The brands keep asking, so I'll keep replying: No, bloggers should never work for free! And here is why you'll love yourself more if you don't blog for free, either!
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Once upon a time, blogging was just a little log for personal reasons. Nobody made money off of it, and no brand thought of working with bloggers for any reason.
Things have changed.
Now blogging is a huge industry. Everyone from your toddler to your great-grandma is on the internet, and many people believe that blogging is an easy way to get free stuff.
Don't be that blogger.
I mean, almost all bloggers have done it once or twice when we started working out, we are all guilty of it. Lord knows I am.
But don't be that blogger waving that 'free stuff' flag around, don't do it more than maybe once to get something on your media kit, and especially don't do it if you have established your blog and are bringing in thousands of views and got an email list going on. Know your worth, honey. Don't let them dupe you!
When you tell a brand you work for free, or for 'free stuff' all you're really doing is working real hard while losing money and giving some big company cheap, desperately cheap, advertisement.
Your sponsored post that you spent hours writing and designing art for and (in the food blogging realm) dropped coin on for groceries and driving to the store and recipe testing....that's wasted time and money, no matter what the company has 'given' you in exchange for all that time, money, and work you put in for them. Work that thousands, possibly millions, of your readers will see for as long as your blog is live.
Is that really worth that $30 shirt or $200 appliance (and if you subtract all the work hours and monetary investment into the project, what did you really make?) but not a single red cent sent to you? Trust me, you could be making a whole lot more with some negotiation, along with the 'free' item.
I've had plenty of brands come to me for collaborations, and trust me, plenty of them go a little something like --
"We just don't have the budget for your rates"
"We are a small company and..."
"We are at the end of our budget for this quarter..."
"We don't pay for blog write-ups..."
One of my personal favorites:
"Not monetary compensation, but we will give you an exclusive pizza party!"
And I literally had an email that said...
"Why should I pay you anything when I can go find some other blogger who will do the work for free?"
Do you drive to your job and work that day for free? Are you, the brand representative, working for this brand for free? I don't think so. Really, that was insulting!
Their free sample or 'free' item isn't going to pay my bills. Honestly, I am now allergic to the word 'free' as it pertains to blogging like a boss. Seriously, I needed to take a Claritin before this post; the thought of doing all this work for free makes my nose stuff up!
So if in the end, after a nudge and a hint of negotiation, they aren't willing to drop any coin their pitches end up with one of my very lovely and super professional rejection emails. Examples of those emails can be found here, wink-wink. For when you know your worth and it's time to drop that reject bomb with class. #shamelessselfadvertisementforyourbenefit
You're not doing all this work to end up working for companies for appliances, going to events, getting free product and clothing, yet still having to work a 9-5. on top of running a business by yourself, to pay your bills.
Know your worth. Stop accepting 'free' stuff as compensation. Because it isn't free.
And you'll more than likely work harder and happier knowing you have a satisfying pay check coming from this project. You'll put out your best work, and be happy to work with that brand again, because they appreciate you.
No one really appreciates anything that's done for free. Make sure that you are appreciated. Don't work for free.
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.
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