Why bloggers don't work for free

It has happened to me many times, and yet, every time I get the suggestion that I'm doing something wrong by asking for monetary compensation to work with a brand, I can't believe it. I don't know where the idea originates that bloggers are not 'professionals' and therefore, should publish marketing content for free. That doesn't make sense to me as a blogger, because blogging is as much 'work' as any corporate job. Yes, I can go to work in my pyjamas, but it's still work!

Why bloggers don't work for free

Blogging is hard work 

Yes, blogging started out as a hobby, and for many, it still is. Yet, there are others who spend as much time on their blogs as a full time job. Quality blogs are influential, and valuable. In the USA, 61 per cent of consumers have reported buying a product based on a blog post (check out the infographic here). This indicates how much of an influence the word of a blogger can have on their readers. But that influence only comes when the blogger has proved themselves to be worthy of trust. And that reputation takes time to build.

Good quality content is only created when the blogger is dedicated and takes the time to write well, and write frequently. The blog topics should of interest to a good number of people, and it is only then that a blog grows. When you visit a good blog, do appreciate all the time, effort, and hard work that went into building it.

Given the importance of visuals today, bloggers have to spend a good amount of time on taking photos and editing them, or creating eye-catching graphics. I would say that the time spent in visuals is equal to the time spent in writing posts, and sometimes, even more.

Bloggers put more effort in marketing posts than a newspaper or magazine ever will.

It costs money to blog

Many people are unaware of the costs that go into setting up and running a blog. The first major cost is the design. In order to stand out, we have to shell out money to get a custom design. Almost all bloggers who are serious pay hosting costs to server companies. Apart from that, productivity tools like photo editing and scheduling tools cost extra. There are many tools and services out there to assist bloggers, and many of them have a fee.

Building networks takes time

You can't get to a 1000 genuine followers on Twitter or Pinterest overnight. And the operative word here is genuine. These are the people who have chosen to follow a blogger because they are interested in the blog's content. This is where a blogger offers real value to brands. Yes, blogging statistics matter, but more importantly, companies working with bloggers should value their networking strength. To me, social media mentions are as important as ads. While ads are just informative, social media bytes give consumers and readers a personal input from the blogger, who has tried or experienced the brand.

The biggest challenge for me as a blogger has been building my network, and I will do what I can to grow and maintain it. What this means is that I will not risk losing my readers and followers by publishing what I don't believe in. Many companies frown at disclaimers at the bottom of product reviews, but I think it only adds more weight to the review by separating it from the company and making it personal.

Bloggers are also consumers

This is an important point that brands should remember. What bloggers write about brands is seen as neutral, and rightly so, since they only represent themselves. I would say that this is the strongest reason why bloggers should be compensated for their efforts. They represent the consumer and media at the same time. It's a win-win for everyone if the brand fits perfectly with the blog's content.

There is no free publicity

A company is more than willing to pay thousands and dollars for ads in magazines and TV, so why do they hold back when it comes to blogs? Why do their budgets go dry when a bloggers asks for due compensation? That's just not fair, is it? If a brand's content and link to their website goes up on a blog, it obviously becomes a sponsored post and the brand should pay for it. I've already talked about the work that goes into creating a blog post, so I think that should be reason enough to recognise the need for compensation.

Content is forever

While a newspaper can be crumpled and thrown away, and the TV ad lasts only a few seconds, a blog post is there virtually forever. There are few posts that are ever removed, so there's a good chance they turn up in Google search. Barring a company's own blog, few media channels can match that, mostly because they give archive access only to subscribers.

Tips for Brand Managers and PR Reps

- Be willing to part with your product. Don't just 'lend' it for review, especially if you're not compensating the blogger in any other way. Unless it a car or a high value item, of course.
- Don't shoot mass emails to all bloggers. It will be worth your while to separate your mailing list by the niche that bloggers write in.
- Send out a separate mail to bloggers, ideally with their name. Nothing puts us off more than a 'Dear Editor' and a press release. Make an offer that will interest them or their readers, or ask them for ideas. See, bloggers provide free marketing consultancy too!
- Don't debate the 'nofollow' links. It's like beating a dead horse. Check out this awesome article on why good content is more important than backlinks.

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Katie Markey McLaughlin said...

