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Stop Asking Me To Work For Free

Stop Expecting Bloggers To Work For Free

 

This isn’t just something that happens in the blogging community. This happens to basically everyone in the creative or arts industry. We’re expected to work for experience, for exposure, for trade – but not for money.

You wouldn’t walk into an accountant’s office expecting them to do your tax for free. You wouldn’t offer to pay them by telling everyone that they were a great accountant. No. You wouldn’t. Because that’s wildly disrespectful.

You also wouldn’t go to a mechanic and offer to fix their car – when you are not a mechanic yourself – in exchange for them doing free work on your car. That makes absolutely no sense. That’s not how any of this works.

Daily Requests

Every single day I receive emails offering me content from people who are not writers. They want me to publish their “guest post” which is then linked back to their business. What they want is not a “guest post”. It’s promotional content. It’s a sponsored post. So, they should be offering to pay for it.

What’s worse is they quite often do it deceptively. They don’t say up front that they’re representing a brand, they say they’re a writer wanting work published in the hopes that I don’t notice the links.

The thing is if those links didn’t have a measurable value to their business they wouldn’t be emailing me in the first place. So it’s reasonable to expect to pay for it.

Which is what I tell them. In fact, I have a standard email response that I send to brands and PR reps wanting me to publish their content. Not only explaining that they should offer to pay, but also that they should probably leave the writing to the writers. We know how to engage with our own audiences better than they do.

Please Pay Bloggers

Though honestly I’ve given up actually working with people after that point. My experience has been that if someone thinks you’re worth $0 and you manage to convince them to pay you $X they seem to expect $X more value than what they initially asked for. Because they thought my time worthless, and that hasn’t changed in a couple of emails.

So I tell them it’s still a no from me, but please offer to pay bloggers in the future.

Because there needs to be a shift. I’m not the only blogger being bombarded with these emails on a daily basis. Brands and PR companies need to realise that if they want to work with us it’s just polite to offer to pay.

Love Doesn’t Pay The Bills

There’s an expectation that in order to be genuine a blogger must do everything altruistic. That being paid for their work means they’re not going to be honest. As though making money and having integrity are mutually exclusive. Or that if you need to be paid to do something, then it’s not what you genuinely want to do. Right?

Honestly I’ve had that thought when I worked as a nanny. I loved my job, and I genuinely loved the kid I looked after. When I moved away I cried at the thought of never seeing her again. It broke my heart that she won’t even remember me, but I’ll always love her. I would have looked after her for free if only love could have paid my bills.

I can love writing, I can love a product and I can love writing about a product – but unfortunately my landlord doesn’t accept love as a payment for rent (that came out a lot dirtier than I intended).

Even If They’re Sending Me A “free” Product

Product reviews take a lot of time to put together. An average review takes me a couple of hour. More if it involves a location photo shoot or a video. And given that I cannot do the review without the product – the product is not the payment. It’s a requirement for me to do the review!

That being said I frequently write about products without being paid. Often without even contacting the brand first – though I’ll usually tag them after just to let them know. Or I’ll contact them wanting to review a product because either it’s something I really want (for example my cheeky Christmas wish-list) or it’s products that people want me to review (like prams). But that’s entirely my choice.

Even then when I’m contacting the brand to ask them for something I spell out what I’m offering. I tell them pageviews on similar content, and send them my media kit with feedback from other brands saying things like my review sold their products. Even though I joke about batting my eyelashes at brands to get free things, I understand they won’t give me stuff just because I want it. They need to see how it’ll make them a measurable profit.

Screaming Into The Wind

I know writing this won’t make a speck of difference. Nor will replying to emails. Occasionally I do hear back from them with a polite thank you and they’ll consider what I’ve said – mostly it just stops them from emailing me a again – which is at least something. But there’s a thousand more where they came from. Mostly it just makes me feel a little better venting about it. And hey, now when I do email them back I can include a link to this post. So there’s a plus. 

Are you asked to work for free? How do you respond?

About Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum.She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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8 comments

  1. I get a lot of the ghost writer requests as well – so frustrating and I have a standard response also. I am in a few Facebook groups that connect bloggers and brands and I have seen the flip side when bloggers and Instagrammers ask for free stuff and then don’t keep up their end of the bargain in terms is of promoting it. Which is terribly frustrating for a small business. If we all just treated each other with a little more respect and understanding, it would go a long way.

  2. My husbands cousins are dancers and they struggle with this. If they aren’t getting something tangible out of it people expect you to give it to them for free!

  3. I agree that a business relationship is always an exchange of mutual value. This does mean that payment is involved. Great post. A guide of what one should expect to pay would be great too

    • Exactly, it needs mutual value. They need to be offering us something we actually want and need. I nearly sent a cheeky response to a brand a couple of days ago because they offered me an unspecified “gift of appreciation” in return for a sponsored post…. I was pretty tempted to explain this is actually a business with expenses, and I can’t pay my bills with a “gift of appreciation”.

  4. Good on you Rachel! My sister is a model and gets the same – photographers ‘offering’ to photograph her ‘to build her portfolio’ and therefore expecting her to work for free.

  5. You know my stance on this. No money=no workie!

    • It’s a good stance to have! Should be a no-brainer really. Hopefully eventually the marketing people will get the message that we don’t exist for them to use for free publicity.

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