Bloggers Get Paid For Your Work

December 12, 2012

This may be a controversial topic, but I’m going to go with it anyway because the one way to start a conversation is to speak up! This past weekend in our blogging workshop, we taught students how important it is to put a value on their work and to stand behind it and to not do stuff for free. After overhearing a conversation on twitter this morning along the same topic, I knew it was time to write about it on my blog so here goes. Get paid for your work, bloggers!

Bloggers Get Paid For Your Work

It’s one thing to post on a blog for free if your blogger friend is taking vacation and they need some help BUT it should be clear to both parties that it is an exchange of services – not a freebie. In other words, you will post on their blog IF they also bail you out when you are on vacation and they post on your  blog. I’m not really talking about that though. I’m talking about magazines, companies and others who cherry pick bloggers to work for them and then they surprise you with the, “Well, we don’t have the budget to PAY you – but you will get a ton of clicks and press from this opportunity.”

One thing that you have to remember bloggers is that these companies may be telling you the truth – perhaps their budget is in the hole at the moment – but that is not your fault and they will only use free work until they can afford to pay their professional freelancers again. In other words, you are just a “filler” until they can afford the professionals. Do you want to be a filler, a lesser-than, to fill a hole? Or do you want to be viewed as worthy and eventually, as a professional and be paid accordingly? Of course, if you are not a pro stylist or photographer or even the best writer – in other words you’re not a professional, you still deserve to be fairly compensated for your work. Why not? We’ve all done it before and accepted free work in exchange for promotional opportunities but unless the opportunity is such a career changer for you, you most likely won’t see much from the work that you can measure so it may be best to put your time and effort into paid gigs.

If you want to get paid for work that you do as a blogger – perhaps a magazine wants to use your photos for an issue or a company wants you to speak on a panel at their event or be a speaker, then it’s very important that you make it clear that you don’t work for free. It’s your way of supporting the blog community as a whole because there are bloggers who work for free and they are definitely causing problems.

For instance, pretend you are being asked to speak at a blogger event. If the event only plans to give you a free ticket to attend, that’s not the equivalent of getting paid. However, if they put your brand on all of their promotional materials, heavily push your lecture online through their social media channels, pay for your travel to and from the event (meals, train/flight, hotel) and give you a pass to the event then you need to weigh that to see if your time is worth it. If so, then do it but get everything in writing FIRST.  But never show up at a blogger event that is being sponsored by advertisers and companies (in other words, money is backing the event) and speak for free (unless the event is being hosted by good friends and you want to help them out because they’re just getting started). But that’s rarely the case.

I have seen TOO MANY bloggers work for free and I’m really tired of watching good people be taken advantage of. At the very least, you should have your travel expenses paid and make sure they will give you a ton of press from your participation but never speak or be on a panel for a free pass to their event and a mention on their website or something bogus like that – it’s really ridiculous to hear these stories but I hear them constantly and enough is enough. I’d rather attend a blogger event with 5 speakers who are passionate, ridiculously great at what they are covering and how they present it, and who are worth sitting an hour listening to who are also getting paid than to go to a blogger event with 30 speakers and because they’re all working for free, they are not as passionate in their delivery, may have never presented before a group in their life and who may not deliver the best presentation as a result.

There are tons of events out there that target bloggers as speakers and panelists because they know 1) You have an audience 2) You most likely are pretty eager to grow it 3) You will probably speak, teach or be on their panels for free and 4) You won’t complain – in fact, you’ll share their event with everyone online that you can because you are just so “honored” and “flattered” and “overjoyed” to have been asked in the first place. If they came to you then you obviously aren’t half bad so have a little confidence, okay? GET PAID or SAY NO. If everyone of us starts to demand payment for services, these companies will be forced to support us or else they won’t have much of a blogger event without bloggers speaking, will they?

You deserve some kickback for your time. That means money or the equivalent thereof – travel and expenses and lots of promotion for your business.

Plus, do you REALLY want to be an, “amateur solution”? You can do so much better than that. Try to work really hard to be the best you can in your field so that you CAN demand fair payment. Stand up for yourself. Stand behind your work. Don’t work for free. It doesn’t just hurt you in the long run (it’s very hard to ask for money once you’ve earned the reputation of being desperate, sorry to be so blunt, but it’s true) but it hurts the professionals who are no longer getting paid because people would rather use amateurs and up-and-comers for free – sure, they know the work isn’t as good but it’s FREE and free is a really tempting lure!

Today on Twitter, some of my blogger friends had this to say about getting paid (or not) for freelance work:

Bloggers Get Paid For Your Work

And this doesn’t only have to do with blogging events. I’m also talking about magazines and others who expect bloggers to contribute articles for free, DIY stories, photography and more. It’s unfair.

As my husband @alternatewords says, “Don’t Fall For The Exposure Mantra!”.

What do you think? Care to discuss this with me and others? Head to the comments section of this post… I’d love to hear your perspective!

(image: holly becker)


  • Reply Loui December 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    So so so true!

    A brilliant and timely post Holly and a great starting point for bloggers everywhere! As you said on the weekend, men are much better than women at asking the money question. I’ve been asked to speak at a blogger event and when I told my husband on the phone two nights ago, first thing he said “What are they paying you?”

    When I first started out I used to do small restoration jobs for people for free to build up my experience and because I didn’t have the confidence to ask for money for smaller projects. Then one day I was talking to my friend and he said “if you’re going to work for free, you might as well go and volunteer at a charity because right now you’re helping no one, least of all yourself!”

    Get paid bloggers, you deserve it and you’re worth it! x

  • Reply Sarah December 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    I could not agree more. I used to be on the ‘it’s such an honour to be asked’ team and would say yes to anything. Now, I am way more selective. An opportunity has to provide me with something in return….monetary or not. Saying no is hard {and so very un-Canadian} but I am learning to!

  • Reply Will @ Bright.Bazaar December 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    High five to you, dear Holly! Everything you’ve written above is so true. Bloggers are a talented bunch, with many taking on the responsibility of tasks for which there would be numerous employees to do for a magazine, or in-house at a brand. There are so many hugely talented bloggers who style, photograph, write, layout and publicise their blogs all by themselves. If that’s not editorial talent then what is, right?! I think that slowly more magazines and brands are valuing this, but there’s still a long way to go.

  • Reply Polly Rowan December 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    This is such a good post Holly! It’s so true, I get emails all the time about companies/ people wanting me to do things for them. Do they ever offer anything for you? Very rarely. It’s tempting to take every offer given to us, especially at the beginning when we feel ‘flattered’. But then you just end up feeling stupid and used!
    Thanks for making me feel more confident about putting my foot down when dealing with payment X

  • Reply Lindsey December 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    The fact is, many new writers and bloggers fear missing opportunities by not agreeing to produce SOME work for free. But the cycle is never-ending – even after I’ve been published in internationally recognized publications, many companies still fail to see how my time and attention should warrant compensation and therein lies the problem. Until more of us say no (with confidence!), the trend will continue . The conversation is still sometimes uncomfortable for me, especially when I’m sollicited to work on something I find interesting, but I’ve worked too hard to do things in exchange for a credit or link …. that I no longer need.

  • Reply tinajo December 12, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Very good post, I´m sure many will feel boosted by this! :-)

  • Reply Esther December 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Unfortunately it’s not only bloggers who get treated this way. I am a freelance journalist and I got completely flamed a few weeks ago for refusing to write a 4 page interview for a magazine, for free. Of course they promised me ‘a podium’ ‘a great opportunity’ and ‘a change to add a great name to my portfolio’. I already have a podium, I have many paid opportunities and my portfolio is filled with great work, thank you very much!

    I asked the editor if she maybe also goes to het baker, asks him for 2 loafs of bread and then not pay for the bread because it was such a wonderful opportunity for him to bake te bread and he’ll get a podium because you’ll tell all your friends about the bread?? I don’t think so!

    I am glad you wrote this blog! I think that because a lot of people write/blog as a hobby, there’s an image out there that quality is available for free and it shouldn’t! Writing is a profession, just like being a baker or a butcher.

    **breathes in and out** I need some camomille tea now ;-)

    What maybe would be another interesting topic is ‘how’ you ask for money as a blogger/writer/photographer because I can imagine that many people think ‘oh well, never mind’ because they don’t want to burden someone by asking for a fee. If more people would find it easier to ask for money, then they probably would more often and that would be better for our profession as well??

    Sorry for the long reply, but this topic really hit me close to home!

  • Reply Daniella de Grood December 12, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    As a pattern designer, I have to negociate all the time with my customers about prices vs designservices. I recently realized as creative entrepreneur, I did not get business training in artschool. While the people you do business with, are very often graduates from business school and have expert negociation skills! So no wonder it is so hard to receive the proper payment for our art! The solution: get some negociating skills!. The book of Roger Dawson “secrets of power negociating” was a real eyeopener for me! From the first chapter, I read al the things that I have been doing wrong the whole time. And now I know exactly what to say when a customer asks for a big price reduction….

  • Reply danielle December 12, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Great post Holly! Thanks for getting this conversation started! The clicks & exposures that magazines are promising aren’t that rewarding. I have had some mentions in various magazines with my blog and my shop. Although I’m grateful and honored to be mentioned, these mentions doesn’t really boost visitor numbers or sales. To be honest I think that blogs are much more powerful in generating sales and traffic! As said I’m honored to be mentioned in magazines but magazines who want to hire the services of bloggers should pay them and not promising them traffic and exposure..

  • Reply Callie Grayson December 12, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    I completely agree!
    Well written Holly, I feel people need to be more confident in their work and be paid accordingly.
    I tell my interns (in the interior design industry) NEVER work for free. That their time and ideas are worth something and add fresh ideas and value to projects, and blogging is no different. You write something, photograph or style … should get paid for your time and ideas.
    Again, great post Holly! This is why I love you blog so much, you are always informative, professional and always teaching me something new.

  • Reply Rona December 12, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Thank you so much Holly for writing this blog post. It’s wonderful that you’ve highlighted this controversial subject…

    After just over 12 months of writing Flowerona, I made a conscious decision to only work for companies/people who paid me for my time.

    I realised that it would help people’s perceptions of the blogging industry…if we all carry on doing things for free, that’s exactly what people will expect.

    And yes, it’s difficult initially to know exactly how much to charge for your work, e.g. writing a magazine article, providing a photograph or speaking at an event. I totally agree with @Esther.

    It would be great to have some ballpark figures. Do you have any idea of how we could source such information?

    • Reply decor8 December 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      @Rona – No, I’m not sure but I will see what I can gather!

