobby that I’m passionate about and that takes all my time. A lot of people have a hard time understanding how blogging can be a career, but it’s so easy for us to understand and we just need to drill it into brands’ heads. We can’t work for free, it’s just not acceptable! xx

100% on point. I can’t tell you how many times I get contacted a week to post about a product for a brand for free and early on, I was semi-flattered (silly, I know) but then I realized, you know what? No I’m not going to spend hours dedicating myself to writing a post and taking photos of something that a brand doesn’t even compensate me for. I really like how you put it into perspective about wasting 3 hours of your life that you could be spending with your family and friends. I wish more bloggers would realize the longer we continue to let brands use us for free, the more it becomes a vicious cycle. Blogging is a job, whether it is your main job or not, it is hard work and we deserve to be compensated for it. Bottom line. Great post! 🙂

I am so glad you agree with this, because it’s truly how I feel. Just today, I got multiple requests from brands and upon my media kit sending they said they’re a small company with no blogger budget. Sucks to suck, but you need to find a budget and while you’re finding that budget maybe stop asking for us to do free work. I know sometimes they comes off harsh, but when it’s offer after offer it’s pretty ridiculous! xx

It is a full time 2nd job for me just based on everything I do for the blog, social media & YouTube and I do hope to make it my ONE and only job down the road, so building myself now is so important. I don’t want to keep sacrificing my personal life, my relationships, etc for NOTHING. My work and time is valuable, and brands have to treat it as such! xx

It is a bit of a conundrum – you shouldn’t get into it for the free stuff…but you also shouldn’t expect to get paid. Sometimes it’s a difficult balance.

Great points. I’ll admit I’ve been guilty of some of this as a new blogger. It’s great to get this perspective on things. Definitely have to evaluate how I deal with future relationships.

As you grow and learn more about blogging, you will fine tune your methods and know when to ask for payment and when not to. Just make sure you don’t get hustled, because MOST brands haven’t figured it out yet & if they have they have only figured it out for the BIG bloggers with 500k+ of a following. We have to stand our ground, and not just blog about any product! xx

Yes it is, especially when you have a family. If you’re not getting paid well after 4 years, you just have to weigh how much the brand means to you and what the agreement is. I would be EVEN more strict if I had a child in my life because then it’s like “what do I HAVE to post this week?” and if it’s unpaid OR not my own idea (like a round-up of products, etc) then it’s likely not gonna happen! xx