Should I “accept” product in exchange for content creation? Do I send my rate card in response to every outreach from a PR company? Should I be demanding payment to share a photo of something somebody sent me in a media drop? Should I always ask for money? Am I personally ruining the blogging industry by doing trade exchanges? Does accepting a service in exchange for a review make me a “blegger”? If somebody pays me an admin fee for a review, does that mean they are paying for my opinion?
These questions come up because of other people’s opinions. So here’s mine. What is the purpose of your blog? What works for you? Literally NOTHING else matters.
I am very anti anybody telling anybody else how to run their own business, even more so when it comes to blogging. A blog is MEANT to be a personal thing. Once you start generalising, I feel you are straying into “online magazine” territory – rebrand and go with that. More power to you.
Here are my thoughts on the 7 most commonly repeated blogging “myths” with regards to how you should work with brands when it comes to content creation.
1. Product won’t pay my bills
Stating something as obvious, though incorrect, does not make you cool or smart. Let’s unpack it further though, shall we? Is this product something you would have spent money on anyway? Is there potential for an ongoing relationship where you will receive the product long term? Will it make your life easier and save you time?
If you answer yes to ANY of these, then the initial statement is false and the product is, in fact, paying your bills by saving you time and money… In case that isn’t clear – the money you save can be used to pay your bills and the time can be used to make more money.
2. My blog following is too small to charge, so I have to do trade exchange
No. You aren’t charging for your audience; you are charging for your time. Obviously, if you have 10 readers, there is no return for them. But 500 readers? That engage with you on all your platforms? That is value to them. That is 500 people who they may not otherwise have reached.
That said. Go back to number 1. You don’t have to make excuses for doing trade exchanges or for accepting product. If you WANT to and it has a return for you – do it! If you want to charge, create a realistic rate for an hour of your time, calculate how long the content creation will take you and then write up a quote.
3. You have to charge right from the beginning or nobody will ever pay you for content creation
BULLS*** I work with a lot of bloggers. I’m close friends with a lot of bloggers. I don’t care WHAT they say in online conversations, every single one of them has worked and STILL works for product, depending on what the product is. (Except possibly the one person who I have neither worked with nor have a relationship with.) And they STILL get paid for all kinds of content creation… By those same brands. In fact, more often than not, those brands go out of their way to support the people who invested in them first.
Be crystal clear with them from the get go if you are convinced they are out to get you. “I will happily trial this product to give you a chance to see the value I can add. My usual rate for this is R250 – R500, for future reference. Let’s get cracking!”
4. Building a relationship should mean that they WANT to pay you
This is a big one. I worked in PR for years. While marketing has money to pay for any and every promotion they want, that is not how PR works. They are evolving as time goes by, but we are way behind international standards. Most PR companies are not given budget for bloggers. They are starting to and they are beginning to learn how to choose and work with bloggers.
I personally know at least half a dozen PR people who fight with their clients regularly to get budget specifically for bloggers. They do WANT to pay you. And if they get that budget? Who do you think they are going to pay first? The person they have worked with before and who has provided value for them and the client already? Or the random blogger they have never met or had a conversation with, because their introductory mail was responded to with a rate card?
5. You should never charge for a review
Of course you don’t charge for a review. Your opinion is not for sale. However. Have we not just established that you charge for your time? Photography, editing of images, social media promotion, answering questions from readers, advertising the post on Facebook, transport to and from a service… While you absolutely should not ever charge for a review, calculate what the admin around the content creation and promotion of the article with all the bells and whistles costs.
Keep it at cost. A review is not the same as a sponsored post where you are paid to share information on something you haven’t tried personally, with pre-approved angles, keywords and content. Sponsored posts can be an absolute art. The product or service can be so naturally incorporated into a story, nobody would know you were actually talking about it. If it wasn’t for the very clear disclosure that you have an existing relationship with the brand…
6. It is dishonest to share only positive reviews
I understand the logic of this. But again I ask, what is the purpose of your blog? I share reviews on Pregnant in Cape Town. I don’t share negative reviews. Why? Because the purpose of my blog has nothing to do with products and reviews. I share things I love, things that make my life a little easier and happier, things that make my child happy and excited. I’m very clear about that purpose.
I charge a basic admin fee for reviews and basic plus a certain amount for giveaways. Anybody who has ever read my blog will know that I put a lot of time and effort into my reviews and even more so into my giveaways. Nobody does it like I do it and I love doing it my way. BUT. Even if you have paid me, it does not mean you will get a great review or that I will even run your giveaway. As I said, I only share things that I love. If I don’t love your product, you can come collect it and I will refund all but the basic admin fee. I provide the brand with proper feedback on why it didn’t work for me or Charly, so they can go back and make improvements.
7. Any blogger working for free is taking work away from those who expect to be paid
I don’t for one second believe that this is true. Although there may be a few PRs or brands out there that might choose to go with bloggers who don’t charge over those that do, there is no logic to it. Contrary to what most bloggers believe or have experienced, there are more PRs in the business that know what they are doing than don’t.
Getting their clients to work with smaller bloggers with high engagements over the big numbers… that could have come from anywhere… is one of the PR industries’ biggest headaches. PR companies lose accounts very easily. Why would they choose to go with a blogger who can’t deliver to save a buck? The client doesn’t care about the dynamics; they care about the end result. If they have budget for a blogger or influencer, they will use it to get those numbers. If they go with somebody else, they either genuinely don’t have budget, they believe the other person will provide better value or their idea is better than yours… Or maybe they just don’t like you.
Sure there might be somebody undercutting you out of spite, if you have inspired that in others. But, at the end of the day, if somebody is working with a brand for the product or service, it is distinctly possible that they are a better match for the brand than you are… After all, they have already shown that they see the value in it.
And that is where I think the biggest issue with the current state of the blogging community is.
I believe that the only way to have a good blog that adds value to the world – not only to brands – is to be YOU! That is why people read you… because of who you are, because of your voice… And that is why people will work with you. I believe that if you want to make money from your blog, you can only do that by aligning with people and brands that you are naturally passionate about. How you choose to do that is up to you.
Just as a side note… I also believe that no matter how “big” you are, if you are an unpleasant person who behaves like you are owed something; people won’t want to work with you. PR companies and brands are just people. Don’t underestimate how much association means to them… If somebody doesn’t want to be associated with you, they won’t want you anywhere near their client.