  • Reply Ashley December 12, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Great post, Holly! I totally agree that we all need to work together to educate other bloggers to value their work and time enough to not work for free. As a professional photographer who also happens to blog, I have too often been asked to contribute work for free. There are a few times when the opportunity can benefit me as much as the client, but those are really rare. In addition, more often than not they do actually have a budget and all you need to do is ask!

  • Reply Dassi87 December 12, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    So very true!

    Do you know this drawing: I found it some months ago and really love it.

    I could tell some funny stories about working for free, too. Maybe I will tell them one day on my blog.


  • Reply Jessica December 12, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Love love love this post! Trying so hard to monetize my blog. I know I’m a great writer as I am approached by PR people and brands all the time. I just said to someone I cannot write for free. I did not get the assignment but I have to tell you it felt great. My blog and readership are growing and I will not sacrifice. Also, I want to add that I will not accept just any ad or will not write for just anyone. Whomever/whatever I choose to endorse must reflect my image, brand and ideals.

  • Reply Emily Henson/Life Unstyled December 12, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Great article Holly. I’m a stylist in London and I get asked to do things for free all the time – e.g. to talk about styling/decorating/visual merchandising at big events put on by BIG magazines and companies. Even to spend a day styling for new magazines, all under the guise of good exposure. I’ve said yes to a few big ones as I was trying to establish myself in London after a move back home from LA. But I always feel a bit used afterwards, to be honest. And I’m not sure much exposure really follows. I’m a successful stylist, decorator and soon-to-be-author, thank you very much! How dare they? I guess it’s all about feeling that you’re worth it, isn’t it? But if we don’t put a value on what we do, then no-one else will. Love your blog!

  • Reply L December 12, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    YES! You are smart. I have a couple of comments on this. I work at a national magazine that is 3 million circ where editors routinely reach out to bloggers for content. I am a photo editor and not a professional blogger so that’s my perspective…

    -Bloggers who do not ask to be paid, are without a doubt perpetuating the problem. That said, being published in print or on a well-known blog will definitely give you street cred w/ editors and if that means doing it for free ONE time, I think it’s worth it. After that though, just ask. They can only say no.

    -PLEASE please keep in mind that while it’s frustrating that there is a huge lack of budget in this area (and that will not change unless you refuse to work for free), it is very likely that this is not the fault of the editors contacting you so please assume that they are working with what they have and treat them professionally and politely (assuming they are treating you the same!)…it is a vicious cycle but everyone is just trying to get their job done. Don’t burn a bridge unless you are really sure. You can say no of course, but I just feel like people have NO idea what goes on behind the scenes especially at the big machines of a natl. publication. Plus, most publications (especially the older ones) are still navigating how this works so it’s really decided on a case by case basis.

    Sorry this got long–to sum up, I think: Bloggers should inquire about getting paid when contacted by editors. If your contact is excellent quality and unique, they will probably find some way to compensate you, even if it’s page rates for images your supplying them with (say they are using an image of a craft you made/took a picture of at a 1/4 page, you could get $200.00 for that usage) since most magazines have a built in system for paying for images.

    But, if they say they can’t pay you, believe them and don’t take it personally, just decide what’s best for you to do.

    Hope that helps. If anyone has any questions about the flip side of this inside a mag, I will try to check back to read for follow up comments!

  • Reply Elizabeth @Mango_Queen December 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Great post! Thanks for speaking up for the rest of us. I’ve seen this happen all the time. Personally, I’ve been asked to do stuff by PR people and brands and when I politely tell them ” I don’t work for free “, they move on to the NEXT blogger who does it for free. I will re-share this post. Everyone’s comments here are great, too! Just because the internet is still free, doesn’t mean we should cave in a give our services for free, as well.

  • Reply Rona December 12, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    @decor8: Thank you so much Holly :-)

  • Reply Laura Ingalls Gunn December 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    What an excellent blog post!

    I wrote 4 fantastic articles for a few online publications for free.

    It’s probably a good time to mention that

    A. I am an excellent writer. (toot toot)
    B. I had my own column in a newspaper.
    C. I am a writing professional.

    No more freebies.

    I value myself. Thank you for reminding me why.

  • Reply kristy @ the wicked noodle December 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    I agree with most everything in your article with one exception: attending a conference on a free ticket alone. Everyone must start somewhere and conferences are a great way to network and get your name out there. I’ve made invaluable contacts at conferences that have led to high-paying contracts; that very likely would not have happened had I not gotten to meet that contact face-to-face and develop a “real” relationship. I make a full-time income from my blog but I’m still happy to accept a ticket to a well-respected conference – especially if that conference is across the country and I don’t have to pay flight, hotel, etc. (if travel wasn’t included I wouldn’t accept the offer no matter where it was). Networking can be worth its weight in gold, especially for newer bloggers trying to get their name out there! Not to mention what newer bloggers can learn if it’s a good conference (like IFBC – my favorite)!

    Having said all that, you also have to weigh whether the brand that is sponsoring you is one that you truly believe in, as well as what their expectations are. I’ve attended conferences on behalf of a brand who expected almost NOTHING (literally – and I pushed the issue because I felt I needed to earn my keep and they still insisted they just wanted me to have a good time!) and others who have offered but I’ve turned them down because they wanted 3 (!) blog posts in return or other unrealistic expectations. One blog post? MAYBE. The best time to accept these offers, in my opinion, is when the brand is really just looking to solidify the relationship with you.

    Just my .02! And I do love the blog post!

    • Reply decor8 December 12, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      @Kristy that could still have been accomplished (making the contacts) if you had been paid for your time, too right? That’s my point. I wouldn’t attend a conference and speak for free for a free ticket alone because trust me these conferences are paying their “big name” speakers and are short changing the less important under the guise of exposure and networking.

      If all bloggers just said NO we want to be paid for our time to speak/be on a panel (or at least all expenses paid to get there and stay overnight and lots of press mentions in flyers/etc.) it would greatly impact our community. So many bloggers give up on their businesses over time because up and comers do everything for exposure and for free and this brings down the community as a whole. What good does building your brand really do if, once you’ve built it, you are still being asked to work for free because the new bloggers are doing everything for free tickets and exposure???

  • Reply Juliette December 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Great post! This happens in the editing field as well as many other freelance-type fields. I think rates are a real problem -many people don’t know what’s fair to charge/pay (although the pro websites/companies surely do and many don’t offer any reimbursement, so they should know better).

    With my editing work I use the Editorial Freelancers Association (’s ROUGH rate sheet as a guideline for my work and as a point of reference for when potential clients get huffy about my rates. Granted, I mostly do medical editing, so my rates are higher in relation to the specialty and my experience, but even a rough rate sheet helps put things in perspective.

    Is there anything similar for bloggers? Bloggers generate writing, but often also a unique & creative idea + photography/illustrations. They should definitely be paid more than copywriters, but what are the going rates for things?

    Guidelines would really help everybody: bloggers would feel empowered and compensated for their energy + clients would feel assured that a blogger wasn’t trying to rip them off.

  • Reply cice December 12, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    great post…….but working for free isn’t just in the blog world. just recently there was an article in the ny times about companies taking advantage of “free” creative talent out there. one of the main culprits was Anthropologie…..and i was really sorry to hear that. if you don’t value yourself first and foremost…..nobody will, thats the bottom line.

    • Reply decor8 December 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      @cice – do you have a link to that article? I’d love to read it!

  • Reply Katie December 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from being self-employed is how to say “no” to projects, especially ones that don’t pay. If I want to take on a project for other reasons, fine, but my time is valuable and so are my skills. That being said, I’m contemplating going to a certain event next year where I won’t get paid if I teach. I don’t agree with that, and might just go as a visitor and enjoy myself instead of having that nagging feeling that my time preparing for a class or two could have spent doing something more productive for my business.

  • Reply samantha December 12, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    glad you bought this up, its one those issues I have a problem with, thing is at what point do you start to be taken seriously as a blogger, and be able to demand a price for your time, I have several emails a day from pr people etc asking me to do a little post about them or their product, or how much do i charge for a link, then the minute I do put up a rates page, they all back off. What started out as a hobby is really a full time job, I could almost do with someone just to look after the emails that come up, but I can’t afford to pay for that service. I think this is a topic that I will carry on battling with because I don’t class myself as professional blogger.

  • Reply Juliette December 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Ok, laughing at myself here… I just looked at my own last post, which was me posting free content for a website. Granted, it’s quite clear that I’m a hobby blogger, and I didn’t/don’t mind the idea of contributing for free for this type of thing given this particular situation, BUT I do think it’s good to be aware of when you cross the line between hobby and doing work that should be paid. Just because you view something is a hobby doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paid for your efforts.

  • Reply Kelly December 12, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    This is a hugely important subject and I am glad to read this discussion. I agree with all. Many of us come from a design background with years of training and experience behind us. We deserve to be compensated for our knowledge and skills. It happens across the industry of design; interiors, graphics, styling, fashion, make-up, and now design bloggers. Thanks Holly.

  • Reply Sarah December 12, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    I’m a psychologist and spent years working for free as part of course and licensing requirements. Now I don’t have to—thank God. And of course there’s a going rate for psychology fees so there aren’t as many worries about how much to charge as there may with bloggers who do not necessarily have a set fee to follow. I think it all comes down to confidence in your work and having a sense of how much to charge those who use your services. I’m a new blogger and have not even begun to think of getting paid for my work, but this topic is certainly informative. @Daniella de Grood. I think I’ll definitely need to check out that book.

    Thanks Holly for always being so sincere and passionate in your writing.

  • Reply Rachel B December 12, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    So true, Holly! I work in web marketing, where there’s always a less-experienced contractor who is willing to speak at an event or “take a deep dive of an existing account” for free. Frankly speaking, you usually get what you pay for.

    Working for free also undermines the quality of creative work on the web. I know bloggers need to earn money, but I’m tired of seeing uninspired sponsored posts or in-kind “reviews” of unrelated products. I’d much rather read original, well-written posts about topics that bloggers really care about. That’s why I buy books written by bloggers (even when I can score some of the content for free), take e-courses like Holly’s, etc. We really need to support creative talent!

  • Reply Amy @ Living Locurto December 12, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I SO AGREE! Thanks for writing this. I think bloggers get taken advantage of so much.

    I have do freelance work for magazines and wrote this article to help others understand how to work with large publications both online and in print:

    Yes, please don’t giveaway your ideas or time for free. I host a large photography conference as well. We don’t have a lot of speakers so we can afford to pay them for their time. I think everyone deserves to get paid something for their talents. I sure wish more conferences thought that way.

  • Reply Ruth December 12, 2012 at 4:59 pm


    Wonderful post to raise the awareness of that issue! I would go further and say: this is also a problem of other professions in “generation praktikum”- even after an academic education. Architects, vets, graphic designers and so on work for free just to “get experience” and because they have to “learn from the company”….-at least its like that in Austria! Stand up people and know your value!

