blogging,  What I Do

Please Stop Asking Me to Work for Free

I do not work for free

I am a blogger who has two jobs. Job scenario #1: I love the people with whom I work. I enjoy said work and I kind of (okay, I do) rock at it. Despite the lovefest there is something that is always very clear: I do not work for free.

My other “job” is blogging. Each day I, along with many other bloggers, receive emails asking me to write about a website, product or service. It usually starts with a, “I found your blog and I loved it! I have this great <insert object of praise here> and I’d love for you to share it with your readers.” I know that this same email has been sent to countless other bloggers. I know the person writing usually knows very little about me, my blog and what is most important –  my readers and who they are. And I already know the person on the other side of the screen wants me to do this promotion for free. I could tell you, verbatim, how it will go:

I thank the person for reaching out, ask them to send a compensation structure and give them a heads up I work with US-based companies indicating there are very few exceptions to this rule. One of two things happens:

Scenario Number One: I get a reply that there is no budget to pay me, but they’ll share my post on their social media forums (which will launch me into blogger stardom) or…

Scenario Number Two: I never receive a reply back.

WHAT.IS.THE.DEAL?

Are the people sending me these emails working for free? Doubtful. So why are they expecting me to gift them my time and resources as though they aren’t of any value?

Working for free is called volunteering. And I do that already; for charitable organizations who need my time and efforts on their behalves to give back to others. Personal or professional gain is not part of that equation.

Back to my other job for a second…By day I work as a corporate event marketing manager for a major global organization. I KNOW the cost of marketing. Part of my job is to budget and cut spend in an effort to market our products and brand to customers in the best and most cost effective way possible. Bang for the buck? Believe me, I get it. I am also privy to the value of bloggers and their reach, something which should most certainly not be underestimated. The price on time spent creating a blog post, editing the content, taking photos and editing those photos along with scheduling social media touts is sometimes hard to measure, but I can tell you the rates of most bloggers are peanuts compared to hiring an agency. And unlike an agency, a lot of bloggers won’t take your money just to earn a dime. My reviews will be sincere and candid and I will only give away something I am totally digging or fuggedaboutit. Ain’t happenin’. The cost of running a blog doesn’t exactly come cheap either and we do have expenses and even pay taxes, too. There are brands who get this. They do exist. And more often than not, they are great to work with.

I Do Not Work For Free

Bottom line: My time is precious. If I don’t treat it as such I know I can’t expect the same from anyone else. So don’t ask it of me because shortchanging myself is definitely something which I won’t deliver (and neither should you)!

67 Comments

    • Heather W

      Same here. I think many of us take less than what we’re worth until we learn. I just think it’s something brands need to know we’re not ignorant about. And once we raise our voices together to let them know, “Hey, my time is precious – treat it that way,” perhaps they’ll start getting it.

  • Kirsten

    Preach it. I am right there with you. 90% of the time when I say I will do something for them, but it’s a sponsored post, I never hear from them again. Their loss.

    • Heather W

      OMG Bwahahahaha thank you for sharing. This made me laugh so hard my husband was laughing, too and he didn’t even know what for!

  • Jeanine @ sixtimemommy.com

    YES. This is awesome. I can’t stand being asked to work for free OR asked if I will review a product but pay for shipping etc? Uhhh, no.

  • Heather W

    Sandy, I am so glad. Yes, you absolutely should be requiring compensation. Dependent upon the length of your review and whether you are providing video and photography, you can create a pricing structure from there.

  • Heather W

    Erica, haha I LOVE IT! *snaps* Thank you SO MUCH. You are awesome for putting them in their place. I hope more bloggers follow suit!

  • Heather W

    Robin, SO VERY TRUE. Unfortunately, some bloggers do it because they just don’t know better or they don’t realize their worth. I have had bloggers tell me they had no idea they could charge. Hopefully spreading awareness will help.

  • Ginae McDonald

    THANK YOU! I’ve never seen a post like this, but, have often considered writing it. I got stiffed for a mere $20.00 just the other day! Dang ol’ UK gardening websites! STICK IT freeloaders! Now, move along, please. Nothing to see here.

