Dec 5, 2011 Blogging
Last night I read two good posts about blogging for free. One, by Kludgymom, said that under certain circumstances it makes sense for bloggers to work for free (or for product). The other, by Momfluential, laid out some very good reasons why moms tend to fall into writing for free, and why they shouldn’t let that happen. Being a Libra, I largely agree with both of them (although I suspect that the reasons given in Kludgymom’s post are tied in tighter with the pitfalls described in Momfluential’s post than most of us would like to admit).
Fact is, I don’t think I’d be where I am today in my career if I hadn’t spent the first year working for free. In the beginning most of my readers were related to me, and I was still trying to get my bearings. I like Kludgymom’s use of “intern” to describe a blogger going through this phase. I spent a lot of time going to events I wasn’t sure I belonged at, writing about products and services I wasn’t sure I found interesting. But I was learning how to write, I was figuring out what I wanted my blog’s focus to be, I was networking, and I was getting myself into a good position for when I actually wanted to start making money. (And it’s worth noting that I was still doing the majority of my writing about non-product-related topics.)
But this was just a phase, and I think what happens with many bloggers is that they get stuck in that intern phase and don’t know how to get out of it. Writing something that’s basically an unpaid advertisement has certain benefits when your audience is very small and you’re getting a foot in the door. But there comes a time when that’s no longer the case, and you need to move to the next phase. Your gut will tell you when it’s time. Your audience is bigger, your influence is greater, your writing is better. At a certain point, if you are writing about products – and your blog doesn’t have the kind of crazy traffic that allows you to make a living through advertising – you should be making money for your posts.
I don’t make much money from straight-up sidebar ads. I’m lazy about selling the spots. Most of the money I make on my blog is through sponsored posts. And the way I get these jobs, and get paid, is very simple: I ask to be paid.
Told you it was simple.
Sure, sometimes I get an offer for a sponsored post as part of an organized campaign. I’ve gotten good work from the Clever Girls Collective and The Motherhood, among others. But the majority of sponsored posts and giveaways on SelfishMom.com came about because I got a pitch in my inbox about a product that sounded interesting, and I wrote back saying that I was interested in doing a sponsored post about the product, and would they like to discuss my rates? And then I include links to my last few sponsored posts so that they can see I don’t just slap them together. I put the same effort into all of my posts, paid or not (and if you want to get steady, paying work you need to do the same).
Most of the time, I don’t get an answer back. Or I get an answer saying that it isn’t in their budget to pay for posts at this time. Or that they simply don’t pay for posts, ever. Or (and this is my favorite) that they don’t understand why I’m asking for money when all of the other bloggers did it for free. (If I’m in a bad mood, my answer to that one is that all of the other bloggers they’re working with are stupid. If I’m in a good mood I simply don’t respond.)
But inevitably someone will answer back that yes, they’re interested. For some of them, I think it’s the first time they’re commissioning a sponsored post. For others, I think they probably expected to pay a few bloggers, but only when pushed. Either way, it’s a win-win. I get paid to write about something interesting, my readers get a well-written post about a product I like, and the client gets a post by someone with experience, an audience, a good twitter following, and a proven track record of making clients happy.
As with anything else, there are of course exceptions to getting paid to write about a product. We all have those things we’re passionate about, things we want to share because we love them. Then there are those wonderful long-term relationships where not every post is attached to a formal agreement, but in the long run you make out very well.
But if every single time you post about a product you’re doing it for free, you should ask yourself why. And if the answer is that nobody’s offered you any money, then you need to start asking to be paid. It really is that simple.
Originally posted on Behind the Screen. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.