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May 19, 2015

Writing Sponsored Content // Why You Shouldn't Work for Free


Six years ago, when I first started blogging, I only dreamed of making any sort of money from my blog.  I loved reading some larger blogs and I knew that there were woman out there making full-time income off of their blogs (and I knew that there were probably women out there making six figures off of it!), but I had no idea how they were doing it.

Then, randomly, I got contacted by a company who wanted me to write about them.  Yay!  This was it...my break into working with brands!  Surely by writing this post, other companies would see my work and start reaching out too, and it didn't really matter that I wasn't being paid to do it because I was getting my feet wet, right?

Yes.  And no.

I wish someone would have told me back then that what I was writing and what my voice could do for a brand was valuable.  I wish that someone would have empowered me by telling me that what I was doing with my blog was worth more than what this company was offering.  I wish someone would have explained to me why blogging is important in the marketing world.  (Disclaimer:  When I refer to being "paid" to write, I'm talking about monetary compensation, but in some cases, product is also acceptable)

When I received that first opportunity to work with a brand, my blog was considerably smaller.  I wasn't necessarily writing with the same frequency and passion that I do now, and so I accepted the opportunity and didn't mind (at first) that I wasn't being paid and that I wasn't receiving product.  But then, after spending time and effort putting together a post, I realized something that should have been obvious from the start:  I was working for free.  And not in the way that you help out a friend, but for a company that I had no relationship with.  I was spending time and effort and space on my online home to promote a product that I wasn't even given the chance to try out for free.

Something about even feeling annoyed by that felt selfish to me.  I never really intended to make an income off of my blog when I started, and I don't mind helping out small businesses or businesses that are doing awesome things gain some traction by mentioning them on my blog.  But when I got my first paid sponsored post, the game totally changed.

I realized then that there are brands out there that value bloggers and the voice that we can lend to a marketing campaign.  Our readers trust us and our opinions, and brands recognize that.  (Side note:  I firmly believe that writing sponsored content does not make you a sell-out or devalue your blog.  There's nothing wrong with making an income off of a hobby that you love, as long as your voice is still shines through!)

So why do I think you shouldn't work for free?  Here are just a few reasons I think you should be paid for your voice:

You're selling yourself short.  Your voice and your opinions matter and your readers value you and trust you!  And guess what, friend?  You're worth having a company pay for that exposure.

Working for free hurts other bloggers.  When you work for free, you end up harming other bloggers because you're sending the message to the company you work for that they can get away with free marketing.  If they can get it from you, they may expect it from other bloggers.

Think of it outside of blogging.  Would you apply to work for a large company in their marketing department and then when you sit down for an interview, tell them that they don't need to pay you?  Probably not.  This is no different, it's just on a smaller, more isolated scale!

When a brand says they "don't have a budget", then it's a little insulting.  I hate saying this because I truly like to think the best of people, but I get insulted by a brand who contacts me and asks me to write about them, but then tells me that they "don't have a budget for that" when I ask them how much they are paying.  Basically, they're asking you to advertise for them for free, but they don't think what you have to offer them is worth investing in.  Unless it's a small company and you really believe in their vision, I'd pass.

It's ok to get your feet wet.  Remember that first campaign I talked about at the beginning of this post?  I don't regret doing it.  I think it's fine to do a couple of campaigns for free when you're first starting off.  Those posts are low-pressure...you can't do anything wrong because you're not getting hired or under any sort of contract!  Take those opportunities to get your feet wet and establish your voice and style for writing sponsored content, but don't stay there long.

It takes time.  It took me years to build up the numbers and following to be able to make consistent money off of my blog.  Doing a product review here and there and getting paid in product for a while is a great way to go as you start and until you're ready to join networks that will help you bring in an actual paycheck.  If you want some more info on a few ways to make money blogging, check out this post!

If I can leave you with anything, it's that you're worth it.  Please believe that.  Whether you decide to work for brands without pay or you make a consistent income from your blog, you need to do what's right for you.  But don't underestimate the influence that you have as a blogger and sell yourself short!

39 comments:

  1. What a great post! What are your thoughts on accepting samples or products as payment?

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  2. This is a fantastic post and one that every blogger needs to read. Pining this one for future use.

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  3. Great inspiration! I am starting to get my feet wet but i value my time way to much to not get anything. This confirms it's not self centered or selfish to feel that way...

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  4. Thanks, Betsy! I appreciate the emphasis on us (and our words) meaning something. So true!

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  5. What a great resource, Betsy! As a small-time blogger hoping for that first brand contact, I'm glad to know that (eventually) I should be compensated and not just in excitement ;) thanks for the list of posts at the end!

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  6. Wow - Heavens to Betsy, indeed. Where have you been all my life?! So glad to have found you and just blessed beyond measure by this very rich post today. I'm utterly overwhelmed, but plan to read through slowly and absorb. Thanks!

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  7. Awe, welcome Tiffany! So glad you're here! Can't wait to get to know you better :)

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  8. I've heard of larger companies doing that with the promise of "potential social sharing" and I think it's a load of garbage! That's not ok! I agree with you that bloggers should never work for free, but I also realize that some may not feel confident in their skills yet and so working for free on a post or two takes all of the pressure off, and I don't ever want to alienate a reader or make them feel bad if they have written for companies and gotten nothing in return! I do like Influenster, and I've been with them for a while now, but I had a recent bad experience with them that left a bad taste in my mouth. They are a great way to get your feet wet though!