    THANK YOU HEATHER! 🙂

  • Kiersten Boatwright

    There’s a lot that I do for free, but I’m still new and I do it in exchange for products that I would have bought anyways. I have been told a couple of times that they wanted me to pay for shipping or pay for something, but they would be sure to promote me. I still get a little frustrated about a couple of those that I’ve gotten…

    • Heather W

      According to IRS laws, remember that product is still compensation and you still have to pay taxes on it. The FTC also makes you disclose it ion your blog, so you are being compensated with product in exchange for reviews. Here I mean they want to give absolutely nothing yet receive something anyway.

      I also think it is a shame you are asked to pay for shipping. Even if you’re new, your time is still valuable! Don’t shortchange yourself. 🙂 We all started somewhere.

  • Amber

    LOVE this post. I have a few companies who seem confused when I ask about payment. One guy went, “You want to be PAID?” Um. Yes. Now, I have done some reviews for free: normally military based companies I will. I don’t always need actual payment either: I will do reviews in exchange for the product. But some companies just want me to mention their company in a post for nothing.

    • Heather W

      Same here – there are exceptions to every rule, but if you are a major corporation and your marketing budget is in the millions, c’mon now. Don’t ask me to work for free. Shame on them!

    • Heather W

      Le sigh. It is really sad that people want to take such advantage. Congratulations to you for the popular blog, though! That is awesome. 🙂

  • Cindy DG

    Our time is extremely valuable. Yes, this is my job too and I need to pay the bills. This was very well said. I stumbled it!

  • anapiontek

    I’m not a paid blogger – but if this is your money making job, then YES! No other job would expect you to work for free.

  • Erin Kennedy

    I love this post and you hit the nail on the head. I get these emails every day, and I just wish that companies would get that what I do is a business. I work for a paycheck, just like they are. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Kristen

    I agree. I am a busy mom and I also make a living blogging. I don’t have time to work for free!!!

  • Liz Mays

    This is very well said, and so true. I’m in agreement with you in the big picture, bloggers come at a bargain price comparatively.

  • April Grant

    I agree. I normally don’t hear back either. I’m always torn when I actually believe in the cause, because I wonder if it means that they’ll spread the word that I’m free labor.

    • Heather W

      I can very much understand this. Most don’t spread the word – they like to keep it their little secret as far as I can tell. If it is a charitable cause I don’t charge or if they insist on paying me, I donate it. Exceptions to every rule, but these brands can definitely push and enough is enough!

  • Lynne Childress

    Yep. I have let people take advantage of me and I feel bad about asking and that is wrong. Nope. No more.

  • Elizabeth Dietz

    This is precisely the reason why I actually usually don’t do sponsored posts usually… if I am doing a post sponsored by someone that means I really, really, REALLY like the product. Some of the e-mails get frustrating because you are right, they have no idea who I am as a blogger. Recently I got an e-mail from a company who was looking for New Jersey bloggers… had they actually read my blog they would have known that I don’t live in New Jersey anymore and I was not what they were looking for… but that didn’t stop them from saying in the email “I love your blog”. Super frustrating at times.

    • Heather W

      Agreed. I ONLY write about products I use and reallllly like/love. I also have that same issue – I just got asked to write about trying to conceive. I had to laugh. I am personally child-free by choice and I have a hysterectomy. Really? They asked ME to write about my experiences trying to conceive? That was one for the books!

  • Jeanette Marie

    Thank you for writing this, Heather! I wish more people would stand up for the value of their work. As a PR professional, I work with a lot of bloggers. I get a LOT of responses from bloggers with followings of 100k+ who work for FREE. Sometimes I want to write back and tell them they should be charging (a lot!) for their work, but I can’t. The clients I work with have a very limited budget and don’t have funds for sponsored posts, and it’s my job to secure them as much press as I can – without incurring additional fees. That being said, when a blogger with 100k+ followers works for free, it devalues the business of blogging. If a blogger with 100k+ followers doesn’t charge, how can an emerging blogger start to build a viable business? As a blogger, I often do posts in exchange for complimentary products – because I personally believe in them and think my readers will enjoy them too. I think if a blogger is getting pitched by a major brand (that clearly has a budget for paid advertising/marketing – TV, print ads, etc.), by all means he/she should write back and negotiate payment. A good way to make sure you’re not selling yourself short is to ask what their budget is for the campaign – and then negotiate from there. As my social media coach says, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.” 😉

    • Heather W

      This is great advice, Jeanette! A lot of people don’t know how to begin the conversation (I think YOU should write a blog post about it – oh my gosh – I see this question in private blogging groups a lot!). I also do exchange for product from time to time myself. It depends on whether I believe in the product, too and if they will give it away to one of my readers as well. Your social media coach is smart!