  • Reply Marcela December 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    I’m only starting to blog, and I get A LOT of requests for free use of my pictures and free recipes. My reply is always no. I did it once, during my first month of blogging, and it didn’t bring any traffic so I learnt my lesson. Some people think it’s pretentious to want payment when one is not a professional, but I only work for free for myself. If they are making money out of the work they want from me, I don’t see why I shouldn’t.

  • Reply Kråks stuga - inredning, trend, trädgård & torparliv December 12, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    So true! Well written. This is a huge problem in Sweden today. Hopefully we will learn companies and media that we can´t work for free. Thank you! / Henrick

  • Reply Janice December 12, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    @decor8: Holly I believe the article that @cici mentioned is in reference to unpaid internships. Anthropologie is mentioned briefly as an example at the end of the article. Other companies are mentioned as example as well:

  • Reply Katie December 12, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Great post, Holly!!

    Unfortunately this happens so much in other creative realms as well. Music is a really good example. My husband is a musician and it has happened so often that after he does a show if the venue hasn’t filled up, the promoters putting on the show won’t pay up. The promoters (or venue) blame the musician that they didn’t promote the show enough. So wait, you’re expecting the musician to perform and do YOUR job (of promoting)?! And then you don’t pay them. Pardon my language, but that’s a load of BULLS***!

  • Reply Vicki December 12, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Hi Holly, wow this was very insightful … thank you!

    I have a question and would love to hear your thoughts. I was just wondering how you feel about barters and trades on Etsy? Sometimes I’ll trade a photo from my shop for say an inexpensive piece of jewelry or a small vintage item. I’ve also had people interested in trading for ad space or a special post about their shop on my blog. Is this ok in your opinion? I’d hate to think that I’d ever be taking advantage of anyone!

    Thanks so much for this post and for speaking out for bloggers. So nice that you care about us! :))

    ~ Vicki

  • Reply Hagar December 12, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Great article Holly! I’m an artist and designer and I asked countless times to work for free or give reduction, in return for the obscure promised of exposure…
    I’ve learned my lesson: Promises are NOT an income and no one can predict the future….:-)
    It’s very important to remember that, and be a professional in your field that know your value.
    Don’t you find it more difficult for women to handle that vague situations?…

  • Reply BODIE and FOU December 12, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    What a great post Holly (they’re always great anyway) but this had to be said out there. I totally agree.

    I have turned down a couple of offers to speak up at int’l interiors trade shows on how I use social media as a retailer and while I’m very passionate about the topic of social media and have a great success story to share on the back of BODIE and FOU, I have decided not to do it because they were not paid.
    I value my work and the experience I have acquired over the past seven years. I work regularly with brands as online consultant so it would have to be really good for my brand to make me consider ever to work for free and be away from my family :-)

  • Reply Elise December 12, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    @decor8: @decor8: Interesting. I’ve keynoted at several conferences, been a panel member at others, and although I have often had my travel covered, I’ve never been paid a stipend for speaking. So I question your assertion that the conferences are paying the big name speakers. I guess it depends on the conference. In the food blogging world, I view these conferences (IACP, BlogHer, IFBC, FoodBuzz, etc.) as a way to help nurture our community, which benefits everybody, myself included. I know in the case of BlogHer, and likely the others as well, the conference fees don’t come anywhere close to covering the cost of the conference. Corporate sponsorship allows the conference organizers to keep the entrance fee relatively low. Do these companies earn a profit from holding these conferences? I hope so, that way they will have incentive to continue to do all the work necessary to put them on.

  • Reply Maaike December 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    thank you for posting this Holly. As if the stars are aligning I was talking this over last night with my husband and a dear friend. I absolutely agree with you, however as a blogger I also know how hard it is to say no sometimes.
    I made a Blurb book out of my work for private use, posted pictures of the cover on Instagram, and all of a sudden my followers want to buy it. I thought of may be uploading it on my blog through ISSUU. It almost feels like the reverse of the issue you are addressing here…

    For me it is those unexpected moment where I am surprised by the offer (or lack of that) to pay for my work. And making a decision based on that surprise is always hard. Your article really helps to remind me there is no other option. My work is worth paying for.

    Thank you!


  • Reply Amberly December 12, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    I am not on this level of blogging, but I find this subject fascinating. I love these thought-provoking posts of yours, Holly. Considering the amount of time, thought and work that goes into blogging – bloggers should definitely be paid when their services/products are used! And for that to happen, bloggers must band together and have a firm position on what they are willing to do for free, and what they expect to be paid for. As an Etsy shop owner selling vintage items, I know that a similar issue exists in the online marketplace world. As a seller who takes pride in my work and puts a lot of energy into my shop and the items I sell (among many other Etsy sellers), it can be frustrating when a much “lower quality” of business at a much lower price skews the competitiveness of the vintage marketplace. I do have some great customers, however, who I know appreciate the attention to detail and care I put into my shop, and so I’m happy to keep doing what I’m doing. Anyway, I love the discussion this post has created, it’s gotten me thinking!

  • Reply Oum December 12, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I think this poster says exactly that ! Thank you for a terrific post Holly :)

  • Reply Carina December 12, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Your point about having it in writing first is so important.

    I recently had weeks and weeks of work, plus hours of my time, wasted when someone I trusted asked me to do a lifestyle shoot for a chapter in an upcoming Paris themed book. At the last minute, they cried ‘no budget, but will offer publicity’. It was a lesson learned on my part, and I’ll never repeat that one again. Payment upfront, at time of booking/prior to publishing/travel etc is so important.

    Tony Wu wrote an excellent article for photographers but it’s valid for bloggers and others who are in positions of being asked to work for free.

    ‘Reasons Why Professional Photographers Cannot Work for Free’ :

  • Reply carla December 12, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Hi, I totally agree. If you deliver work, good work you have to get paid.No matter what it is you do.To many people want to many things for free.
    But I am puzzling about something else aswell.I do not understand why bloggers , in this case, will do so many things for free but when a another blogger , like me, need some help they do not even bother to respons?
    So you are absolutely right but at the other hand , some people want to work for free because they think they will get something out of it.
    It is so important to know for your self what you are worth.
    I will keep on reading and hope to learn a lot more from all these great women (and some men, hihi) like you.

    Have a nice day, Carla

  • Reply Elizabeth December 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    I totally agree. It happens to designers as well. Basically anyone who is creative. I got a call from some guy claiming that he was referred to me by my college, which wasn’t true. He wanted me to talk on his radio show (which he does have, but it’s not even on a station, only on a website) and talk about websites and design. Turns out, he wanted my perspective on HIS website. He wanted me to tell him how to make his website better, for FREE! I don’t know why people think we can do this for free. It’s my time, my gas, and my money. If you want me to sit down and talk to you about how to make your website look better, you have to pay me for it. Website design is my occupation. I didn’t get a degree so people can use my creativity for free! I have expenses that I need to pay for.

  • Reply Unknown Mami December 12, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Work is work and I expect to be paid for it. I do not, will not work for free.

  • Reply Mark Richards December 12, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Good post – here in the UK I find a problem is that not a lot of people appreciate how much work goes into writing, whether it’s copywriting or blogging. Because everyone can write, people tend to think that anyone can write well. Heaven save me from the client who says, “I’ve just made a few tweaks…”

    As to speaking, I’ve done a few free gigs in the past, and I have to say that virtually no promotion came from it. Speaking is the same as everything: if you’re prepared to do it for free, people don’t value you.

  • Reply Ada December 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    I agree, we should get paid for our time + expertise. I often get annoyed when I receive (and I get many) wanting to advertise on my site for FREE (not even asking for a reciprocal link) but simply wanting me to post about their products. I then starting charging for featured posts (a very looow fee since my analytic rating isn’t high, but still charged), and boy does that filter people from contacting me and avoids back and forth emails. I’ve become tougher (screening process) for potential clients too, who some still think my onsite consultations r free. I had a potential client called me back saying so and so designer is charging less and basically asked why he should hire me instead and without skipping a beat I replied BECAUSE SHE IS NOT ME. He said I convinced him and had a great feeling about me, I never heard back from him (not sure is he decided to hire the other designer or not decorate at all), but it FELT GREAT to SAY SO ….. no regrets. Our unique personalities make us the creative beings that we are. Stand your ground and shine your creativeness!!

  • Reply Margot @ Coffee & Vanilla December 12, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    So true… No one should work for free. People that are contacting you with PR requests they are all getting paid for they job so why shouldn’t you? Don’t write any post, except things you want to write anyway, for free… If they want you to feature the product, recipe, add links, ads, organize giveway – give them the price (have ready draft with standard fees), never do it for free… it takes your valuable time you could use on something else. The only thing I do for free (almost) are reviews so I’m not pressured to write anything I don’t won’t to write… but I don’t take for review things that they are not worth evenough to recompense me time spend on them. Always make sure you can keep the item afterwards – that is your payment for your hard work. (Today one PR agency wanted me to review toy and then take it away from kids and send it back!!!)
    Also make sure all review and paid links are “nofollow” if you don’t want to get in trouble with Google… something I learned not long time ago.
    You can read more about advertising fees (and not only) on UKFBA website.

  • Reply katie runnels December 12, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Interesting article, thank you for sharing! I don’t see anyone mentioning (perhaps because it opens another can of worms!) artist and crafters being paid for diy contributions? I’ve been taking a long hiatus from blogging, crafting, and making art since the birth of my son, and I’ve had a LOT of time to reflect this conundrum. I know I am not alone in my wariness of how the internet has changed how artist/crafters make their living, stay relevant, avoid copycats, and promote themselves. After several wonderful experiences contributing to online and tangible publications for free, I finally realized the “incredible exposure” just never pans out for me financially. And while I’d love to continually make for arts sake, it is the career I’ve chosen, and its not just about me sinking or swimming anymore. I think maybe I should open up a conversation on my long-abandoned blog instead of here, sorry!…thank you for sparking my courage to write about this, Holly! xo

  • Reply Libby December 12, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Great conversation starter Holly! It’s also not just bloggers that suffer this fate but also graphic designers and web developers. I have many people balk when I tell then what a website or a logo will cost. I’ve got so much better at asking what I’m worth but that wasn’t always the case. It’s also truly sad to see some sellers on Etsy and elsewhere who charge so little for their work that they are either making a half baked effort or earning $4 an hour. I wish they would realise they are hurting us all by doing that. Thanks for speaking out.

