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!
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:
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)