Why You Shouldn’t Blog for Free

Beware… this is a little bit of a rant on why you shouldn’t blog for free, but I just couldn’t help myself.

why-you-shouldnt-blog-for-free

I would estimate that at least once a day I receive an email that is basically asking me to work for free. The emails vary in appearance and content, but most of them contain the following main points: a greeting, a compliment about the blog or a recent post, and an upcoming campaign you are a ‘perfect fit’ for. Upon reaching out to get more details on the blogger collaboration, the standard response is there is no monetary compensation but the best posts for the campaign will be shared across the brand’s social media channels.

So basically that boils down to you writing a post on the company and it might, possibly, promote the post to its followers.

My response is always generally the same – Thanks for thinking of me for this campaign, but I have made the personal decision to not work for free. Should the campaign begin utilizing sponsored posts and compensating for these please feel free to reach out to me again. Over the years I have gotten various responses to this. Most are polite and delicate. Some are more brutal and aggressive with their responses.

I’ll be honest, this is something that really pisses me off. No other profession (except maybe freelancers, which is a lot like blogging) is so used and abused. You wouldn’t call up your mechanic and tell them to fix your car for free and you’ll be sure to tell your neighbor about the shop. You wouldn’t take a job  that pays nothing but offers an amazing all-you-can-eat snack bar. The marketing professionals who are coordinating these campaigns certainly aren’t working for free and neither are the company’s executives or any of their employees. Social promotion isn’t going to pay my bills, just as that snack bar won’t pay yours.

Why you shouldn’t blog for free:

Well, let’s break it down….

Writing the post: A standard blog post is between 300 and 500 words. For most it takes about an hour to write a well thought-out post that is engaging and tailored to your brand. Even at minimum wage, an hour of work garners $9.00 an hour.

Creating art for the post: Photography or art for the post takes at least another hour. Between photographing things, editing the photos, cropping them, adding a watermark of my blog, creating a long pinnable image, a square Instagram-worthy image, and a handful of images for the blog takes time and talent. (We won’t even go into the cost of design and editing programs.) So, that’s another $9.00, if we are only making minimum wage.

Blog post promotion: Every blogger who is doing this for more than just her own pleasure, works hard to promote posts across all her social media platforms. We post one, or multiple posts on Instagram, with attractive pictures and captions. We post to Facebook pages and Google+ accounts. We pin to Pinterest. We share on StumbleUpon. And then we work to drive people to all those posts through blogger sharing programs, sponsored posts, etc… This can take an hour or two, if you are doing it well. So that’s an additional $18.

So, basically, if you were only making minimum wage, you should be netting at least $36 for the amount of time you’ve spent on creating and promoting this one non-compensated post. And no writing job makes only minimum wage – even the most basic and boring entry level writing job I had in New York for a tiny niche publication paid at least three times as much as that. I don’t know about you, but my time and effort is worth more. Personally, I would rather compose blog posts of my own that aren’t monetarily compensated, than work for another company doing their marketing through my vehicle.

The Average Cost to Create a Blog Post - AKA Why You Shouldn't Blog for Free

But what about the benefits of that company promoting your content on its social media channels? Sure, that can be awesome if the accounts have hundreds of thousands of followers and a crazy amount of interaction with the readers. (I was retweeted by @IamDiddy once and my follower count spiked instantly.) But, the majority of the time these promotions will bring a dozen or so readers to your site. Some may stick around, others will be one-time readers. The likelihood that you will make $36 off visits from the company’s social promotion is pretty slim. Sure, some companies can make the whole thing sound really attractive. They have all the right words to make it seem like they are offering more than social promotion because of the diversity of their audience or the amount of markets they are in. But when it boils down to it you are working for a tweet. You are slaving away for a Facebook post.

Obviously, this is a system that works, because if it didn’t work companies wouldn’t be using it as a viable marketing tool. So, there are bloggers out there willing to participate in these campaigns and willing to work for free. But you shouldn’t. Please, please don’t. By taking these campaigns and agreeing to work for nothing, we’re all helping to further promote the idea that blogger marketing can be free for brands. That our platforms, which we work hard to create and foster, can be used; that our time isn’t worth even the basic minimum payment someone makes while scooping ice cream.

And what about blogging in return for product? Well, that’s a whole other ball game and deserves a totally separate post.

So what do you think? Do you have your own reasons for why you shouldn’t blog for free?

Katy Rose
Filed In: Blogging

40 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Blog for Free

  1. Shannon

    How very true this is…my mom just started blogging pretty recently and has already gotten a few email offers for sponsors/ads! I am so proud of her! I’m hoping if I keep working hard doing what I love that someday I can make a little extra money on the side too. I think your email response to those is perfect. You are polite, genuine, and give a reasonable answer that makes sense as to why you will not blog for free. Love it- love that you know your worth.

