LET’S CHAT:: Should bloggers work for free?

A topic that has been brought up to our attention many times lately is ‘Should bloggers work for free‘? We asked you on Instagram about your thoughts and the majority of you (bloggers or not) agreed that working for free is not acceptable and on most occasions it is an act of undervaluing your work.

The obvious answer is NO! Under no circumstances should you spare your time to produce content for someone (insert bar, restaurant. hotel, clothing brand…you name it!) who does not value your time, effort and work. Simply think – in order for them to get in touch with you it most certainly means that they like your content and they are aware of your influence, therefore, in need of your blog’s and social media platforms’ exposure.

Much as you need to pay your hairdresser and electrician, they should also offer you a payment every time they get in touch with you. Offering you a drink and a meal is not payment, it is a barter agreement in exchange of services and if the meal and drink does not cost 3* the price you charge for your services then they are taking you for a fool. Harsh but true! Likewise, if you receive an e-mail from a PR offering you ‘exposure’ by sharing your blog post to their social media platforms or gifting you something and need a ‘review’ (which totally defeats the purpose of the gift since they ask something in exchange…), just say NO and go on with your life. If they are charging the client, then they definitely have a budget for bloggers too but don’t want to share with you.

With in-da house PR people and PR agencies trying to get as much as possible out of bloggers for free, we decided to share five possibilities where working for free might be acceptable, and take a deeper look look at some examples where we accepted work here at Natbee’s without receiving any payment!

(When) SHOULD BLOGGERS WORK FOR FREE?

1/ Start-up companies owned by family/friend

If a family member has just opened an Etsy shop or your old school friend has just started-up an online business and they kindly asked you to help them with their social media then it is most certainly acceptable to devote some of your time, damn even make childcare arrangements, to help them! Consider it as a gift for their new pioneering venture and try to teach them as much as you can so that you avoid future questions. Be careful with how much of your time you devote though as there might be the ‘promise’ of lots of future work, which ultimately translates to ‘more free work’ on your way!

2/ Charity and pro-bono work

Last year, we were asked to write a recipe post about the launching of The Big Broth – with 20p on every pot sold going straight back into funding Centre Point’s work with the young homeless in London and other major UK cities, there wasn’t much to think! We agreed to do the work and spend two hours in total setting up the flatlay, taking the images, writing the blog post and sharing on social media. If it is for a good cause or a cause you are passionate about, don’t be greedy sharing your sponsorship rates, just do it!

3/ Network

The biggest collaborations we have ever encountered was with American Express, two years in a row. Even though the money was really good during our first collaboration, we decided to accept the offer and sign the contract on a slightly lower rate the second time because not only it was a long-term collaboration that we were trying to establish for ages but mostly because the network opportunity presented was unbeatable! If you can make new connections that will lead to more established future collaborations then accept a lower rate or do it for free because what will follow is better than the present opportunity. Diplomacy and tactics can take you way further that you think 😉

4/ You need to get out there

If you have just started your blog and your social media platforms do not have big influence then it is very wise to do work for free and put yourself out there! With so much competition, brands are spoiled for choice, so if you know that you will get more from them than they will get from you, go for it, no judgement.

5/ Is this something new?

Working for free is a never-ending story. Once you start doing it more and more people will get in touch with you as within the PR circles there is that word of mouth thing where they circulate the list with the names and URLs of bloggers that work for free…(I hope now you see why Laura is always getting in touch with you with another ‘exciting opportunity’ e-mail!). Having said that, if one of these e-mails lands in your inbox with something new that you have never tried before and you really want to try it then here is your chance. Even though most of the articles I write here are under the ‘Let’s Chat‘ subject and are related to advice and life in Edinburgh, last year, Anastasia challenged me to write a blog post about the best healthy food products which I very much enjoyed doing so as it was something completely new. During the process we tried (I kid you not!), three different peanut butters, three different porridge flavours and thirteen different plant based milks, yes you read this right, thirteen! From turmeric lattes with almond milk to hot chocolates with oat milk we tried them all and even though at the beginning I thought ‘I won’t enjoy this‘, I ended up loving the products that made it to the top of the list and became a regular customer of Rude oat milk!

