Sunday, 27 August 2017

Stop bashing bloggers for "working for free"

To be honest, I really dislike writing posts about bloggers or blogging, it's just so cliche these days. But something I've been seeing a lot of recently is bloggers (bigger bloggers in particular, I'm sure you know the kind I mean) bashing bloggers for "working for free".

Just to be totally clear, here's the scenario I'm talking about when I talk about working for free. A blogger reviews a product or a service, which they received for free, but for no monetary compensation. I do this a lot, so obviously I don't have a problem with it. But a lot of other bloggers - as I've said, namely bigger bloggers, statistically speaking* - seem to have a big problem with it. So much so that, evidently, they feel the need to publicly shame/'out'/bash those who are happy to accept product incentives rather than cash for their subsequent review.
I'd like to preface my long list of problems with the types of people who take issue with this practice, by saying that, to be fair, I do understand where they're coming from. I have a blog, and I understand how much work goes into each post, and absolutely feel that compensation is due for it. My stance is, however, that this doesn't have to be cash in the metaphoric hand (or PayPal wallet). Here's why:

A high volume of sales is less likely 
If you have hundreds of thousands of followers and regular readers, more people are going to see your recommendation, and so it's more likely to generate a high volume of sales. As, in this capacity, you basically acted in the same way a sales assistant working at a beauty counter in a department store does, of course you should get a cut of it. That's fair. My train of thought leads me to think: but even if the sales assistant doesn't make any sales, she'd still get paid. Yes. Difference is, you run your blog. Chances are it's not your job. You're doing this for you. By producing good content - with the  help of gifted items to review - you're benefitting. You're expanding your readership and your followers, so you are still gaining.
"For exposure" is a term that likes to get thrown around a lot in situation where a company wants you to work for free (a term I find incredibly patronising by the way and, FYI, as soon as that's said, I'm out) but if you view your blog as a brand that's going to grow and get you more opportunities in the future, then you are gaining. The sales assistant doesn't go home at the end of their shift with the customers they served that day now following them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook because they're keen to hear her thoughts and opinions on things. However, with each blog post, your engaging your readers and building yourself as a brand.

It's a gamble for companies 
Acknowledging that a blog post doesn't immediately generate sales brings me to my next point. Paying out to bloggers in the hopes of boosting sales is a massive gamble. Using bloggers is a relatively new marketing strategy for brands and, thinking of it from the company's perspective, they don't want to pay out for the unknown.  However, aside from sales, bloggers talking about a product also gives the company/product a presence, generates a virtual 'word of mouth' and boosts their appearance in search engines. Not only that, but all of that applies to you, too. Your blog, now linked with a product/brand, is going to be a result to more searches, giving it a greater presence etc. As Izzie from Occasionally Adulting explained to me, cross promotion is a standard business strategy and there is no harm in getting your name out there first. It's an equal transaction.

Now, to bloggers who think it's ok to shame those of us who 'work for free': 

"But if you work for free, nobody will pay me" - please stop whining. 
Guess what? If a company has reached out specifically to you, chances are they love the content you produce and really appreciate the influence you have. If so, they'll be happy to pay for your service. If you're at a point where you feel your influence and content is so great that you absolutely, without a doubt deserve to be paid for it, good for you. I mean that whole heartedly.

However, there are many like me who's influence is not so vast, I know sweet FA about SEO, and, most importantly: this is my hobby. I do it because I like it, not because I want to get paid.  There are professional tennis players, and there's also people who play tennis for a hobby. You don't see Andy Murray whining about your local amateur tennis club because they're undermining his profession, do you?

Your portfolio may be finished, but mine isn't 

I always think about it similarly to how I approach my photography: I couldn't just start charging people to have their photo taken without proving myself first. I'd have to build a portfolio, and yes, that would mean 'working for free'. All these opportunities you're accepting without monetary payment, think of it as building your portfolio; you're showing what you can do, who wants you to do it for them, and you're building yourself a reputation.

I'm passionate and I'm not in it for the money 
I feel like this is a slightly controversial point. Every blogger will say "I'm not in it for the money", and I don't think they're lying. But I've seen bloggers (again, bigger bloggers) charge for literally everything. Per tweet, per Instagram post, where do you draw the line? However, that's more of a side point. The main thing is, I, like many others, genuinely enjoy blogging. It's not a chore; it's not my job. It's a hobby.
I may well put, say, 8 hours into one blog post, but I enjoyed all of it. I'm passionate. If you're at a point where blogging is your profession and you feel it's absolutely necessary that you are paid for X blog/Instagram post, then good for you! I mean that sincerely. However (and, again, I know not every professional blogger does this) this does not give you the right to take it upon yourself to demean and discourage fledgling/hobbyist bloggers because they are not willing to turn down a great opportunity because the brand/PR is not willing to pay them a hundred quid or so.