  2. Maggie Unzueta

    When I first started blogging, I used to blog for free just to get name out there. That was years ago, though. So much has changed since then. I hate knowing that so many people are starting a blog to make money. They don’t know how hard it is. Creating good content is hard work. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Kamara

    Completely agree! It irks me when companies ask me to post information about their brand for no compensation whatsoever, or to write for their publication, guaranteeing it will be excellent exposure when they’re an unheard of, start-up brand. It’s really not fair to the bloggers, especially those who dedicate so much time and effort into cultivating their posts and engaging with a loyal audience. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Euriental
    Kamara recently posted..VILLA JIWA, BALI

  4. Kelly @theinspiredparent

    Great post – and it’s not just bloggers – I’m also a photographer and you get lots of “work for exposure” requests. I think this is ridiculously common for anyone working in the arts – whether it’s writing or photography or any other visual & performance arts. Stick to your guns & find the appropriate (and appreciative!) clients!! :)

  5. Katy

    AMEN!!! I am so glad that broke down how long it takes to create sponsored content. It’s totally crazy that people expect you to work for free. I just shuttered my online marketing consulting company and one of the main reasons was that everyone wanted everything for free or nearly free. No one knows how much time everything takes so this break down is genius!

    Katy
    http://www.coveredstyle.com

  6. Brittany

    Great tips! I’m fairly new to the blogging world so this is great advice :) Can’t wait to find more ways to promote my own blog and get my name out there! Your blog is beautiful. Thank you for the tips

    1. Katy Rose Post author

      Thanks Brittany. Love helping out new bloggers and guiding them through the process. It can be daunting to start out but it is such a great adventure too.

  7. Ashley

    I receive way too many emails like that too! When I first started blogging I would accept a few because a. I didn’t know better and b. I hoped they would share my photos and I would gain exposure, or they would consider me for a paid campaign in the future. Now I know that this is definitely not worth it! This was definitely a great read!

  8. Emily

    This is such a great post and I love how you broke down the minimum cost it takes to make a standard post and how a simple social shout-out is usually not worth it. I get emails like this as well, and every once in a while I cave in and usually regret it.

  9. Kayla @ TheEclecticElement

    It’s funny and very apropos you should post about this today! I woke up and my email had 3 to 4 pitches that were pretty much exactly what you described. I toyed around with working for free anyway because I really do need the content but I decided against it; my time could be better spent elsewhere actually creating organic content myself or promoting previous content. I absolutely LOVE the graphic you created. It really is SPOT on for most sponsored blog posts minus recipes.

    1. Katy Rose Post author

      I figure you could take the general idea they are presenting for a post, tweak it to work better for your blog and then post content that is better suited for your readers, without agreeing to work for free. So many of those free posts have all these requirements that make the post sound less authentic.

  10. The Southern Thing

    I completely agree with you on this! In fact, I wrote a post about 2 weeks ago on why I don’t blog for free and neither should you. Not only does blogging take a lot of time and cost money, there is value in it, otherwise these companies wouldn’t be reaching out in the first place. I understand some bloggers will accept offers for nothing in return, especially if they’re just starting out, but it only hurts everyone, include themselves in the long run. This gives brands the idea that they can just find the next blogger to write and promote for free, even though they may not be getting as much exposure as they would from someone who charges.

  11. Willow

    I went into blogging because I love it and hope to eventually become a career blogger. Since content is evergreen, I won’t work for free. Of course all the hours I am putting in aren’t making me money, but I know it takes a long time. I love it too much to stop.

  12. Melanie Messerli

    I have never really thought about blogging like that. I am a new blogger (I have only been doing it for a little more than a month) and man it sure does take a lot of time. I am not even getting paid for what I am doing yet. I love what I am doing and I hope to one day be able to make it my career!

  13. Rosie

    I have a personal blog. I started it years ago, when I was in the depths of a very nasty depression. I had no-one to talk to, so I blogged. I don’t advertise, or look for followers; it’s my space, and if someone wanders in, well and good. If I like something, I say so. No compensation expected, nor required.

    However, that is a PERSONAL blog, for sharing feelings. For the more professional blogger, I agree that making $9 an hour (which is 50% of the AUD minimum wage) to flog someone else’s product, linking it to your personal brand, is a bit much to be asked. Personally, I wouldn’t be so polite as you are. Nothing humans give that is worth having is free; there’s ALWAYS a pay-off. Always.
    Rosie recently posted..Seeing Beauty in the Everyday Things

  14. Joely Smith

    I receive these emails almost daily. On the RARE occasion a response that I do not work for free does in fact garner a paid opp but that is perhaps 1% of the time.
    I agree with everything in your article here.
    Another thing to consider – for those of us blogging as a profession, is that we do not get sick pay, vacation pay, etc.
    That is something each of us need to incorporate into our “salary”.
    An added fee to start a fund for such events. I would love to be able to take a vacation someday!
    I will say one thing … I think you are being overly generous when it comes to the prices you have put on our work. I know you are simply forming a comparison but we all know our time is worth well more than min wage. Especially when the blogger has a huge following and a lot of social media followers like yourself.
    The time in taking and editing good photos alone, not to mention making the banners takes me hours every day.
    Another thing that takes a great lump of my day is social media promoting, and cross promoting to get the brands name out there. I wish the brands had to do this every day for a week so they could see just how much time, energy, and effort it takes!
    Another thing they do not understand is about the CONTENT of our blogs.
    For every sponsored post, or review we need to have around 3 non review or sponsored posts on our blogs.
    Unless our blog is strictly a review blog of course.
    Without this other valuable content we undermine the quality of our blogs,
    When we do free work for brands, we take away from the time we have to create our own quality non sponsored or non advertorial content.
    Its a balancing act and we need to stand up for ourselves.