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  9. Thanks Julie! Don't be afraid to reach out to brands that you like, too! Especially things like smaller companies and etsy shops, and just offer to do product reviews...it's a great way to get your feet wet and get started! And like Brita said below, Influenster is another great way to receive some free product and get a chance at writing product reviews!

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  10. Thanks Kristin! That's absolutely the thing that should be the focus: your worth as a blogger goes far beyond what a company will or will not pay you, and realizing that your words and influence have value can change the game of working with brands!

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  11. I am a-ok with products as payment! Haha...I've gotten products that I absolutely adore and am so grateful for through writing product reviews, and I think that being compensated through product is a great way to start off! But I'm not going to lie, it's awesome to get compensated with product AND money. :)

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  12. It took me a while to get past feeling selfish for requiring payment for product reviews or sponsored content, but once you fully embrace that your voice is worth a brand paying for, it's so freeing! Good luck, Bijee!

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  13. Thanks for the advice! I will definitely be trying those ideas (although I'm already on influencer...I just need to up my game and actually take advantage of it!)

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  14. Thanks so much for a thoughtful response :)

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  15. Heck to the YES! I get emails like that all the time, where brands are wanting me to work for free. Most of the time I just ignore those emails, but if it's something I would be interested in doing, I explain that I don't work for free. I always hate when they write back saying they don't have a budget for it! But every now and then it pays off, because they realize the value of it and offer some sort of compensation. With one in particular I got a free stay at a resort!

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  16. YES YES YES. Sadly, I don't think a lot of brands know they should pay us! I think it's our responsibility to educate them!

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  17. Lindsey SmallwoodMay 20, 2015 at 10:31 AM

    Thanks for this Betsy. I haven't pursued sponsored items/reviews yet, but I'm glad I read this before I did. Always appreciate your blogging know-how.

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  18. Totally agree, Cassie! I hope that brands will begin recognizing that more and more!

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  19. Same Jenna...most often, those emails go ignored. Unfortunately, I just expect them to not have a budget now. So cool that you got a free resort stay!!

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  20. Thanks for reading Lindsey! Hope you have great success if/when you do decide to pursue writing sponsored content!

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  21. Great post. I am pinning once again. I actually just received my first income from a sponsor. I am posting their guest post about their business...and I honestly think it is poorly written. I tweaked it a bit and am still going to post it on my blog but this is a lesson to me that I can't just accept "any" post!!!

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  22. Thank you ..this is a great post! I just received my first pay from a sponsored post. I also was approved to do affiliate marketing...a lil challenging getting the badge installed...:/

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  23. I totally agree! I am so guilty of blogging for free. I try to always mention my rates now, and a lot of companies are like "We don't have the budget for that"

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  24. Great post! I dont have crazy huge pageviews, but my time is worth something to me... so if you want a review I expect compensation. I always charge.

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  25. Perfect timing with this!! I got an email from a company asking me to write about health and fitness and I had to reach out to my blogging ladies cause I seriously didn't know if I was being selfish asking for compensation. This is perfect! Thanks for the amazing advice

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  26. Totally agree, and I'm so glad you wrote this! I also feel the same way about photography and pretty much any industry. There are so many photographers selling themselves short that makes it difficult for everyone else in the industry.

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  27. Oh gosh, AMEN SISTAH!!!! This drives me literally crazy. Especially since professionally I'm in marketing and brand strategy, I see it from both sides, and I just want to shake marketers who think this is ok, or who think bloggers aren't intelligent enough to understand that they're being devalued and grossly underpaid. I've given my rate to brands before only to have them attempt negotiating to price 70% lower! Like, if you go to a billboard that 30,000 people are projected to see, there is a set price. Same goes for blog impressions! I wish there was a set of rules for this sortof stuff, or that at LEAST everyone out there could read your fabulous post, Betsy!


    cominguprosestheblog.com

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  28. That's so interesting to hear from someone in marketing! And a great way of putting it! I wish more brands (and bloggers) realized that blog impressions matter and that it works just like any other method of advertising!

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  29. Thanks Esther...I totally agree! I struggle with pricing for my photography and I have to constantly remind myself not to sell myself short! Freelancing is hard stuff!

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  30. Nope, not selfish at all! Glad I could help! :)

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  31. Thanks Lauren! I'm glad you realize that your time and words are valuable, no matter how high your numbers are! Good luck!!

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  32. Thanks Bailey! I definitely have been guilty of it in the past, but I think that since sponsored content is becoming more and more common, we all need to recognize the value of our online space and our words and make sure brands recognize it too!

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  33. Congrats! Getting that first paid post is always exciting!

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  34. Ah...I totally know what you mean! I am learning to get a little bit choosier with what types of campaigns I do and try to only work on ones that I feel like I'll do a really good job on!

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Hi! Thanks for reading! I read every comment posted here. Your thoughts are valuable to me! Thanks for taking the time to contribute!

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