YES, YES, YES! Most people have no idea how much blood, sweat, and tears goes into blogging. Yes, we often write in a casual, conversational tone, but that doesn't make us any less of professionals.

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

Well said. Pinned this!

Tarana said...

Exactly! I just wanted to put this out there.

Tarana said...

Thanks MaryAnne!

Tas D said...

Brilliant post. All this is so true!!! There are some amazing PRs and SEOs out there to work with and some awful ones that will try their luck repeatedly and not care that you are breaking the law. It's all work to ensure we keep blogging with integrity and, you're so right, even the graphics take lots of time. Reviews even longer. I think a lot of non bloggers think it's just a way to get free stuff.

Extraordinary Kids said...

Wow this is great! I've never been approached by brands (except for 1 actually and the rep was actually quite nice), but this is really good to know! And I really wouldn't mind receiving a car, really. I'll blog about it all year! I promise!

Tarana said...

Yes, Tas, there is so much work involved that I'm very selective about who to work with.

Tarana said...

Haha, I'd love to test drive one too, but I'm a loong way from there!

Kriss MacDonald said...

Absolutely spot on Tarana! I'm quite shocked sometimes by some of the requests. I love a comment on one big US blog site explaining that they expect compensation while telling PRs if they got paid with a tweet or gift card then they need a serious chat with their boss!

Mama, you talk? said...

Well said!!!

Kate Williams said...

I know, and it also drives me crazy when people get funny about bloggers having adverts, sponsored posts etc, I don't know of any other industry where people get told off for making a living. And I've personally never refussed to read a magazine or newspaper because it had an advert in it ;)

Tarana said...

So true, I don't know why they think our work is only worth so much?

Tarana said...

Right, most bloggers only do sponsored posts that fit with their niche, so there's no reason to complain.

Merlinda Little said...

This is what I really wanted for my blog. Something that I can earn money from but I don't really have any PR/Marketing appeal. =( #pocolo

vinma said...

Very well said TK. I especially like your point "content is forever" unlike ads and other sort of marketing channels. And it takes time and effort to write what we write! And it doesn't come free.

Susan Maccarelli said...

Well said! Time is money and the amount of time bloggers spend building a brand and everything that goes along with that should not be given away for free. #bloppies

Tarana said...

I think you should try to migrate to WP, and I'm sure that will help in gaining visibility, because LJ is so limited in customization.

Tarana said...

Thanks, Vinma. The 'forever content' part is what most companies don't realise and it's so valuable for them.

Tarana said...

Thanks, Susan! We really do put more effort into our promotions that any other media channel.

Sarah @ LeftBrainBuddha said...

Yep -- I need to be better about not doing it all for free -- because it's a job!! Thanks for writing this.

Tarana said...

Glad you agree, Sarah!

Kimberly M said...

YUP! I do not do any reviews without being compensated for it. Do you know how many businesses get angry when I tell them that? We are professional writers and what pisses me off are the bloggers who do the posts for free. It makes it harder for us trying to make side money.
Thanks for posting this statistic. I had no idea. Next time I'll throw that in the face of an ignorant PR rep.

Tarana said...

I'm stumped by the expectation that I should be working for free! As for bloggers who do, they are devaluing their own work.

Christa Sterken said...

This was an interesting perspective, it reminded me that what we do is hard work, and yes, costs $ and time. I easily spent 40-50 hours a week last year with set up and building. I appreciate your post today!

Tarana said...

Thank you, Christa! I spend about that much time on it too.

ConservativeGirl57 said...

I've been blogging for close to 10 years. For many years I was flattered that someone wanted me to blog about their product and I tirelessly did it for free or for sample products.

One day, however, the lights came on and I realized that I was giving companies with LARGE advertising budgets FREE advertising. As my blog grew in readership, page rank with Google and page views, I completely changed my strategy.

I now do NOTHING for free. I even charge for guest posts and treat them as paid permanent advertising. I charge a handsome sum as well. For those who don't want to pay it, they can move right along. I offer no apologies and refuse to budge.

If it's good for you but not for me, that is not a good deal. That is getting screwed over and used. I won't do anymore. If you want to use my blog as a platform to draw attention to your product or your site? You will pay for it.

Tarana said...

You have a very sensible strategy in place! Thank you for sharing this.

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