  • Reply Walter Silva December 12, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    A big Hug to you, Holly! I so appreciate this post! I too am so TIRED of newbies and amateurs hurting a professional like myself. I never work for free and as for exposure, I don’t think so! Working under the guise of free exposure is actually bad for business! A lot of bloggers and “illustrators” don’t realize they are hurting everyone when they work for free! The reality of life is you need $$$ to survive, be confident and Be BOLD! Show the world that you are a confident Blogger, designer, Artist etc…

    Happy Holidays!

  • Reply Tracy A. December 12, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    If I ever have anything that anyone considers worthy of asking me to share (believe me – the pictures of my trip to New York City with my mom don’t count), I will certainly heed your advice!

  • Reply Prêt à Voyager / Anne December 13, 2012 at 12:51 am

    I think this is such an important conversation to have. I’m a graphic designer / blogger. I come at it from the perspective of posting for companies as well as press trips. Traditionally journalists would be invited on press trips and then their publication would pay them. That model is outdated. Now I find a lot of companies want to wine & dine rather than paying, forgetting we too have bills to pay. You pay the taxi driver, your accountant, lawyer, etc, so why can creative folks get walked over? Because they’re super cool!?!

    My tweet earlier that started the conversation stated:

    Dear company, Thanks so much for the opportunity for you to get paid for the work I create. So generous of you to give me “exposure.” #NOT

    My frustration comes too in the fact that someone else is often getting paid for the work we do. I’m sick of agencies/companies coming up with brilliant campaigns where “we’ll work with bloggers.” The fact of the matter is that most of the time what you’re doing is spec work, which is a downward spiral and does not advance the trade.

    I do think there are times where exchange or mentoring can work into the equation. Most of the time it feels very me / want / now free – a take with no give. All we’re looking to do is balance the equation. If you don’t have a big budget then change the scope of work. Simple. Also, often times some pay is better than no pay, but it’s about establishing trust and respect, and a mutual exchange.

    In terms of conferences I’m a bit more torn. As a member as the creative community I find it very important to give back. Not everyone is at the same level starting out, so it’s always inspiring to hear from others and their expertise. If it’s a big corporate type of event, of course that should be compensated.

    Whew! That was almost a blog post in itself… Coming soon, on my blog ;) . . . Oh, and please check out Studio/Practice ( Lauren O’Neill and I have been working on collecting tips + tools for creative biz to help move past so many of these “blocks” that stand in our way (mentally and otherwise), to really succeed in our business endeavors. It’s so important to learn from each other.

  • Reply caroline @trend-daily December 13, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Thank God Holly. I was SO shocked at what bloggers did for free when I started your course and you introduced me to the whole blogging world. I think it was also brought up at The Hive last year and I couldn’t believe how many bloggers felt it was ok to produce articles for free. I have worked for magazines since 1996 and I think it’s awful how bloggers have been taken for a real ride/advantage of. It’s about time it all changed-this is how the world runs now and credit should be given to those who manage to hold jobs/ families and blogs :-) Caroline

  • Reply Alverdine December 13, 2012 at 1:04 am

    Thank you for this… I’m still new on the road to making my blogs actual things that make money rather than just personal expression spaces, so this advice came at a graet time. :)

  • Reply Stephanie December 13, 2012 at 1:31 am

    Heh, we have a saying that goes, “You want me to write for more exposure? Well, writers die of exposure!”

  • Reply gayla December 13, 2012 at 2:13 am

    I’m new to this and thought you had to give yourself away to make anyone notice you. This post has given me a much different perspective. I always thought getting paid was strictly for products I create and sell. I am a comodity! —amazing how one post can change how you look at your world. Thank you once again, Holly!

  • Reply dawn December 13, 2012 at 2:54 am

    hi holly,
    always so interesting to read all the responses. yes, this epidemic does not seem to have boundaries. i believe much of the reason people do things for free is that there is a boost to ones ego that they were ‘so kindly asked’ and it makes us (women especially) feel wanted or needed. we, as you say, need to collectively realize that our worth does not come from someone asking us to do something for free because we are ‘so talented’, but it must come from our belief in ourselves and our God-given talent and realize that if you do not ask for compensation, it is a dis-service to yourself, your client, and the industry (whichever one it may be)…again, i love when you write these types of posts, always can learn something…thanks again! x

  • Reply Joyce@MommyTalkShow December 13, 2012 at 3:19 am

    This post is really on time and relevant.
    And I apologize if this was mentioned because I didn’t have a chance to read the 55 comments above mine.

    Yes, we should charge for our work.
    But I’ve found the bloggers who do get paid well DON’T share the info on HOW to negotiate and what to charge.
    I’ve been to far too many conferences where people try to address this and never ever explicitly share any rates and suggestions.

    If everyone keeps that information close to the vest, we’ll never get anywhere.

  • Reply Tina Ramchandani December 13, 2012 at 3:43 am

    Holly, thank you for speaking up about this. As everyone above has said we really do appreciate it! I’m proud of my writing and my work but it’s hard for me to speak up and ask to get paid. I know I have to do it, and slowly I’ve become a bit more confident. I don’t know if it’s a “woman” thing or just the promise of “exposure” that holds me (and others) back. But hearing it from you is encouraging. I obviously don’t want to hurt other bloggers by working for free, and I want to sell myself as an expert and would like to get paid. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I cave. Sometimes its worth it and sometimes its not but this is a great reminder + push to keep working hard and working for yourself. Thank you!

  • Reply Patty December 13, 2012 at 3:45 am

    I love what you said about speaking at conferences. Oh, how I wish the blogging conferences I attended had professional speakers with well-thought out presentations instead of the hodge-podge panels I sat through.
    Conference speakers NEED to be paid. It’s not worth attendees time and money to sit through unprofessional presentations.
    Great post. Fun to read!

  • Reply Tracy O. December 13, 2012 at 6:30 am

    @Dassi87: That’s actually done by talented Jessica Hische — you should see the beautiful letterpress version!

  • Reply deanak December 13, 2012 at 7:04 am

    I’m not a blogger, but totally feel your pain. I hand make furniture and paint signs professionally, and for the the person wanting to add a lil touch of customization to their home decor. If I make a dining room table and advertise it for sale then get someone interested and they ask the dredded question of how much I always say I have “x” amount of hours in the production I do not mark up any material I had to purchase to make the product,therefore it would cost then same if u bought the materials brought it to me and paid me to make an item, basically my markup consists of gas money, and time, anyway u would not believe the people who gasp after I name my price, u would think I just said a few colorful phrases in the middle of a church Sermon lol. People have no respect for the time, blood sweat andtears the

  • Reply deanak December 13, 2012 at 7:11 am

    I’m not a blogger, but totally feel your pain. I hand make furniture and paint signs professionally, and for the the person wanting to add a lil touch of customization to their home decor. If I make a dining room table and advertise it for sale then get someone interested and they ask the dredded question of how much I always say I have “x” amount of hours in the production I do not mark up any material I had to purchase to make the product,therefore it would cost then same if u bought the materials brought it to me and paid me to make an item, basically my markup consists of gas money, and time, anyway u would not believe the people who gasp after I name my price, u would think I just said a few colorful phrases in the middle of a church Sermon lol. People have no respect for the time, blood sweat & tears that we passionately pour into our work, and I don’t care to hagle a lil but people just don’t realize that sometimes I would rather have them spit n my face than to say I am not worth “x” amount of money. Makes me want to poke out their eye and say if j can do better for less y are u wasting hour time with me cause u better get home and figure out how to produce this item from Scratch just like I had to lol. But kudos to u and for standing up to the tight waude belittling idiots that have completely no talent or tact lol good luck to u

  • Reply fenny setiawan December 13, 2012 at 9:20 am

    I am totally agree with you Holly, I am a true believer that we shall value our intellectual property and don’t work for free (exceptional for helping dearest friends that often the case they won’t take any advantages from us, instead value each other).

    Me as a blogger from small blog, I can proudly say I pay my contributor, they are all my dearest friends, but still I value their work and they are not work for free or empty exchange. True enough when they got appreciated on their work, they contribute the best they can be, means quality content at my blog, when I present quality contents, I grow my readership. We are all win in this case. right?

    Some of the company used to asked my blog as a catalyst to promote their product with return on publicity, I learned my lesson, I never accept that anymore, unless their product in line with my blog niche and I get paid for what I provide (quality content), I will accept. We are small blogger but we have our integrity :).

  • Reply erika December 13, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Wow Holly thank you for this post, it’s great to read this and hear how a lot of us are struggeling with this issue. This weekend I had the same discussion with my blogger friends. It’s hard to ask for money when you are honered or flattered if they ask you for something. My work is my passion and I love doing it so for me it is more about the experience but then of course money has to come in as well! You have given me a lot to think about! Thanks

  • Reply karine ardault December 13, 2012 at 10:25 am

    I totally agree with your post, Holly. I am so often asked to take photos of people for free as I should be honored to do so. Yes, it is always flattering to be asked to do something for others as it means people recognize your skills. But the honor does not bring bread to my table or pay my rent.
    It is hard to say no but it is a necessity.
    The main thing is about how we value ourself and our work and how others value those.
    For a long time I thought people were honest and were not meaning to hurt me but the more I grow in my business, the more I have accepted that many people are just trying to take advantage of me. Now that I have accepted that I always weight carefully all inquiries I receive. and no, I do not work for free if I do not get anything back. and no, exposure is not enough (in most cases)….

  • Reply Carol December 13, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I found this post via bloglovin and your comments are so true. If you blog for free you are effectively blogging for a hobby rather than having a blogging business where you paid for your efforts.

    Since so many bloggers spend so much time & energy on their blogs, it’s time that they were paid what they are worth!

  • Reply Margarita Lorenzo December 13, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Thanks for this post, I am not a blogger myself, but a designer who happen to have a blog as part of my brand where i write about my personal life and things i like and do. But I can identify very well with the subject, as it is about valuing your work and respect yourself as a professional and your work and time. So many times I have got emails specially coming from my etsy shop, asking for discounts (i would like to purchase 3 units…)and ridiculous bespoke requirements. First, people don’t understand that it takes the same time and effort to produce one knob or cushion as it takes to make 10 or 15. One thing that affects us all, is people who don’t value what they do or they do it as a hobby that is how they can afford to work for free or charge £20 for a handmade cushion. That is the biggest problem, coming from our own community, so thanks again for speaking up about it and encouraging people to do what will ultimately benefit to all of us.

  • Reply Candice December 13, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    @Rona: I would also like to know what people are charging for their services, I suspect that I am grossly underselling myself and my talent and it would really useful to know what the industry standard is for various services. Thanks!