I would have happily paid for X product/service, and I've been offered it for free 
So I'm going to take it. I'll ask if there's a budget, but if there's not, I'm not about to say no. If it's something I wanted, genuinely want to review and will probably enjoy reviewing, I'll happily and gratefully accept.  Here's some posts that are examples of me 'working for free', and I am proud of them. I am proud to have been recognised by brands, in most cases, I already loved.
Bioderma | ghd | Nuxe | Bloomtown Botanicals | Eye of Horus | Aurelia Probiotic Skincare

I admit this is definitely a grey area, because there's definitely some stingy brands/PRs out there, hoping to make a quick buck out of you. Or even worse, scam you like New Edge PR. But I think use your initiative, or always feel free to ask other bloggers if you're unsure. I recently set up a Twitter page (@BlogScamWatch) for bloggers to discuss any shady emails going around and untrustworthy brands/PRs. It's on private so it's just for bloggers, but feel free to send a request and I'll accept you. I'm hoping to make it a really useful resource for the community.

If you're looking to make money from your blog but are also happy to receive product incentives, but are not sure where to draw the line, take a look at my thought process when it comes to being asked to work for free:

What do you think about 'working for free'?

Looking for more 'blogger help' posts? Check out some of these:
Guide to Flatlay Photos | How to Improve Your Images | What I Wish I'd Known As A Newbie Blogger | Cliche "Blogger" Photography Tips That Need To Stop

Please suggest any more 'blogger help' posts for any thing you might be stuck with, and also feel free to get in touch with me personally if you have any questions or you're unsure of anything. As I said, I'm not a professional, but I like to consider myself quite savvy and forward thinking! modishrambling@outlook.com
You can also find me on Bloglovin' Twitter Facebook & Instagram    

*For arguments sake, lets say less than 10K instagram followers. 

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10 comments

  1. I found this post to be really interesting to read, and I loved your chart at the end. I think that for those of us who blog as a hobby, getting products for free without any other compensation makes sense. I can see how someone who is a full time blogger would want to get paid. But also, I feel like to each their own, and there is no way to "correctly" work with brands. If you and the brand are happy with the arrangement, then no one else should be commenting on it.

    xx, The Makeup Feed

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  2. Loved reading this. I honestly don't see the problem with accepting products or accepting compensation of some thought. But I understand what you mean about the rivilary between big bloggers and little.

    Have a great day,
    Liam

    liamjhavard.com

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  3. Wow, I really enjoyed this post. For someone who doesn't know much about this side of blogging, I found this post really insightful and a really good read. I really like your writing style and I know that many bloggers will find your little chart at the end extremely useful. Great post! :-)

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  4. Just when I thought that post couldn't get any better. I saw the chart! Great one. Millie! I must say, I absolutely agree with you. And truly, "bigger bloggers" need to stop whining about this issue. You've pretty much said it all in this post. Perhaps some of these bigger blogger feel threatened by the fact that so many other people are vying for recognition in the blogging world? Honestly I'm not bugged by it and I don't see it bigging me if I were a big blogger. As long as bloggers who work for free aren't being taken advantage of, I don't see the problem

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  5. I've noticed such an influx of people saying they would charge for being sent PR. And honestly? I wonder what the PRs must think when they get that response from smaller bloggers. Numbers and reach matter, it's unavoidable and yes, Nikki Tutorials can charge what she wants to even look at a product but we're all a long way off from that. HOWEVER, more power to anyone who is negotiating fees for it ... Personally I prefer to politely say no to the things which aren't a good fit and enjoy the chance to try new stuff if it is. The key factor here, is as you say, everyone needs to stop having a go about it. It feels like Twitter has become one big awkward family dinner of late, where a new argument erupts every five minutes. It's boring!

    https://amyevans.co.uk - Amy

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  6. I love this! It's so true and beautiful photos xx I got my first review request a couple of days ago but am reluctant to agree because I don't think I would enjoy reading the book. My blog relaunched 60 days ago and I love it. Whether you work for free or not, if you enjoy it, that matters.
    Laila
    www.lailabee.blogspot.co.uk

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  7. I totally agree with you - I sometimes agree to write a completely honest review in exchange for a product when it's win win for both me and the brand too x

    Jenny | LuxeStyle

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  8. Agreed! I loved reading your post, so informative and true. I personally especially starting out will gladly review a product I like for free. It's more than just the money but the fact a company actually reached out to you. Loved your post!

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  9. I kind of agree with you. I think it's okay to do free work as a blogger as long as there is a mutually beneficial agreement between yourself and the brand/PR in question. But what I have a problem with is when big brands/PRs get in touch for free work with the "promise" of exposure, which isn't good enough for me. I'm all about building a rapport and gaining something from my hard work as a blogger, so I don't want to be used for free work.

    Plus, I like the chart you've created! It's very useful and it's similar to my own personal guidelines that I take into consideration when figuring out who I'd like to work with.

    Chichi
    chichiwrites.com

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  10. This is a great post especially the chart at the end which I found get useful. I'm not new to blogging but I am new to this style of blogging, revie2s, or samples rtf
    Kim | chimmyville.co.uk

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