  • Julie S.

    OMG YES!! I’ve been getting so many of these. NO I don’t want to write a post for you and share your link for free. That’s not how it works people! If I like their project I might write a post anyway, separate from their project (or not include a link without compensation, I’ve done that once). But I’ve started asking up front what their payout is when they contact me looking for interest. Cause that’s just wasting everyone’s time. We don’t want to be asked to work for free by brands and PRs who should know better.

    • Heather W

      Exactly right! I also make exceptions – of course, there are exceptions to every rule. But sometimes the blatant disregard for our time is really, really sad!

  • April

    It is crazy how many emails I get asking if I can basically write for someone for free. But as a blogger, I get that some people are just not getting it. So sad.

  • MilliGFunk

    Amen! I used to respond to those emails asking for free promotion, but eventually I just stopped bothering. Like you, I got no response or a “we’ll share your post” response. In reality, even the “share your post” promises weren’t truly followed through on, as the brands typically failed to tag my social media accounts when they did share my posts (which happened infrequently to begin with). I took some time off from any sort of monitization entirely, and now that I’m beginning to strategize around the idea again, I’m unwilling to promote brands I wouldn’t genuinely recommend to a real life friend — and I’m unwilling to work for free unless it’s for a cause I truly believe in.

  • Julie

    So very true! I really hate how a lot of their emails make it sound like we were just sitting there waiting for something to do. So frustrating.

  • Cally

    Wow this is so interesting! As a very very new blogger (nearly at the 2 month mark!), I am just focused on producing content and a bit of a following – plus learning everything I can about the biz! I have not even approached receiving any income from my blog but this really gives me some insight as I start to negotiate my way towards that. Thank you for sharing.

    • Heather

      Cally, welcome to the wonderful world of blogging! And monetization. 🙂 When I started I had no idea that blogging could also be a job. I was like you-focused on content and followers. I’ve stopped by your blog. It is great! I’m sure you will have brands approach you. Remember you’re space on the www is valuable. 🙂 Much success. I look forward to following your growth!

  • Lindsay

    Hmmm…are you saying that you ask for compensation beyond free products to write a review? Or is that only if a company wants to advertise on your site or feature an advertorial? If it is for a review, do you notify readers of when you’ve been compensated by the company for a review versus when you haven’t? I’m curious as a journalist b/c this is a different compensation model. It would be considered unethical for a journalist or news outlet to accept money in exchange for a review. Companies do send free products to magazines, but those are usually sold in a bargain sale to employees a few times a year. Obviously, companies do pay for news outlets for advertising or advertorials, but those have to be very clearly marked as such. It’s interesting to see how these two related but different professions are working with new models of publishing, advertising, compensation, etc.

    • Heather

      Lindsay FTC guidelines require bloggers, by law, to disclose when they are compensated for a post and/or if we include an affiliate link we must clearly let our readers know. If you were to look through my blog you would CLEARLY see my disclosures at the top of all posts for which I have been compensated -whether monetarily or through product- as per federal law. I also make it clear when I list affiliates. It would be completely unethical not to mention against the law if I were not to let my readers know when I am compensated. I have very clear rules to which I adhere. I only work with US based companies, they must have a clear social responsibility policy and they may not contribute to organizations that inhibit equality. Lastly, if I am not interested in the product I won’t review it or write about it. Further, if a company wants me to review a product that is worth $10, yes I expect to be compensated beyond that. Writing, photography, social media, etc. requires my time. I don’t know anyone who pays their bills with products. As for FTC guidelines, it is clearly spelled out here should you need more information for reference: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking