One of the biggest mysteries of the current digital marketing sphere is how much bloggers should be paid, and who is earning what. Because the employment of social media influencers and bloggers is still relatively new, there are no set rates, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty (and even animosity) over money. There are still brands trying to get bloggers to work for them for free, and frankly – they’re succeeding. A lot of brands try and make bloggers feel honoured to work with them, to have their content on their website or in their magazine, and in the excitement bloggers won’t ways see the bigger picture about how they’re being exploited in to working for free – trust me, I’ve been there. I was about to write my third article for a print magazine, for absolutely no compensation when I thought wait, this magazine doesn’t pay any bloggers that write for it! It’s a shame, as up until then I’d thought this particular publication was a good idea.
So, what should you charge for your words – and is it ever acceptable to work for free?
Rates are probably the number one question I get asked for by fellow bloggers – they want to make sure they’re not being taken advantage of, but want to make sure they’re being paid a fair price to sit in front of their laptop for x amount of hours – maybe having to attend an event, take photos and edit them too included in the fee – it all adds up. There are several bloggers posting what they earn from brands now, and I’m not one of them. Sorry! No one should ever have to disclose their earnings if they don’t want to, especially to strangers. But I would advise asking yourself this –
Are you excited about this brand?
No, but I need the money – work out what your time is worth and charge that. If they say no, who cares. There’s more to life than doing things for money, unless of course you’re about-to-be-evicted-level of broke. But even then, don’t let people take advantage.
Yes! OMG! Dream brand! – set a fair price for the work and show how enthusiastic you are, without coming across as desperate. If they say it’s too high for them, go lower because the work means more. If however, your dream brand happens to be Disney, or Nike, or some other massive global brand and they’re telling you they have no budget to pay bloggers – have a serious word with yourself about why they are your dream brand.
Do you think working for free with brands will get you paid work with brands?
Yes, isn’t that what every blogger does? This is what a lot of bloggers think, but it is not the case. Sure, having some brand campaigns on your blog shows brands that you are PR friendly, but so could a simple “I am PR friendly” statement in your ‘About’ section. If brands see you’re entering these competitions and working for free, they’ll probably keep offering you to work for free. If you have good quality sponsored posts (that are clearly labelled as such) they’ll see you in a more professional light. If you have no campaigns, but want some – pitch to brands yourself, you don’t have to wait, and you don’t have to work for brands for free in the meantime.
What about other things bloggers can do to earn money – what should be for free and what should be paid?
Writing for magazines – if it’s a print magazine, then yes you should be paid with no exception. They are selling a product and your article is helping to create that product and promote it. Sure the magazine has staff, taxes, overheads and fancy parties to fund, but they also have a limited amount of articles in each issue, so why shouldn’t you get paid? Even trade magazines that sell hardly any issues will pay me around £70. A journalist wouldn’t write things for ‘exposure’ or their ‘portfolio’ so why should a blogger? If it’s a digital magazine, that’s a different story, and you’re unlikely to get paid. I saw a Twitter thread a while a go about a guy who’d been writing for a digital gaming site for a long time without payment, and he realised he’d been exploited – I wish I’d saved it. So, with digital, maybe one article for the portfolio is okay, but when you realise the magazine is expecting constant free work from you, it’s probably time to move on.
Running events – when I first started organising blogger events I did it for the love, and also because I had no idea how one goes about getting paid for this. When brands approached me to run events, I saw that this only came about because I had worked for free and shown what I can do. With hindsight and the benefit of experience, I can conclude that sometimes you have to work for free, because people need to see what you can do. Think of any practical work you do as an internship, i.e work your arse off to impress people and make contacts, but don’t stay in it too long. You’ve got bills to pay.
Making things – brands might see you’re a whizz at baking cakes, designing logos, illustrating, or creating ebooks and resources, and they might hire you with all kinds of promises to promote you, before kicking you to the curb and profiting from your hard work and talent. I get asked all the time by brands if they can use my blogging advice posts in their ebook or whatnot, and they’ll say ‘in return, we’ll link to your site’. Wow, here’s an idea – why don’t you hire a writer to make the resources you’re selling for commercial gain and not just exploit a blogger. It’s shady business ethics. “Bloggers aren’t real writers, are they?”… yes they are sonny jim, and if you’d like to use my words for profit, show me the money – and same goes for bloggers’ photos, Instagrams, design work, and so on and so forth.
Of course we all do things in our professional life that benefit us in other ways other than monetary, and you’ll have to weigh up these gains up for yourself. Sometimes it’s prudent to take a step back and ask yourself who is benefitting from your labour. If you want to be treated like a Girlboss, ask yourself this – would a Girlboss spend her valuable time helping someone else get richer if it’s of little or no benefit to her? If there’s a product – there’s always a budget, make sure you get your fair share.