  • Reply Teresa Thompson December 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    For Free –
    I’m just getting started as a blogger, for free. I’ve been doing volunteer work as a web designer, so no money there either. I do a bit of Social Marketing for various businesses and others. I’m actually a very well qualified and highly experienced primary school teacher, so I could volunteer to help out at local schools. They’ve no interest in hiring me. I am also qualified to teach English as a second language, but there’s no market for that as a paying job either.

    Question is –
    What would Ireland be willing to pay someone with my qualifications to do? Seems you work for free, sit in the house and look out the window, or leave.

    On a more practical note –
    This article makes an excellent point. What I am wondering is how to become well enough known as either a blogger or a web designer that I can ask for money.
    Does anyone know of any resources for finding that out?

  • Reply Wendy December 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Great post Holly, thank you so much for speaking your mind and more importantly speaking the TRUTH! This happens in every aspect of business and blogging as well. I am part owner of two companies and I am literally exhausted of picking up the phone or reading an email and seeing/hearing, “This would be a great opportunity and great exposure for you!”. We did a couple of these things when our business first started but quickly learned that you will get labeled, people will spread the word your doing things for free and not only will you have a hard time surviving as a business, but others in your field may not be too happy that instead of standing “with them”, your taking business and hurting theirs, and ALL businesses in your field, by doing this. You know what too, the couple “freebies” we did do, did not do much if anything for our business. Lesson learned. Be proud of yourself, your company, your work and others in your field, and don’t stand to not be paid what you’re worth!

  • Reply Laura Gaskill December 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Great topic, Holly! It has taken me a long time to really begin to value my own work to a point where now, I would not consider doing work for a publication, online or otherwise, for free…of course it helps that I now have a toddler and since I rarely have 5 minutes to myself, every minute spent working really must go to generate income and not get thrown away in some wishy-washy (sorry, but I really think it is pretty wishy-washy!) attempt to wrangle original content from hardworking bloggers, writers, stylists, photographers, etc., for FREE. Argh!

    On the bright side, there ARE those out there in web publishing and print who value talent when they see it, whether you are a blogger or not. I think if you can get your foot in the door and get a bit of experience being paid for your work, even if it was a very little amount at first, that is something you can build on. I started doing freelance web writing 2 years ago now, just one small piece each month, but it was PAID, and now I am nearly making a living from my freelance work, and am being asked to do more than I can without child care! I think it actually helps improve your work to be paid as well, because you TRY harder to make it good when you know you are getting a paycheck!

  • Reply Hollie@MiaFleur December 13, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Really fantastic & thought provoking post Holly. I’ve loved reading all of the comments too, it’s opened my eyes to a few things that I’d never considered previously. Let’s hope it’s had the same effect on thousands of others too and we might just start to make a much needed change.

  • Reply Oum December 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    @Oum: I am back with another pic that echoes what you are saying (and btw the whole tumblr is just great)

  • Reply Thomas December 13, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    While I agree with the premise that all work has to be paid, I also want to point out that the people losing here are the ones trying to make a living of blogging, not “bloggers” in general. This post unfortunately puts them all in one category
    There may be many bloggers that do it out of passion and are not expecting to monetize their contributions; to them, exposure is good and makes them happy.

    Also, there will always be bloggers that are new and will give their work for free in order to gain some notoriety. This is not something that will ever stop.

    At the end, the only people truly hurt are the ones that try to make money as they can’t compete with bloggers that are doing it by passion.

    • Reply decor8 December 13, 2012 at 8:53 pm

      @Thomas: I disagree. I blog for passion and always have, not for money. Wanting to be compensated for work is only natural and fair. If a company invites anyone to speak they should either pay them or pay for their travel expenses or both. Too many companies are using “passionate” people to work for free but the problem is, these passionate people end up bitter and upset when they are continuously chasing the wind. I hate seeing this happen – I have seen too many talented people give up or pull back because their passion flatlined after being taken advantage of enough.

  • Reply socha December 13, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    the real question here is actually : IS BLOGGING A PROPER WORK ON ITS OWN ? or is it part of a whole new process as working online, in other words, blogging is a tool among others such as networks, trade shows….

    second point to be raised : WHAT IF TIME WAS A VALUE TO PAY FOR YOUR OWN PROMOTION ? brands pay for advertising, salary is the money you get for working your time for someone or yourself so what about paying for self promotion with your time as your time means money anyway ?

    hope you get the point…

    • Reply decor8 December 13, 2012 at 10:54 pm

      @socha – I see what you are saying but BMW isn’t giving their cars away for free because their name is on them and it’s good advertising to see people driving around in BMW… Companies need and deserve to get paid for their talent.

      If you are being given a spot at a conference to talk only about your company and what you offer – your services, etc. that is one thing and completely different to what I’m referring to – but if you speaking at a conference to support THEIR mission and brand / to teach blogging, to teach how to paint, etc. that’s quite another. Professionals need to be paid for their time when they are sharing their expertise with others – and if you are just getting started and still really new and need promotion should one be teaching in the first place or should people who attend professional level events they’ve paid for be listening to those who are skilled and experienced? Something to consider, right?

  • Reply Samantha December 14, 2012 at 12:45 am

    I thought this was a wonderful article and that you were right on with the topic. I have a friend who writes regularly for free for The Huffington Post and seems unable to understand that her writing talents and content are being taken advantage of just for the “exposure.” However, your post struck another cord with me as an artist who is frequently asked to contribute my work for “goodie bags” for the “free advertising.” With all due respect, in your next posting was that very topic, thanking your sponsors for what I assume were donations for your blogging conference’s goodie bags. Am I wrong to think that there is a correlation here? I have always declined participating in goodie bags as my art is individually handmade and my time is very difficult to factor into the cost of the final products. As such, I cannot afford to give my work away for free. I would be interested to hear how others might feel about this topic. Thank you.

    • Reply decor8 December 14, 2012 at 11:53 am

      @samantha Great question! Glad you asked this and I’m happy to explain my position on this!

      When it comes to advertising and sponsorship, it’s much different than what I’m addressing here. I am encouraging bloggers to get paid for their work. If they speak or write or anything – they have to make sure they are getting something to balance out their time and effort in return. Train tickets, a speaking fee, their logo on materials – something that is as good as payment though money is usually best because then they can afford to grow and nurture their business.

      The only caveat is if you are invited to a conference to speak about your company and your products for 30 minutes them that’s pure advertising for you – you would most likely not be paid for that spot so you’d have to judge whether or not your time and energy is worth that 30 min promotional slot.

      BUT If you are speaking about your area of expertise – maybe you are a pro blogger or painter or whatever – and you are speaking for 30 minutes about how others can do it too and “here’s how”… That is teaching and guiding and motivating and a conference should be paying you for that because then that is work. You are working to teach others how to do what you do best.

      With goody bags it’s different but you should still weigh the costs as a business owner. With a bag donation, you aren’t teaching or traveling or spending tons of your time and energy on this – if you are then I wouldn’t do it! That is why I don’t approach small companies that have to do tons of handmade work for items. I approach companies with employees and money backing them who want to donate and be part of something niche. Plus, donating 17 totes or pencils for a goody bag isn’t the same as donating 100 items for larger events – in those cases a company would have to measure whether its worth it for them. Will their name be plastered all over promotionsl materials – signs, flyers, etc. for contributing so much? That should be the case. Will a rep from their company be allowed to speak about their brand dor a short period before attendees? They should have plenty in return for their product investment.

      Make more sense?

  • Reply Liz December 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed this post. Does your advise change at all for someone who is new to blogging?

    • Reply decor8 December 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      @Liz – Yes, I think someone who is new to blogging isn’t experienced enough to speak or be on a panel personally. I think you really need experience to back you up if you’re going to be able to offer value to conference attendees. You have to realize that people have traveled far and wide to a conference to learn something valuable that they can take away that made all of their time and money worth it. When I hear and see blogging events that are more about what people are wearing and tweets talking about how this or that blogger was wearing the best shoes I wonder if anyone is learning anything or is it really all about just meeting people. You can meet people after and before conferences – during you really need to be making the time/money spent worth it to you. If you aren’t learning because all of the speakers and panelists just started their blogs and don’t have a lot to say about it or are also in the same place as you are – well, that’s not the most interesting way to spend your time. At industry events its critical for speakers to be cherry picked for their talent not only as speakers (lots of great people do good work but they cannot present well) but as experts in their field. Would you want to learn textile design from a first year university student or a textile designer with experience creating her own patterns for clients? I would rather see these large conferences soliciting bloggers to work for free to trim their list so that they have experts lecturing that they can afford to pay or comp on travel and then to have a few panels with a good mix of all levels – intermediate and advanced – giving advice. But to throw beginners into conferences to lecture unpaid who aren’t that familiar yet with what they do isn’t really helpful to anyone. I’m ALL FOR blogging conferences, I think they are GREAT, but at this point with so many books and classes and eclasses out there, a conference has to really BRING it in order for me to even want to attend. I have made so many amazing connections through social media and local meet ups that I organize that I personally don’t rely on these conferences to connect me with other bloggers, I rely on the forums and platforms online for that first and foremost. But I do agree and see real value in blog and other industry conferences – but again, and I stress this, some of these companies really need to stop taking advantage of the blogger community and expecting everything for free in exchange for “promotion” and “exposure”. It’s really unfair and so many bloggers have told me such negative stories and experiences that they’ve had that I really wanted to put my personal opinion out there because I believe that people who have something to teach and share should be supported and encouraged and respected and to do that, companies need to put some $ into those who are helping to build their (the conference) brand.

  • Reply Sarah December 14, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks for this post, Holly. I think this is an extension to so many other things, as well; it’s about acknowledging your worth and standing up for yourself (professionally as well as personally.)

  • Reply Giulia December 14, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    @Elise: I totally agree with you. I also see this with ALT Summit, there is no way that the conference fee of $500 would cover the cost of the 3 day summit. The lower cost allows bloggers to attend. So much is offered in those three days and if I compare it to corporate conferences that I attend that cost double if not more for less offerings and days I see where the sponsor money is going to.
    I also don’t agree that a blogger is more passionate if they are paid to speak at a conference, in the examples you mention above and that I’ve attended the bloggers that speak and that are on panels (not paid) are there because of the community, to share, to motivate, to encourage and tell the usually amazing story they experienced.
    I do agree however with not being paid for editorial work on large network blogs. I’ve been asked to contribute my work to another (bigger) blog than mine with quite a following, unpaid. But why should I give her content on a regular basis without being paid? The traffic from her site to mine would probably be minimal and she would benefit from my work not I. A guest post once in a while is fine, or being compensated with products rather than cash is fine to if that is what is agree upon.

  • Reply Susanne Wurth December 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    This is a fascinating open discussion so thank you Holly for creating a space for us to connect and speak openly.

