Should bloggers be paid for their work? Absolutely. No doubt there. I am one to believe that you should never work for free. Whether it is writing a blog post or completing an internship. You spend time, effort and energy for something or someone that is work and deserves payment. Free samples and smiles don’t pay the bills. So yes, as most bloggers out there I think bloggers, no matter their size and following, should be paid for their work.
Ask a PR manager or an influencer outreach executive to work for free just to see their reaction. Yes, they would never do it. So they should not ask other to work for free.
This being said…
I think that sometimes, bloggers need to reconsider unpaid and gifting-basis opportunities. When a brand gets in touch with me, I try to see the bigger picture. Yes, that first collaboration might be on a gifting basis but it does not mean the next one will be too. If I start to create and nurture a good relationship with that brand or PR, the chances that they will work with me in the future and this time on a paid basis are way higher than if I dismiss them straight.
Depending on the brand, the products, the project, etc. Someone asking me to create a campaign worth of content without paying will get a straight no. Way too much work for not much in return.
I try to think of first collaborations as a job interview. When you get an interview for a job you want, you will research the company, what they do, who they are, if you like the culture. You will devote a certain amount of time preparing for that interview. Once it is done, you either get the job or you don’t. I think it is the same for a first collaboration.
Having loads of followers and pretty pictures is like having a good resume. It is great but it actually does not mean much. A good resume does not mean you will be good at the job. Many followers don’t mean you will convert, generate sales or even drive traffic to the brand’s website. Having worked with a lipstick company with success in the past does not mean your followers will engage with another post about lipsticks.
So yes, showing your blog stats and previous collaboration is great. Talking about past experiences at a job interview is good too. But what a potential employer is interested in is what you can do for them, to help the company grow, how you can contribute. A brand working with you for the first time will want to know how you can help them, how working together will achieve good results, how they will make an investment and get returns on it.
Because YES, even a collaboration on a gifting basis is still an investment for most companies. Not for those massive labels, no. But for many other brands which are young brands, sending out a product is an investment. In you. Which per se is a sign of trust and a business decision that has costs. That £100 watch you received could have been sold to someone. Then, the money could have been reinvested in the business. But they decided to take a risk with you and give these £100 up.
Getting back to what I said above, that startup which does not have budget right now will grow. They will remember that you worked with them on a gifting basis, that you were willing to do that sacrifice, that you put a lot of effort in an unpaid collaboration. Brands remember. They will be willing to invest in you again. A bit more this time. A paid collaboration. You never know.
Again, this being said…
I do think you should always ask a brand getting in touch with you (or when you pitch to a brand), if they have budget for collaboration. Again, you never know, they might. However, I don’t think you should decline opportunities because they are not paid. I also don’t think that because it is an unpaid opportunity, a blogger should treat it less seriously.
Working in marketing and with a lot of influencers, when I see some people putting little to no effort in the content they create despite receiving a rather expensive product, I know I am never going to work with them again. I would much rather work with someone who treated that collaboration seriously even though it was not paid. As a blogger, I consider all collaborations, paid and unpaid, alike. To me, they all deserve the same care and attention. I will do my best to create content no matter what I get in return. Because, in the long run, these efforts will turn into a good relationship with the brand which will be rewarded.
This is one reason why I think bloggers should do their best to make a brand happy. If they send you a few requirements, try to match them. Within limits of course. I have had a brand who had so many requirements and asked me so much work for nothing but samples in return that I had to say no. But going the extra miles for a brand you genuinely like will show professionalism and dedication. Keeping the job interview metaphor, you’d be working for a company, you’d make those extra effort to get a promotion. So why not as a blogger?
As a blogger, I understand how frustrating and disheartening it is when a brand gets back to you saying they don’t have budget. As a marketing manager, it also kills me to tell influencers that I can’t pay them because I have no budget, as I know how much work and time they will put in one picture. I do think what matters most at that point is the relationship you create with the brand. On the other hand, what I do not get at all is bloggers asking small brands with no budget for payment while they’d be ready to sell their soul to work with big brands. Not sure that adds up.
Despite all my words on why you should still say yes to unpaid collaborations, especially if it is a brand you love, products you need and would have bought, I also understand why some bloggers do not take on any unpaid work. If you blog full-time, paid collaborations keep you afloat and you cannot always afford to work on a gifting-basis. Fair enough.
My final words? Yes, ask for a budget. Always. Try to get as many paid opportunities as possible. Always negotiate for a budget and a payment. Because your time is precious and your work should not be free. Yet, do not dismiss an opportunity just because it’s on a gifting basis. Like I said, you never know what might happen next.
I am aware this is quite a sensitive topic in the blogging community and I do understand why. I understand arguments from both sides. But I am quite curious to know what is your take in it.
Thanks for stopping by. Hope you liked the post.
See you soon,