I was recently contacted by a PR firm asking if they could send me their most recent doll collection in exchange for a blog post/review on my website, SmashleyAshley.com. Without naming the specific brand, I can say it was a well-recognized company; surely one with a large budget seeing the marketing I have seen in print, and on television. When I replied about compensation for writing a blog post for them, I got a very familiar “We do not have room in our budget to compensate bloggers at this time.”
I receive requests asking for reviews on my site a few times a day, as do most bloggers. The blogging niche is a unique way for brands to reach their targeted audience through not only bloggers’ websites, but also through their social media outlets- the outlets that have taken many bloggers years to not only cultivate, but also maintain. Advertising with bloggers is also a hell of a lot cheaper than ad-space in a magazine, a newspaper, or a commercial slot on primetime television.
When I first started this journey, a huge record label reached out to me asking if I would promote one of their artists. I happened to be a huge fan of this musician, and I was also new to blogging. Naturally, I was excited that someone noticed me in the sea of bloggers, and I agreed to review the album free of charge.
I was sent a link to the (one) YouTube video to watch and then instructed to write a blog post about the album. I was not sent the album, nor was I compensated in any way. I researched this particular album, the motivation the artist had to create the album, and spent a few hours piecing everything together to deliver a quality post that this huge record label would be proud of. I then published the blog post, shared on social media, paid (with my own money) to boost the post on Facebook so it would appear in more Facebook feeds, and sent the link of the post to the contact that I had at the record company. I never heard anything back.
Two weeks later, I received another e-mail from the same contact. Once I saw the name pop-up in my inbox, I assumed I’d open the e-mail to read a friendly message “We thank you so much for such a great review, and all of your hard work!” But no, quite the contrary, actually. I received another request to write another post for a different artist under their label- and a link to that artist’s YouTube video.
I couldn’t believe it. This was a multi-million dollar company that was asking me to write a review for them, promote it on my social media outlets, and couldn’t even find it within themselves to PAY me, let alone THANK me for my efforts. I not only spent my time and effort on putting something together for them (and the artist), I spent some of my own money to promote it!
Aside from some cases where the profits benefit charity (or my friends), I quit that behavior quickly, and I will explain why: Writing reviews in exchange for a free doll, or a t-shirt does not pay any of my bills. In fact, it takes me away from paying my bills. If you are a writer/blogger reading this, it isn’t going to pay any of your bills, either- unless your electricity company accepts compensation in the form of dolls, e-books, and t-shirts.
While writing, blogging, and maintaining my social media accounts is a hell of a lot of fun, I work really hard at it. Every article I write and publish, I’ve read upside down, inside out, at least 5 times. I have edited, I have reached out to friends for help with my grammar, I have paid for photos to use in my blog posts and then altered/edited them in applications that I also pay for. I’ve hosted fun giveaways for my readers’ to show my appreciation for them- largely at my own expense. Single handedly, I have built what I have, and I value that. Most of all, I value myself. If you are a writer/blogger in the industry, SO SHOULD YOU.
I had an author recently reach out to me (one I did not know) who asked me to read his e-book and then review it on my website, free-of-charge. I politely responded that I do not review products/books for free. I even went on to (unnecessarily) elaborate “I work full time, I am a mother and a wife, and I am asked to do reviews almost daily. I have not built an audience by writing reviews about books and products. I have built an audience by writing humorous stories and writing about my life. Those that follow my site enjoy reading about humor, life and parenting. However, I like to think that my audience also knows and understands that I need to cover some of the expenses I incur from writing/blogging (my website, my hosting, etc.), so I will post sponsored blog posts periodically when I am contacted about a product, have tried it, truly enjoy it, and believe I can present it to my readers in a fun way.”
The author responded back to me that paying for a review was ludicrous. He couldn’t believe that I’d even suggest that I be compensated to read his entire book, and then write a lengthy blog post about it.
“Legitimate authors do not pay for book reviews.” were his exact words.
I responded with: “Legitimate writers don’t work for free.”
A burning question I receive frequently from other people who are just starting out writing/blogging is: “How do you make money?”
My first words are always “Don’t get into this if you are looking to make a quick buck, do it because you love it.” Also, among many other things, my biggest suggestion is: Don’t work for free.
Unfortunately, there are many people who are willing to work for free, which only taints the leverage for the rest of us, and makes negotiations with brands that much more difficult. If a brand comes to me, and I give them a price for my work, and they then go to ten other bloggers who are willing to do it for no charge at all— the chances of those that require payment landing the deal are slim to none- which, when you think about it, is really unfortunate. If we all banded together and required to be compensated for our time and effort, none of us would be writing about (A.K.A. promoting) other brands for free.
Now, I am not saying that you should never work for free. Writing happens to be a passion of mine, and I truly enjoy it. I have many friends who’ve written books, but those are my friends, many who have shared my work and helped me along the way. I write for other sites for free to gain exposure as a writer. I write for some sites to hone my craft as I have editors willing to help with editing in exchange for my work. However, I can write what I want and I am not being asked to backlink to some ebook where they make money from my work, while I invest my time with no gain whatsoever.
Writing a free review about a set of markers is not worth my time, and it certainly isn’t worth yours. If you went out and applied for a minimum wage job, you’d make at least ten bucks an hour. A blog post takes how much of your effort to put together? Furthermore, what does the amount of time you spend working on your social media amount to? Each one of us who does this knows full and well the amount of effort and time it takes to figure out the Facebook algorithm, to stay up to date with Twitter, to perfect the stunning Pinterest image. That is your time. That is time away from our family that you are working on something to produce for someone else FOR FREE, so that THEY can add money to THEIR bank account, NOT yours.
So, as of today, I am changing my contact page: “I can guarantee that I work hard and I deliver. I have testimonials to prove that. I will give my all, and invest my time learning about your product, listen to what your brand is looking for; I will put my own fresh spin on it, and do everything in my power to deliver an end result that is what you want, but also something that I believe my readers want. And lastly, just like you, I don’t work for free.”
What happens when you ask others’ in their profession to work for free? Watch:
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