    I am one of those bloggers who spoke for free on a panel – I am commenting under another name because I know the conference owners and don’t want to piss them off. I wasn’t paid, my logo wasn’t on anything but their website and I just got a free weekend pass to attend the conference which was a nice gesture but due to their legions of speakers my participation was largely unnoticed, as the brightest belles at the ball largely soaked up the attendee and media attention.

    Did it do anything for my career? A year later and no, it did not. It was a fun pow wow to show off our clothing and coolness but nothing more so kind of a high school reunion more than a chance to build my business. I felt upset when I found out some of their speakers were paid including travel and I wasn’t. It made me think my work and brand was a filler – they had no problem paying for the important speakers. So I think that a conference needs to consider that people will get tired of this guise of exposure after being fed the koolaid long enough.

    Paying some speakers and offering free passes as payment to lesser thans sucks.

    I wonder why conference and events people are not commenting on this blog Holly? I’m curious as to why they are all mum. I’m sure they are good people with the intention of drawing together bloggers yet the dark side is that they are building their brand and want to get as much free labor as possible in the process and that isn’t very supportive.

    I wish conferences would change their model and bloggers would stop throwing themselves into every opportunity so willingly because most are secretly afraid of being left behind in this massive role playing popularity contest and companies know this, and take advantage of it.


  • Reply socha December 14, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    @Susanne Wurth:

    they did comment but you might not know them yet and yes they are mums and no they dont take advantages as they are not always building a brand but just spending a lot of time and energy to put wonderful people all together…

  • Reply Tiffany Grant-Riley December 14, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    I totally agree with this. Up to March this year I was juggling my full time (paid) job as a wedding planner with styling (unpaid to build folio). Then I snapped under the pressure-too much work to cope with and only half of it compensating my time. So I started putting my foot down with the abundance of requests I had to style shoots with no budget purely for the exposure/folio. No thanks-I have a great and varied folio in that field and I don’t need the experience. How quickly they disappear…and then a few months later I’ll see the finished result with another free “stylist” and see what a bad job they made of it. There, I said it!

    Fair pay for excellent work also gives you great self esteem and value. Great post Holly.

  • Reply Samantha December 15, 2012 at 2:31 am

    Absolutely, and thank you for taking the time to explain. I’ve learned a lot reading everyone’s comments.

  • Reply Debra December 15, 2012 at 5:26 am

    What a great post Holly. Thank you!
    This is something I struggle with almost daily.
    I would love some advice on how to negotiate compensation. Several people have commented on the need for information on how to price their work. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • Reply Nathalie December 15, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    @Esther: I hear ya! I’m a freelance writer/photographer with a blog too. I see way to many bloggers working for magazines and websites for free. Result: instead of earning more money (for my work experience) I’m getting a whole lot less these days. (“Why should we pay you when there are tons of editors out there doing it for nothing”) Right…
    So Holly, thnx for writing this. I really hope it will make a difference ;-)

  • Reply Sue Erneta from Sue at Home December 15, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    As a magazine editor (part time Fashion Editor for Ladies’ Home Journal) AND a blogger (of the lifestyle blog Sue at Home), I can tell you that I agree with you!
    I recently wrote a guest post for a company that promised lots of cross-promotion and I got nothing out of it. What a waste of my time!
    At Ladies’ Home Journal, we ask bloggers to pitch stories to us all the time and if run them, we pay. Last year, I saw a heartfelt post about self acceptance and body image from Erin Gates of Elements of Style so we asked her if we could print it and we paid her like we would a writer. If you ever have great stories, (either craft projects or DIY projects or even just really good essays) you can pitch them to us and if we use them, we will pay! Send submissions to

  • Reply cathy @ Noble Pig December 16, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Such a great post. I have told a few brands lately to just scadaddle because it’s obvious they don’t value the work. Somehow they think sending you a can of something warrants a new recipe for them and advertising. I don’t get it.

  • Reply Sara December 17, 2012 at 12:25 am

    All bloggers are not the same. Many bloggers blog to keep a personal record and are certainly not very professional nor looking to be. Nevertheless certain groups of people are interested in reading what they have to say. If you run a business or are hoping to then I would assume and hope that you are good at what you do. If you are and are providing a service for a magazine for example then yes you should get paid.

    The Internet is full of other people for whom money is not a concern and they are just interested in contacting like minded people. If you are bothered about your monetary worth, then you must ask to be paid. If you are worth it, then you will be. If not then they will move on to someone who accepts their terms. You are not the boss of other bloggers telling them that they are ruining for you. Money is not the boss for some people and nor should it be. Sort out your own concerns yes, but don’t blame other people for viewing things differently.

    • Reply decor8 December 17, 2012 at 1:28 am

      @Sara Thank you for your comment. A few points I’d like to clarify since you seem to have misread my post.
      1. No one is blaming other people for viewing things differently. I am simply highlighting the fact that there are businesses out there using bloggers as unpaid workers in exchange for “promotion” and “exposure” alone and I do not support this viewpoint.
      2. You said, “The internet is full of people for whom money is not a concern.” I’m not giving this advice for them, I’m lending it to those who do want to earn money for their hard work and effort and who do not want to be taken advantage of as so many tell me they have been.
      3. You can contact like-minded people by attending events and mingling online, you do not need to work unpaid for some companies who are intentionally trying to work with bloggers because they know us to be “cheap” or “free”.
      4. I am not the boss of bloggers, thankfully so. I am a friend and supporter of bloggers because I am one myself. I am a connector, a person who sincerely cares about our community and who works hard to champion others – small business owners, bloggers, creatives of all types. I care about people and most importantly, I believe that treating others fairly and with respect should be the goal of everyone but sadly, it’s not so I’m hoping this blog post will help shine light on an issue that I feel can be easily resolved through being fair and kind.
      5. No one said someone else is ruining it for me. I am fairly compensated for every event and every project I take on either with travel/trans, fees or both. I learned the hard way which is why I am trying to protect others. I was new once and have been taken advantage of and it hurt. No one is ruining anything for me, I have plenty of work. I am concerned for others that are not understanding their value and worth and trying to give them a boost by saying, “YOU ARE worth it to get paid for your hard work”.
      Hope I’ve clarified things. xo Holly

  • Reply Momographica December 17, 2012 at 1:19 am

    This post is rather brilliant and surely make a point of something that happens in blogging for sure, but sometimes also in real life. To get paid for your own honest work is just fair and square, in anything you might do. I got to discover by personal experience that when you work for free “too much” it is not even appreciated, it is taken for granted sometime and it is really irritating. To get paid it doesn’t mean you loose passion in what are you doing, if you put your best efforts in what you do. On the contrary, I do believe that being compensate for an excellent performance is just right the right thing to happen, when happens. This is what I think, anyway!

  • Reply Vicki December 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Thank you for this post Holly – that and the comments that have resulted are equally fascinating. I work at a print magazine but I also have two monetised blogs and although I always charge for my work in the print world I recently fell into the blogging-for-free trap and I am pretty irritated with myself. I provided close to ten pages of content (including images) to a web magazine and to date i have had less than twenty hits given thathe link to my website was tiny – never again! Although i have been writing for many years for magazines, i totally made an ego choice, thinking i would get an insane amount of traffic as well as kudos in the international digital magazine scene as a result. Ha! That’ll teach me!

    On the flipside, i regularly ask bloggers to contribute to Q&A’s at the magazine where i work and when newspaper or magazines ask, I always jump at the opportunity to answer questions about interiors trends or other areas of interest relating to my blog, on condition that my blog name is featured – and that definitely works from a marketing perspective.

    I think one should strive to find a balance and i think that also relates to your responses to things – sometimes a flat out ‘not unless i’m paid’ could shut down a potentially interesting and beneficial relationship but explaining one’s boundaries/financial obligations were you to get involved, whether they be travel or time costs can help bring someone who thinks they’re offering you a break down to earth a little. The blogging conference scene in South Africa is still very small but this post has certainly made me think about what my boundaries would be were it to get bigger.
    Thanks Holly and have a lovely Christmas
    V x

  • Reply patricia December 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Amen to everything Holly! I’ve been at this longer than many and I think it is only this year, after years of saying yes too many times that I am finally saying no and putting my foot down. No more. I think that enough is enough and now I’m only working on paying projects and using all the “free” time from non-paying ones to build up my portfolio to take my next big step (surtex here I come).

    We all get bent out of shape (rightfully so) when an artist’s work is stolen by XYZ company and a profit is made. We should be equally appalled by the fact that many are saying yes to just giving away work and letting others use it without any type of compensation in return. The “it’ll bring you lots of traffic” excuse (the most common one I hear) no longer holds water at all.

    Thank you Holly for taking this conversation to the next level. This needs to change!

  • Reply Alison Abbott December 17, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    What a great discussion Holly, you obviously hit a nerve. There is a fine line for all of us and when you are moving up the blogging ladder, it can be hard to turn down an opportunity that you think might bring you loads of exposure. More often then not , that’s not the case, and i’ve decided 2103 will be the year of making that change.
    Thanks for the lively exchange of ideas. As always it’s nice to know you are in our corner trying to make the community better.

  • Reply Grace - Stripes & Sequins December 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Hi Holly! Great post! While for the most part, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve said here, I do want to point out that “working for free” can be an amazing way to build your brand and grow your following.

    When I think back to how my blog got more exposure/ “on the map,” I think of the DIY projects that I did for Glitter Guide and Refinery 29. Last Spring, I did a “free” DIY for Paige Denim… (I should note that I have a great relationship with them and they’ve gifted me product in the past) but ever since doing that project for them, I’ve had several branded DIY requests from other brands. Doing that one for Paige, and doing it well really opened a lot of doors.

    So I think there are exceptions here. I think that working for free can open a lot of doors if you are a beginning blogger. If you can “prove yourself” so to speak, it can take you very far!!

    All of that said, it is frustrating what some brands ask for / expect. I think it is so important to know your worth and stick to your guns!

    Anyway – I’m rambling now, but just wanted to throw out the other side of the coin. It’s interesting, one of my readers sent me a link to this blog as I’ve just started accepting contributors. I’ve made it clear up front that I’m not able to pay my contributors, but am hoping that the social media exposure, placement on my contributor page, and traffic back to their site will make up for it.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post – I am now hooked on your blog!