    1. Katy Rose Post author

      I always respond with a short email outlining my costs for a guest post or a sponsored post, asking which they would prefer. Usually they don’t even bother to respond. Sometimes they do and try to explain why it is beneficial to work for free.

  15. Courtney

    AMEN!

    I get so many of those emails and when I first started blogging I would do it and after blogging full time for 3 years I have learned that it’s just not worth it. Our work is worth SO much more than nothing or even a shoutout.

  16. Teresa

    Great Post. Before I rebranded and first started out, I did reviews for an exchange of a product, not knowing until later I could have charged. Then I started getting emails like that with the same response and I hated that they didn’t want to pay. I know how much work goes into and and no blogger should work for free. Stand your ground, even it’s a product you love.

  17. Angie

    YES. Sing it loud. I get really frustrated with companies (especially big time companies) that feed me the line “we’d like you to write a post including our product, but we can’t compensate, we’ll just be sharing our favorite posts on our social media sites!”

    It’s like A: I have enough of my own content that writing about your company isn’t helpful to me content-wise. B: This is a lot of work to not be paid for. AND C: I have only a chance of getting recognition on your page for this? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? It’s just rude. I swear, I get 2-3 of these weekly.
    Angie recently posted..Better Your Blog | 10 WordPress Plugins That You Should Be Using

  18. Eloise

    I started blogging a few months ago, and I found this post helpful! I agree with you completely, why work so hard for free?! People should be compensated for their time and effort, esp when the people they’re working for are getting paid. Thanks for the info.
    take care.
    Eloise recently posted..DIY Family Silhouette Portraits

    1. Katy Rose Post author

      Thanks Eloise! Love to help new bloggers out, especially because wading through all of that could be really daunting.

  19. Abby

    Amen!!! I’ve tried to adapt the same ideal when it comes to writing posts on my blog. It’s one thing when you really love the brand that you decide to write up a review or post about them for free. But it’s another when they approach you – it only means they need you and think you’re valuable for their campaign. I used to respond to these outreach emails asking about the compensation, but since I’ve gotten the same response of being ”possibly” featured on their social media accounts, I’ve quit wasting my time. If they know that their campaign is going to reap benefits from your posts, then they should be upfront about the mutual benefits of the said collaboration, not just what would benefit their end.

    xo,
    Abby of Life in the Fash Lane

  20. Ashley

    I definitely agree! I have also gotten my share of rude emails, but have always stuck to my views. Blogging is A LOT of work, and I definitely consider it my second job, therefore I don’t think it’s asking much to be compensated if I am putting in the work!

    xo Ashley

  21. Chelsie

    PREACH GIRL! *insert hands raised up emoji* This drives me crazy that so many people reach out to me and want me to do so much work for free! That’s not what I’m here for! I rely on the income from my blog to help support my family; I’m not asking the people at their company to work for free, so it should come to me!
    Chelsie recently posted..7 Pinterest Tips from a Pinterest Ambassador

  22. Trisha

    I just had this issues with a company last week. When they sent me their original proposal it sounded like they would be offering me two free products to test and review. Exchange I would get to keep the products (totally $185). Normally I charge $150-$200 per sponsored blog post that isn’t mutually beneficial. Talking about a pair of sunglasses on my blog space isn’t going to garner any love or attention from my readers. After I spoke to the person, told them how I operate, they sent me a reply email saying, “oh no, you have to purchase the sunglasses from us and then write a review for free”. Um… thanks but no thanks.

    What really and truly makes me upset, is that our there somewhere in webspace, a poor newbie blogger will write a blog post for FREE. They will buy these sunglasses and write a review that probably won’t get their blog anywhere. Wasting their precious time. I am going to share this post on Facebook cause it’s the truest thing I’ve heard all week!

    1. Katy Rose Post author

      I got one of those recently too! When i told them the company provides the product that I do not buy it for a sponsored review. The company’s response was that I could ‘borrow’ an item if I paid the shipping – both ways. Heck NO!!

  23. Chrisy @ Homemade Hooplah

    This is SUCH an important concept and message, especially to new bloggers. I’m still surprised by how many companies – and BIG companies at that – still think it’s okay to try to pay bloggers with “exposure.” They probably think they “can” do it because so many new bloggers are so eager for the opportunity that they’ll do just about anything – and honestly, in our early days of blogging, I think we were all that hungry for some sort of forward movement. I love how you broke down the numbers and I hope bloggers take it to heart! The only way we’ll really get away from the “exposure” payment is if we all take a stance against it.

    1. Katy Rose Post author

      Agreed! If only we all banned together companies would stop sending these kind of email and making these kind of requests. Hopefully one day we get there.

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