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.
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?