    • Reply decor8 December 18, 2012 at 2:13 am

      @Grace- that may be true but you could have gotten the exposure and a paycheck. Why not have both? :)

  • Reply Hege December 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Hi Holly,
    great post! I totally agree – in the beginning it’s very flattering and even exciting, but you get to a point when you have to say NO!
    I’ve done so many things for free since I started blogging a year ago, but now I’m not interested any more.. You don’t get that many more page views just because you’re referenced on a big site.
    Blogging takes up a lot of my time now. It’s great seeing my photos in magazines etc. but why should the photographer get paid and I not?! It’s not on! The difficult part is how do we change that? How will companies finally value what we do?!
    I don’t just write my blog I also take a lot of photos, I do the styling and a lot of DIY projects all of which takes a lot of time.
    I do have one rule though, I only write about something if I like it myself.
    I’ve not yet been paid for anything I do on my blog, but now with well over 2000 followers in total isn’t it about time I charge for what I do?! I don’t see that many companies wanting to help me and my blog for free…!

  • Reply Alix December 17, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    @Giulia:Hi! I happen to think ALT is one of the better run, more enjoyable conferences out there, but don’t forget they are definitely making money on this. As is BlogHer and all the other major blogging conferences. They are run by very savvy business women. The conference fees aren’t what pay for the cost of the conference at all, it’s the many MANY sponsors. When you see the room that is “sponsored by HP” don’t forget HP is paying a premium price which helps cover the costs of the hotel fee. When you see the “goodie item” at your plate at lunch, it’s not just a nicety, it’s probably because that company/brand has sponsored the luncheon and is paying for all or most of it. Sponsors cover the cost of many things at conferences from hosting the cocktail parties to printing of programs.

  • Reply Alix December 17, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    This is SUCH a good post. You’ve really got me thinking. I’ve spoken at numerous conference and not only am I never paid, they don’t cover travel OR hotel. They only give you free admission to the conference itself (fancy that! you don’t have to pay them to speak! haha). I know that for many conferences it’s cost prohibitive to pay for everything for everyone. I’ve never expected travel fare but I have always thought it would be nice if they put you up in the hotel. I know everyone is still figuring things out, and to be fare to the conferences, I have always had a most excellent time, networked like crazy and felt like it DID give me a certain amount of cache (and confidence) to be a ‘speaker’ and not just an attendee. At the same time, some of these comments are troubling here because I think people are a bit naive and assuming that all these conference are “barely breaking even” with an “affordable $500 ticket price” that couldn’t possibly cover the cost of all the parties and swag and rentals etc etc. I hope everyone knows that ALL of the conferences are huge money making endeavors. I think the conference organizers work their booties off (and having just attended a very mediocre conference, it gave me even more appreciation for the attention to detail at places like ALT) but really guys….you need to know that everyone is making money.

    Another point you made that I though was great was to be realistic. Know your worth, which means get compensated for your time/skills/talent HOWEVER you need to have something to offer. If you are just starting out then you need to at least have an interesting professional background or some special talent/ability/very unique point of view….if not, you probably shouldn’t be on a panel just yet. Yes everyone deserves compensation, but don’t forget you need to have something to offer to be compensated for. Not sure if this makes sense, but meaning if you are thinking you aren’t experienced enough to be compensated, then you should perhaps hold off on writing or speaking. If you are a total newbie, but think you are absolutely ready to write for someone….then be confident and ask for compensation! Thanks Holly for raising such an important discussion!

    • Reply decor8 December 18, 2012 at 2:18 am

      @Alix – you are so right about sponsor money – I don’t think the average person attending sponsored events really knows what that means though so thank you for clarifying that. What I don’t understand though is why don’t conference organizers get a sponsor to handle accommodations for their speakers? That would show such support and respect for their speakers and panelists.

  • Reply Jenni @ Jarfly December 17, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    I learned a lot from reading this. I suppose I’ve believed that I had to earn the right to get paid…so my talents needed to be more practiced first. I still believe that, particularly when working with blogging friends (as you mentioned) or very tiny blogs (like myself), or non-profit organizations/blogs/magazines…but it inspires me to really do the research for paid gigs. I think creating an atmosphere that sets the blogging community up for success by setting the bar appropriately high is very important. Thank you for starting a very interesting conversation.

  • Reply Tami December 17, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    So true. I have a 14 year old daughter that is an amazing photographer, and what I’m finding is that they think because she’s young, she doesn’t need to be paid yet. Exposure is enough. They act insulted when we ask for a little $.

    I’m a writer and am so thankful I saw this. I’ve been writing for free for years, I’ve had all the exposure in the world, and am still writing for free…primarily because I don’t even ask! Thanks for the motivation!

  • Reply gretchen December 17, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Great and important topic Holly! It’s connected to all creative business. Working for free is the path you should not take. If you respect yourself and others you don’t do it. It’s sad but so true in photography also. When you are a student or newbie you might like to do some work for free or very cheap but you are soon in trouble when you start to ask real money for it. They don’t pay you – they find a new one who agrees to work for free. And other photographers who wants to be paid decent amount of money are also in trouble because you sold work for free or too low price. Who’s the lucky winner?

    But still I believe that magazines, publishers, conferences etc. needs professional people. They need professional and creative touch. So the path what they are choosing is as long as the quality they are offering. I have also a small blog but because I have seen how it goes when people works almost for free in photography business…I really hope you value your work and think through an offer before saying yes or no. Be brave. I think we have to have same policy – then we are strong together.

    …and yes haha…I’m writing English as a foreign language.

    And almost forgot – one more thing. Please don’t give your photos for free just because you just want to see them in paper or on site or somehere else. There’s so many photographers who are working hard to make their living out of it. Thank you.

  • Reply Mel December 18, 2012 at 4:22 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Holly! While I write the blog for so many reasons, one day I do hope that it can give me an income or lead to one with freelance work or other projects. If we all stand our ground and demand the respect we deserve than this may be possible for all. A great topic and appreciated by all it seems:)

  • Reply Libby December 19, 2012 at 12:34 am

    This situation is very similar to my many years of designing for home furnishings products and working with the manufacturers. I would do a design, on spec, then show it, or a collection to prospective clients. Oh “would you change this” or “would you extend the collection to these other items” etc etc. And, do this for free, mind you, before we commit and actually sign a contract. Very tricky business. Yes, you want to get your foot in the door, but if all artists had said No, you must pay me for my time and talents, the situation might have changed.
    As it is, things have gotten much much worse in that industry. An advance is almost unheard of now. Royalty rates are about half of what they used to be. There is no loyalty. And on and on.
    Yes! Just say NO to working for free!

  • Reply Uncle Beefy December 19, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Thank you SO much for this post, Holly! SO much!!!

    I’m not likely to add anything more than what your post and the other comments already convey but lord knows I’ve been in the position of being asked to work for free and, yes, have agreed to for that ever proverbial ‘carrot.’ Those days are over. This post and the comments help to inspire and reaffirm that decision.

    Bravo! You’re awesome!

    xo UB :)

  • Reply Giulia December 19, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    @Alix: Alix, I’m aware that the conferences are making money and that they aren’t just there to connect all of us. However, I believe ALT is keeping conference entrance cost low in order to facilitate bloggers to attend and I think having panelist speak for free is part of that.
    Corporate conferences that I’ve attended many of are also sponsored by HP, Disney, Coke etc, however they charge MUCH higher fees for often lack luster and shorter conferences.
    And I also agree with Holly that it would be great if they could line up a sponsor to cover speakers hotel costs – that would be great.

    • Reply decor8 December 19, 2012 at 7:59 pm

      I’m so happy this post has been circulating all over the web and causing bloggers to have much needed and long overdue conversations about being fairly compensated for the time they invest in working for others, whether that be speaking engagement, blog posts for companies and magazines or anything else that does not involve charitable work. I’m so proud of us all for having this discussion but even more, I hope you all have courage and confidence to ask companies to be compensated – each person who stands up and asks is supporting other bloggers who ask. If everyone is being reasonable in their requests AND in their offerings then this community can continue to thrive.

      I want to highlight however that I’ve not mentioned a single conference or company by name. Some of you have. I did not because I have no idea what payments are given. I have my own personal experience speaking dozens of times and you all have your experiences, but I don’t know for sure.

      I personally would like to see, especially blog conferences, to post on their websites how they deal with speakers, how much they pay, or if they pay for travel, or both. I think if they would be transparent in sharing that information then the bloggers they approach to speak would know their terms easily without having to ask the uncomfortable questions about compensation.

      I also wish some of those conferences would have commented on this post stating how they run their events but not a single one has which makes me a bit sad.


  • Reply Miss Mustard Seed December 19, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Amen, Holly! Thanks for speaking out on something controversial (that really shouldn’t be.) Does anyone else think it’s controversial to ask to be paid for the work they do?

  • Reply Sandra December 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Great post Holly. And timely, both on the payment angle for conference speakers AND having speakers with expertise. It’s high time we respect our work AND expect as conference attendees to have quality speakers.

    I’ll be heading a roundtable at Alt in January called Makers Gotta Make – Finetuning Your Creative Process for Success.

    Two things about that…

    First, I will be doing it in exchange for waived conference fees. I agree that having a sponsor cover at least accommodation costs would be lovely too.

    Second, I agreed to speak because I do have the expertise for this topic having an MA in Psychology where I did original research for my thesis on Creative Collaboration 10 years ago. And the topic fits perfectly with the mission and purpose of my blog – helping makers create the conditions to do their best work. I wouldn’t have taken it on if I didn’t have the expertise.

    I’m probably coming across as a bit defensive here and I don’t mean too but I DID want to show that there is some thought that goes into agreeing to speak at a conference. It IS our reputation at stake.

    I have in the past, as many have, done writing for free in exchange for vague promises of promotion or links. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Never again!

    The barometer that I use to evaluate opportunities is if it gets me closer to my goals – and it better be a specific, tangible move closer. We all have too much talent to give it away for free.

    • Reply decor8 December 19, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      @Sandra that’s great! Wouldn’t it be strange though to have to pay for a conference that you are speaking at though? I guess that’s the part that I don’t understand fully when conferences say they give speakers a ticket to get in. Isn’t that somewhat a no brainer, or?

  • Reply Sandra December 19, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    @decor8: I agree – I assume that everyone speaking is attending for free at least!

    And a BIG yes to the transparency. Whether it’s sponsored posts/series or speaking at conferences, if everyone put out there what they pay/have been paid, then we’ll be on more of a level playing field.

    Having it “secret” certainly puts the providers of work at a disadvantage.

  • Reply Justine Abbitt December 19, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    This has happened to me a lot and now I am wising up. Ive been in Altered Couture, Apronology, Romantic Homes magazines, and spoke at the Craftcation conference and have never been paid for it. I feel it’s unethical since they are making money from the magazine and conferences.

  • Reply Tauni December 19, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Hi Holly. I am a conference organizer. I host a yearly event for craft and DIY bloggers called SNAP! and though I cannot speak for all conference organizers, I am more than happy to address this issue from my perspective.

    First, let me say that I appreciate your comments and would LOVE to be able to compensate ALL of my speakers. Having said that, it’s not something I am financially able to do right now. It is something I am working toward.

