“Don’t work for free”,
“Free doesn’t pay my mortgage”,
Are all phrases you’ll often heard spouted on a fairly regular basis by many in the blogging world.
It seems that it pays (literally) to position yourself as someone who doesn’t do any work for free and demands payment for everything… even when it isn’t actually always the case. You see, it gives the person stating it a position of authority, as if they never work unless they are being paid well. It holds them up high as someone who is doing extremely well, needs to be paid the big bucks… even if in reality, at times they are working for free.
It’s not that dissimilar to those money making gurus who rent a sports car for the day and get a ton of photos done to ensure they look like they actually do make a shed load of cash. It gives them an audience of people who want to be in their position and gives the impression that they are pretty sought after. For some it’s harmless posturing, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t really that helpful.
There are a large number of impressionable new bloggers looking up to those who tell them that they shouldn’t work for free and that they should demand payment for anything and everything. What the new bloggers don’t know (or aren’t told) is that sometimes these bloggers do work for free and aren’t as demanding as they may tell you they are.
“It teaches people to mistrust brands and agencies rather than to build solid relationships on which both parties can create value.”
It’s often a way of trying to create a different market for themselves above others in the industry by portraying that you’re in demand and only work for the exclusive few at the right price. This marketing ploy doesn’t only have an impact on those looking to work with bloggers but also others who look up to them, hear them speak at conferences, listen to their podcasts or read their articles. Whilst there are some bloggers that are truly in demand and don’t need to use “smoke and mirrors” tactics, those that do can have a negative impact on the bloggers that follow them. It teaches people to mistrust brands and agencies rather than to build solid relationships on which both parties can create value.
It’s Business Time!
But there’s another well uttered phrase that also does the rounds in the blogging world… “You need to treat your blog as a business…”.
If you’re treating your blog as a business, then who are your competitors? Other bloggers? If so, you might want to think about how they are getting clients and how they are nurturing relationships with potential clients. We are in a people business and relationships are everything.
Far too often I’ve experienced, heard stories from PR’s and brands about bloggers who have been difficult, demanding or just plain rude. Although this can often be overlooked and put down to miscommunication by email, it can often sour the relationship early on. Being overly hard nosed and defensive can leave people wondering if it’s worth the hassle working with you, after all it’s a two way relationship that needs to work for both parties.
“we’ve found ourselves in an echo chamber… telling each other the same thing, “Don’t work for free”, “Know your value”, “Free doesn’t pay my rent”.”
Brands and agencies tend to like to work with people they trust, are reliable, professional and who they get along with. They’ll come back to these same bloggers because they know that in the past they’ve delivered for them as well as being a pleasure to work with. If you’ve been overly difficult or demanding from day one, you’re already putting yourself in a position where you may not work with that client again.
What I don’t quite understand is… where does this attitude come from?
Is it from speakers at conferences, Facebook groups, online discussions telling the audience not to work for free? Perhaps, maybe as bloggers we’ve found ourselves in an echo chamber… telling each other the same thing, “Don’t work for free”, “Know your value”, “Free doesn’t pay my rent”.
There seems to be a mistrust of agencies, brands and PR’s that may not be justified. Yes, sometimes there are bad clients, who don’t pay on time or want you to produce content for very little reward, but there are also many excellent clients out there that you may be missing out on.
Both Sides of the Fence
Having had chance over the years to experience the communication between blogger, brands and agencies on both sides of the fence, I think it’s time for us to rid ourselves of the soundbites and get the discussion out in the open. It’s increasingly important that we hear from all sides of the industry, not just the blogger side. At the next Traverse conference we’ll be doing our best to ensure both sides are represented (as we have at previous conferences) so that we can better understand this relationship in our industry.
The Travel Industry
As a content creator and blogger it’s useful to delve into different niches and industries to get new ideas, find innovation and to see what the best practices are. There are differences in many niches and although the “don’t work for free” mantra may not have originally surfaced in the travel industry it is certainly uttered on a fairly regular basis.
“the cost of sending bloggers products is insignificant compared to sending a blogger on an all expenses trip to a far flung destination with flights included”
Whilst I do agree you shouldn’t be working hard to promote brands with very little in return (including just the price of the product) I do think there are differences in the travel industry to say, the fashion industry. For example, for a brand the cost of sending bloggers beauty products or clothing is insignificant compared to sending a blogger on an all expenses five star trip to Tahiti with flights included. You can’t compare the two with the blanket statement, “don’t work for free” as the costs involved are so different.
Dream Trip Hypocrisy
Which brings me to another point, if those who “don’t work for free” are offered an all expenses covered trip to their dream destination… would they take it without getting paid? The answer is, probably… but they just wouldn’t mention that it wasn’t paid, but they’ll technically be working for free… or would they? Well, it “won’t pay the mortgage” but the cost to the client certainly wasn’t free. This highlights the total hypocrisy that exists.
Perhaps the problem originates from somewhere else? The freelance community perhaps? Where freelancers are can often feel like they are taken advantage of by their clients. Many bloggers feel like they are freelancers or maybe even do some freelance work on the side. The difference being, anyone with the tiniest bit of skill can start a blog… there are pretty much zero barriers to entry in getting started. You don’t have to have a portfolio of past clients, CV of skills to start or years of experience, you could have started a few month ago. Do these bloggers work for free or are they more flexible with fees? It seems totally unrealistic to tell them to not do any work with clients without payment.
“It’s certainly possible to make a great living doing what you love, but realistically it takes a lot of time, effort and patience.”
Sure, know your value. If you’re experienced, have a big reach, expertise and quality content then know how much that is worth… but it’s unlikely someone who is relatively new or hasn’t got a huge reach has that to offer. It’s certainly possible to make a great living doing what you love, but realistically it takes a lot of time, effort and patience. Despite what people say it’s also fine to have a 9 to 5 job whilst you work on your side projects you don’t have to try and escape it unless you really want to, there really are no rules.
There are occasions in business when you have to offer something for free or at a cheaper price to build trust before the customer commits their money to a bigger purchase. You’ll see those very bloggers who say “don’t work for free” creating free products, free video webinars, free courses, free advice via Facebook groups… essentially working for free to build trust and sell you their latest course, pdf or product. Is that so different? They’re working for a potential customer for free in the hope that they’ll win their business in the long run. If they didn’t offer this free material would people buy their products or services?
Also, how did these bloggers get their own opportunities when they first started out? Were they all paid opportunities? Somehow I doubt it.
So kids, don’t work for free… well unless it’s your dream destination, then well… pack your bags, you’ve got a flight to catch!