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My blog is not free advertising space

Are you being thrown crumbs for your work?

If you make a living as a review blogger like I do, chances are you’ve partnered with Word-of-Mouth marketing outfits that ask you to promote brands without guaranteed compensation.

In some cases, if you write a blog post, you’ll be entered into a drawing with a bunch of other bloggers for a $50 gift card.  In some cases, you won’t be compensated at all; the offers that arrive in your inbox will say something like “We’d love for you to share this with your readers” and a request to disclose where you obtained the material for your post.

With my new site comes a new resolution: No more free rides. I even have a list of questions that must be answered when deciding whether or not to endorse someone.

What type of compensation is offered? Compensation comes in many forms, from coupons for free products, to samples, to autographed copies of some self-published book that is tainted with spelling and grammatical errors. And then, of course, there’s money. It’s up to me to decide whether or not the time I spend marketing their products is worth the compensation I am offered. I’ve been paid in food, gift cards and greeting cards, and that’s worth it to me.

Compensation can also come in the form of trade; for instance, last year I promoted a friend’s novel, and in return he linked to me, and he interviewed me for his blog. Even though no money or products were involved, we worked together to draw in new readers. The benefit is additional traffic and more subscribers, which ultimately lead to bigger and better opportunities for both of us.

If a company is providing you no compensation for your work,  they are taking advantage of you. They know that people pay attention to you, will share your links and talk about their product.
How much time will I spend on this? Right now I can think of one blogging community that sends out a lot of opportunities for you to promote products, and while not compensating you, they’ll enter your name in a drawing for a $50 gift card. If you’ve spent four hours promoting various products and never won a gift card, you have already exceeded your value, and they’re taking advantage of you.

Are they going to help promote my blog? If the company or brand is linking back to you, retweeting and sharing your links and sharing your content with a massive audience, it could be a very good relationship. You’re essentially trading free advertising for free advertising.

But if they aren’t paying you, promoting you or bringing you a return on your investment, it’s time to move on.

Self-employment requires a lot of investment. For the type of work I do, I have to have a smartphone, an Internet connection and a quality PC. I have to keep track of my income and am responsible for determining state and federal withholding. Let’s not even mention the education I received.

My work has value. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t have the following I have. I have a little message for brands: asking me to promote your business while providing nothing in return is equivalent to asking for free ad space in the newspaper or free airtime from a television station. Bloggers deserve better.

If you are a writer, focus on your writing, your relationships with your audience, and the quality of your content. You do not need to work for free to have something in your “portfolio.” 

This phenomenon of wanting something for nothing is extremely popular in the media industry. I’ve come across people who felt entitled to a free full-page ad in the newspaper, people who called me as a reporter and were upset that I didn’t include everything they said, and now large brands who think it’s A-OK to let me promote their stuff for free.

Before I leave, I will link to this lovely exchange from b27-6’s David Thorne, who is a champion of the I’m-not-gonna-work-for-free cause. May include foul language.

Please design a logo for me. With pie charts. For free.

I hope some other bloggers and other freelancers chime in on this one. Have you been burned by a client or expected to promote a brand without guaranteed compensation?

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  • Ashley S December 7, 2011, 10:06 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I am just starting to get more and more ad or sponsored content offers, and I can’t tell you how many companies act as though they are doing my readers and I a favor by “sharing” their information on a product/promo/coupon. It is sad that companies try to pull the wool over blogger’s eyes that don’t realize what a powerful marketing tool their blog is, and tool should equal dollars. (or compensation like you said)
    Ashley S recently posted..Get $20 when you spend $200 on your Mastercard this Holiday SeasonMy Profile

    Reply
    • Bellesouth
      Twitter:
      December 7, 2011, 10:42 pm

      I know, right? And some of these companies are far from mom-n-pop startups. I will be happy to help out a friend who needs help promoting their business, but even then we work in trade. The time I spend not getting paid by someone is time I could spend writing about something I want to write about. I could have easily written one of those you-could-get-a-gift-card posts this evening but instead I chose to write this.

      Reply
  • Heather December 7, 2011, 10:10 pm

    I haven’t been burned, but I did have a company today who asked me to add in information about the experience that I wasn’t personally involved in, they wanted me to mention a new attraction that I had never heard about today, much less seen or tried, and they wanted me to promote them. All of this after we sent a laundry list of issues with our experience!
    Heather recently posted..Daily Dose of SPAM – Ban Ki-Moon over My SpammyMy Profile

    Reply
    • Bellesouth
      Twitter:
      December 7, 2011, 10:32 pm

      I haven’t been burned as a Blogger but I was burned once by a startup publication that wanted to wait until the advertiser paid them to pay me for my work. Nuh-uh.

      Reply
  • Danielle December 7, 2011, 10:26 pm

    I totally agree! I feel the same way. Also, I love the link you posted. Sometimes that is what I feel like doing to people when they want something for free. lol
    Danielle recently posted..Perplexus ~ Review and GiveawayMy Profile

    Reply
    • Bellesouth
      Twitter:
      December 7, 2011, 10:34 pm

      Ha! Yes, b27slash6 is a site I like to visit when I feel down. “Missing Missy” is another great one, but those pie charts. BAHAHAHAHA, oh yes.

      Reply

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