Lately it seems not a day goes by when I don’t get an email from someone asking me to something I consider outrageous and unfair. There is the ‘well-known’ niche expert who wants me to create collage outfits for her and she will post them to her blog and share them with her 1,000 social media fans, OR there is the company that wants me to feature their goods in an upcoming dedicated post without any compensation or sample to talk about, OR there is the company that offers to give me $5 if I write about them. Most days I delete those emails swiftly without giving it a second thought, but lately I started to realize these emails MUST be effective otherwise I wouldn’t still be getting them. And that saddens me. What blogger, who is trying to create something personal and original would lover themselves to working for free?
So I asked the FBFF editorial board what they thought about our worth as bloggers and how to combat those companies that seem set to use you rather than collaborate with you. Here’s what they had to say…
Linda of Little Tin Soldier: After you have been blogging for awhile, you’ll begin to receive emails from PR firms, small businesses, or individuals who are interested in partnering with you. I use the term “partner” loosely– the emails usually range from a sweet and simple press release to a product review to a sponsored post.
If you genuinely like an item or business (especially if it’s an item you own or a store you frequent), you may naturally blog about them anyway. But if someone is asking you to go above and beyond your usual habits (ex. a collage, a review, a styled outfit, event coverage), you have the right to be compensated. If you’re just starting out as a blogger, barter for a gifted product or social media promotion in exchange for a post. If you’re more established, create a media kit with professional rates for the kind of posts you offer. Keep in mind that all bloggers’ rates vary based on experience, number of followers, etc. If you’re not sure what to charge, research hourly freelance rates for writing, artwork, or photography at your skill level. Create your own rate from there.
Don’t do anything for free, and also don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right! It’s okay to reply with a polite, “No thanks.” It’s okay to ask someone to remove you from a mailing list. It’s okay to back out if a company offers you terms that make you uncomfortable. It’s okay to counter a contract with one you believe is more fair. But it’s never okay to underestimate yourself– you (and your work) are worthy.
Andrea of Blonde Bedhead: Some brands and PR companies that represent brands are great. They’re professional, courteous and understand partnerships must be beneficial to not only the brand, but the blogger too. Some…not so much. There are a select few brand and PR/ad agencies that act as bullies. They make outrageous demands, seem to never be satisfied with the work you provide, whether it’s a giveaway post or an outfit post featuring an item of clothing and keep asking for more. Over the last four years, I’ve given in to outrageous demands, agreed to partnerships I didn’t fully understand and have gotten taken advantage of. I think it has to happen to all of us to fully understand and appreciate our own worth—and know our own threshold for bullshit.
I’ve gotten into partnerships where companies will tell you what they will deliver on and sell you on the blogger benefits, but then those never come to fruition. I’ve had companies tell me that I have complete freedom over a review (as I should) but then
ask me to organically mention all the technical benefits and details about products, which would make me sound like a robot.
How to combat this?
- Contracts. Ask for a contract and get what you want in writing.
- Ask questions. If you’re confused about any part of a partnership, ask for more details. This has been by far, my biggest and most reoccurring mistake.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. Feel like you’re not getting what you need from a company? Tell them no thank you. At any point in process of chatting with a brand or agency and you feel uncomfortable, tell them no and explain your reasoning.
- Know your worth. I’ve asked other blogger friends for their rates for comparison, I’ve compared what various brands will pay or provide and I’ve come up with my own rates I’m comfortable with. If a brand thinks its too much, well they’re not worth working with then. You want to associate yourself with brands that not only represent who you are and relevant to your own brand, but treat you well and appreciate what you provide them.
- Negotiate. I used to be afraid to ask what I wanted and would take whatever companies first offered. Never hurts to ask.
- Educate. A company may suggest working with you for one type of partnership, but if something else works better for you and is more relevant to your readers, explain that. Most times, the companies will listen and adjust in order to capture a larger audience. For example, I always advise on less barriers to entry on my blog giveaways. My readers like me don’t want to put through hoops, so I refuse to do that and I explain this to companies. Most of the companies I’ve worked with have resulted in really fun, positive and mutually beneficial partnerships. It’s these types of partnerships that have shaped me and help me understand my worth as a blogger. Take your current and past experiences into account, and it sounds cheesy, but listen to your head and your heart.
Caitlin of Re-Mix Her: I think we’ve all been tempted to do it: changing who we our via our blog and its policies to work in that next sponsored post, that product review, etc. I like to think of my blog as an extension of me and who I am, so when the time comes to give a company a response about a project they’ve pitched, I come at it from the perspective of “Is this something I would be proud to support and promote, or would I feel guilty knowing I’d lowered my standards or changed my policies?”
Your value as your own brand and as a blogger is priceless, so don’t wear your heart on your sleeve, so to speak. Companies worth working with know that bloggers are often a secret weapon, and they’ll make it worth your time and effort. If a company isn’t worth working with? Say no! There’s nothing wrong with saying no, and I’ve found that when I do say no, other opportunities pop up in its place that are a way better fit.
Me: Maybe it is the fact that I have spent years working as a freelance writer and social media specialist, but I am very passionate about being compensated for the work I do. Freelance doesn’t mean free. The time I spend on something, isn’t going to be half-assed. It isn’t going to be thought-less. It takes time. It takes effort. It holds a piece of me. And therefore I, and every blogger, should be compensated for that time and effort spent.
My tips for knowing and living up to your worth:
- Set your prices. This can be scary and intimidating. And women often tend to undervalue their work, setting lower price points than you are worth. Set your price points for different aspects of collaboration, know your drop-dead number and push for that. I went back and forth with a company for two weeks. They wanted to pay less than half of what I asked for. I finally walked away from the table and they countered with my usual rate.
- Know yourself. I think this can be one of the trickiest parts. Some companies are willing to throw money at you, but is it a good fit for your blog, for your focus? Will it ring true to your readers or will it come across as forced? For instance, I have had at least 5 different online casinos pitch me ‘fashion-related’ pieces. And while they will pay my sponsored post fee they aren’t a good fit for my blog. I turn the money down each and every time because gambling and casinos is not the vibe I present on ModlyChic.
- Soundbites. In journalism having your set soundbites on any topic is essential. In blogging the same applies. You should be able to explain your blog, why you prefer reviews, why you deserve compensation for your work, what your readers expect, etc… I have a list of lines that I use when writing back to a company’s pitch. I say things like, “Since this is my profession I cannot accept anything less than XX.” and “My readers expect the posts on ModlyChic to truly reflect the quality of the product which is why a review item is so essential.”
- Don’t settle. I love the line from Sugarland’s song, ‘I ain’t settling for anything less than everything.’ It’s such a good lesson. We can be tempted to settle – on a lower price, on a collaboration that doesn’t fit, on a deal that sounds sketchy. In the long run it’s not worth it. Keep your standards high. Walk away if you need to.
- Learn from your mistakes. We’ve all done it – messed up, agreed to something we should have steered clear of. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, take the experience and learn from it. Take away key lessons on what to avoid or what to do differently in the future.