So that’s all from me now. Please let me know your thoughts on the topic, what do you think, should bloggers work for free? Yes, no?

Joanne

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6 Comments
  • Denise
    August 21, 2018

    Excellent post, it’s something that’s been annoying me a lot lately with requests for free! I do think that a lot of companies do take advantage of bloggers and expect you to write a blog post, take loads of high quality images and share them on all social media platforms 45327 times, all for free! I will do and have done charity posts for free if it is a charity that I believe in or if it’s a new local company. I don’t mind doing a review at a restaurant/bar in return for a free meal/drinks as it might not have been a place that I would normally have gone to so I’m getting a freebie and they are getting a review. The first paid post I done in the early days was a £10 Tesco voucher to buy ingredients to make a recipe, oh and then they turned round after I had done it and said it was a ‘do-follow’ link!! ? Obviously you live and learn!

    The companies need to remember that for a lot of bloggers it costs us money to run our blogs; our cameras and lenses, hosting sites, domains, etc don’t come cheap so it makes sense to keep our blogs going that they need to make some form of payment. Also the brands pay the PR companies quite a bit of money to do their work so why should we be expected to work for free.

    • Joanne
      August 22, 2018

      I couldn’t have said it better myself Dee ?

      Brands and in da house PR people take bloggers free work for granted since we have spoiled them all these years. I cover the Edinburgh area and I attend the majority of events we are invited but always make sure to tell them that I will come along but I have no obligation to post on the blog or on my social media. In a way, I want them to respect me for what I do and appreciate that I take time off my work to attend this event, so it would be extremely selfish of them to think that I will tag along and do work for them in exchange of a drink, a goodie bag and a cupcake!

      Last year (and Anastasia please correct me if I am wrong), around the time Anastasia was submitting her thesis we had a Skype meeting and tried to see how we could keep blogging without exhausting ourselves. Anastasia gave total control of the blog and social media to me and then the rest of the contributors jumped in to save the situation while Anastasia was drafting posts that I was later on editing on Sundays…it was madness! Eventually, we agreed that the only way to save ourselves and have a blog/life/work balance was to say loads of ‘no’ along the way. Some people were surprised that we increased our fees, others mentioned the extremely rude ‘but (insert name of a blogger) does this work for free or has 1/3 lower fees than yours’ which only made us laugh and appreciate that we didn’t have to work with them PRs (and/or the brand they represented!).

      I did my internship in a food/travel PR agency in Edinburgh and the first thing we did after drafting campaigns (and before we did influencers outreach) was to agree what would be the maximum budget we could offer (on the occasion the influencer would ask for it!!!!), and I tell you the total budget we had was way more than what we eventually agreed to spare! My point is, there is money, you just have to ask for it! If they really want to work with you, they will find the way to offer you money. If they think they can find other bloggers to do it for free and it is not a high importance campaign then you’ll most likely lose your chance but maintain your integrity and energy to focus on more important things!

      So glad you liked it!
      J.
      xx

      • Anastasia
        August 22, 2018

        Absolutely true, everything you and Denise have said so far. For me, keeping a good work/life/blog balance is more important that attending events or reviewing restaurants and much like Denise said the cost of maintaining our websites, from camera kit to image hosting sites and web designers, can be dangerously expensive! So it would be much appreciated if PRs respected us for the time and work we put into creating a piece and compensate us for our time rather than think that gifts and gift cards is the same thing as money!

        Really nice read Joanne, thank you once again for sharing x

  • Anastasia
    August 22, 2018

    I love that you mentioned the Charity work posts.
    People often underestimate the work bloggers can do for charities via their social media and blogs.
    A very interesting read, thank you for sharing with us Joanne!

    • Joanne
      August 22, 2018

      But its true, no? Giving bags of old clothes to the local charity shop is not the only charity work bloggers can do. So if you get the chance why not do it?! Sadly very true, we could do so much more 🙂

      Thank you for giving me the chance to have my own voice here at Natbee’s xx