    Tickets to SNAP! cost $250. Our 2013 conference sold out in four hours and I am aware that I could raise the ticket price, but I have intentionally kept it low to keep the conference accessible to any blogger in the niche – big or small. This may be something I will have to reconsider in the future.

    The price of the ticket does not cover even half of the costs I incur per person. I do utilize relationships with corporations to make up the remainder of the costs. Though I consider myself a fairly savvy businesswoman, I am not making grundles of money on this event.

  • Reply Tauni December 19, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    @Tauni: Sorry. Hit submit a little too soon.

    This event is more a labor of love for me than anything else…I host it as a way to give back to a community that has given so much to me.

    When I ask individuals to speak, I do so in much the same vain…I hope that they will have an interest in helping to develop and cultivate the community. I do believe that there is benefit in doing so.

    I understand and respect those who choose to turn me down, but it’s sometimes disheartening to hear the comments about “how much money I am making off them,” when in reality it’s nothing…

    In know that other conferences may be huge money makers – maybe that’s something that a blogger takes into account when making their decision. I just wanted to give you another perspective.

    And I wish I could get by with a few great speakers, but unfortunately that doesn’t always fly with attendees. It’s a balance you know?

    In any event, thank you for shining light on this issue. I do agree with much of what you have said. I do hope to pay my speakers at some point in the future (I do pay my site contributors), but in the meantime, I also hope that there is some give within the community.

  • Reply Mariana December 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    wow, I wish I had time to read all the comments! Just wanted to say thank you as this is spot on for me right now. I was completely confused about the whole exposure vs payment thing and you’ve settled it for me :)

  • Reply anastasia December 21, 2012 at 5:46 am

    ‘Today’s favour is tomorrow’s obligation’

    Great post and a good wake up call to a lot of us. Ive done a few ‘free’ projects for blogs and online publications and somehow feel a little used afterwards as in I didn’t feel as valued as I should have been – we should value our work and be committed to ourselves and our worth.
    Great post Holly!
    I can see how this would affect fulltime bloggers who rely on this as their main source of income – I guess people who blog as a hobby or interest would not really care as much but its important to see how our actions affects others and in turn might affect our aspirations in the long run.

  • Reply Julia December 27, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    @Dassi87: Very, very funny and spot on!

  • Reply Aidel.K January 13, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    @Dassi87: I’m keeping a copy of that nearby!

  • Reply nick January 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    If there was 100% solidarity and ‘withdrawal of labour’ then payment might be forthcoming. However most if not all bloggers have day jobs, so don’t ‘need’ the money. They are happy to be paid in the buzz of being ‘famous’. So they write for free.

    With print media having a massive fall in income and digital earning almost nothing, it’s no wonder that editors, looking to safeguard their own jobs and salary, will prefer free copy. It’s invariably not as good as professional copy, but it is valid content and will do.

    Even pro writers, who do need the money, are seeing rates become ridiculous. There are so many ‘writers’ out there now that pros have no leverage to get more.

    And much the same is true of photographers. Modern digitals allow anyone to take a technically acceptable photo, and limitless exposures means they will get a good one if they take enough. And Photoshop will fix almost anything.

    So basically, don’t expect to get paid. Unless your copy or photo is so clearly head and shoulders above everyone else’s that the editor simply has to have it.

    Bloggers have to accept that it’s a hobby, and no one gets paid for their hobby. The majority are amateur writers. Amateurs don’t get paid in any business.

  • Reply Kris {Driven by Décor} January 19, 2013 at 1:50 am

    You make some really great points Holly. Companies aren’t going to value bloggers unless we value ourselves!

  • Reply Jessica January 23, 2013 at 10:15 am

    .. can anyone tell me where the pencil holder / cup is from? I love it!

  • Reply R. Joyce January 23, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    Amazing advice. I am new at blogging so I am still growing. But I never looked at it from this point of view. I agree with you and am so glad I read this post.

  • Reply Karine Kong January 25, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Hi Holly I had bookmarked this post because I thought it was a really good topic and I just read all the other comments people I added since I posted mine.

    Frankly you rock!

    Looking forward to seeing you in March bises

  • Reply MaJoBV February 3, 2013 at 6:27 am

    everything you wrote is so true, and I see that think happening in so many other areas too. For example, young fashion designers who are offered jobs but with no retribution at all just because we should feel honour working for certain famous brands, or those websites that offer design work for $5, etc… it’s just a shame that the same designers are allowing this to happen instead of standing up for themselves and their work.

  • Reply April Combs February 3, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Insert the word musician for blogger and it all remains the same. I LOVED what you said about “filler”. Thank you for articulating so clearly a conversation my creative friends and I have been chewing on for years. xoxo!

  • Reply Adam February 27, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Just came across this article, and it rang true for me. I have been running my blog now for almost a year, I write because I enjoy it and because i’m in love with food. Through the blog I have connected with so many wonderful people, and unlike my previous blog a few years ago I rarely get pr offers. In the beginning I got an offer from a cake company. I took the cake, didn’t like it so told the pr company I won’t be putting it on the blog. Since then I have had no more offers. i did however get to speak on BBC radio 5 about the horsemeat scandal. I jumped at the chance, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    What matters to me is being compensated for what I do, I know have the tools to approach any future offers with more care. I think having the balls to ask for money is important, but if your like me then it’s an awkward feeling to ask for money, maybe it’s because of the way I was brought up or because i’m just ‘too nice’ I don’t know.

  • Reply janika R March 5, 2013 at 4:34 am

    That is a wonderful advice. thanks. I am tweeting about this now..

  • Reply aphrochic April 2, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Holly, I know this post is from last year, but it became so relevant to me today. Thanks so much for these insightful posts!

  • Reply Felicia July 1, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Great advice and so on time! I’m reading my email this morning and this very successful children’s furniture company has asked me to use photos that I’ve taken in Paris for their website. No mention of licensing, nothing. I don’t work for free. I love your blog!

  • Reply Raksha Kamat July 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Hey this is a great post. I loved each and every word of it :)

  • Reply Jean | July 25, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Amen, Sister! “Exposure” does not pay the rent or put food on the table!

  • Reply Catherine @ Not Dressed As Lamb November 20, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    I know I’m commenting nearly a year after you published this post (I found it via Pinterest), but I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU for writing it! I’ve been a professional blogger for only about three months (amateur for two years before that) but am still pretty green – your post has made me not accept writing a review on a car company’s blog simply for reviewing a car without some sort of compensation (admittedly the car is top of the range and a VERY prestigious make but that’s not the point)!

    I realised that road testing a car was something I could do for free by walking into their showroom and asking, so simply being able to drive the car for a day wasn’t effectively payment for my time and writing input. Not when they wanted me to also employ my photographer for the day and show off what I bought at a Christmas market they wanted me to go to – talk about wanting something for nothing! I write a fashion blog so reviewing a car wouldn’t be something I’d put on my own blog, it would purely be published on theirs.

    I may have been very excited about getting to drive this car for the day but realised I must stop excitement getting in the way of my business brain. I’ve yet to hear back from them… but fingers crossed they agree to pay me! If not, I can spend the day doing something that WILL pay me. But thank you, I owe you a lot for writing this and making me realise where I could have been taken advantage of.

    Catherine x

  • Reply Tracey March 27, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Thank you Holly!
    I read this blog when you posted it and just as I was about to submit a yes reply to an opportunity (which just farming for bloggers) when I was reminded of this post. I stopped to re-read it again before I sent that email, and just want to say THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I don’t want to be a filler. I don’t want to be used. I want my work to be of value!
    Your words of wisdom are so very much appreciated!

  • Reply Downs Side Up July 7, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Thank you for this. Most of what I write is for charities and support groups and I do not wish to share my thoughts for gain, but I have begun to feel recently that yes, they pay other ‘professionals’ so why not me. I will now charge the organisations I think can afford it, and value myself a little more.

  • Reply Thais Gomes December 10, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    What an amazing post!! Agree with every single word!


  • Reply Sarah Woodstock March 4, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    GREAT article!

    A thought: if bloggers do reviews for free (or less than thousands of $ per post, really) then it’s kind of screwing over all bloggers because it makes advertisers perceive that there’s less value in blog posts in general, it also makes them less likely to pay for sponsored posts since they can keep hassling bloggers to do it for free, and it deprives the blogging community of value and much needed income.

    You’ve heard that most people value things based on what they paid for them? I think that’s true in general and especially in the case of brands and advertising. If bloggers give sponsorships away for free, then it ruins the brand’s perception of the value sponsored blog posts have.

    BTW – I would consider any mention of a brand as a form of advertising… from the brand’s perspective, anyway. They pay $10,000/month or more to PR agencies to get this form of advertising. It’s clearly valuable, so why should bloggers give that kind of value (…and writing skill …and time …and photography) away for free, when brands clearly have the $$ to pay for it (heck, they’re paying other people for it)? Not to mention, it’s most bloggers only chance at income!

    Every blogger should have a page listing their sponsored post options and prices, and should direct brands who want coverage to that page. The key is to always be honest in your reviews, no matter what. If you can’t say something nice, then give a refund. Only write about products, hotels, etc. that you’ve actually experienced/tried for long enough to get a good feel for them.

    It may sound harsh, but I really think that the bloggers who write articles about brands for free, cheap, or just for product, do a disservice to themselves (that brand will never pay you in the future) and to all bloggers, since it devalues the service and makes it harder for bloggers (in general, as an industry) to make a living. If bloggers can’t make money because others will work for free/cheap, then the quality of blogs overall will decrease, since most will have to give it up in favor of a better paying job.

    If you want to write articles without payment, write about brands who are vegan, ethical, eco, third-world artisan, and doing good in the world. They actually need the support and likely can’t afford to pay anyhow. But when L’Oreal comes knocking — make sure your time is well-rewarded.

    I find it so frustrating when brands / PR ask for coverage with zero compensation. They ARE asking you to not only work for free, but provide free advertising. They pay everyone else they work with, so it’s insulting that they would think that they shouldn’t pay bloggers…

    IMHO – A sponsored article on a professional-looking blog should cost an absolute minimum of $10k+, and a sponsored social media post should cost $15 to $30+ CPM (per thousand followers), depending on what the brand wants and what is involved. For perspective, many social media stars make $50k to $100k per Instagram post alone. And an ad in a print magazine can easily cost a few hundred thousand dollars. These brands are paying for ads elsewhere, so why not in your blog? Don’t you give them value too?

    Good luck, fellow bloggers! And remember: this is BUSINESS. Blogging is an industry, and your livelihood. You are providing a SERVICE for these brands, when you write about them. Never forget that!

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