Having been blogging professionally for nearly a year now, I’ve realised that my attitude to blogging has changed dramatically from how it was when I was a hobby blogger.
Don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely love it, but there are times when I feel that the earning money part is very, very difficult – as any self-employed person I’m sure will tell you. I am writing this from a full-time blogger’s point of view, so if you have no intention of monetizing your blog this may not be the post for you. If, however, you are either already earning money from your blog, or you want to earn money from it, you may find this food for thought.
I’m talking about product reviews, and whether brands should pay bloggers for them.
I’m sure most of you will remember your very first product review: the excitement of saying yes to an offer, choosing an item or two, the thrill of receiving and opening the parcel. I can remember mine well. Three years down the line, and many gifted items later (for which I am hugely grateful and very, very lucky to receive), there is always a niggle that creeps up on me whenever I then ponder what I have to do in return for my lovely gift.
The work involved in “reviewing” a product
Namely – a product review is an awful lot of work. And I mean a lot, as I noted recently with a product review I was writing and preparing. It totalled 4.5 hours of work: choosing what to have sent, taking photos, editing photos, uploading and tagging photos, writing the post, adding in links, promoting the post on social media – it’s basically half a day’s work. In any ‘normal’ freelancing profession you would charge your half-day rate for that many hours.
And yet, we’re not paid in cash for all that effort.
A PRODUCT REVIEW IS AN AWFUL LOT OF WORK. IN ANY ‘NORMAL’ PROFESSION YOU WOULD CHARGE YOUR HALF-DAY RATE FOR THAT.
The currency that is used to pay us in is goods: a pair of shoes, a dress, jewellery, make up, etc. It can’t buy us food, or heat our homes, or pay for petrol. In contrast, however, what the brand receives is publicity, advertising, social media mentions, click-throughs (the more unscrupulous ones asking for ‘do follow’ links) – all of th at for the (cost) price of an item of clothing… their item of clothing, that they have in stock, often as press samples. If an agency was involved as a middle man, they will be paid as well for managing the blogger outreach… so why are bloggers paid in goods only? They’re the ones directly promoting the brand. Why are we not paid in cash for writing a review?
Blogging as a profession
The main problem lies within the fact that “professional blogger” isn’t a job that officially exists yet (in the UK at least) – it’s still very much in its infancy as a profession. There are hobby bloggers and there are professional bloggers, and those in-between who earn a little by monetizing their blog where they can. All the time that hobby bloggers accept goods – and goods only – in exchange for a product review, the professional bloggers will struggle to compete. (Please don’t think I have anything against hobby bloggers because I was one for two years; I’m sure there aren’t any bloggers who started as full-time bloggers from day one – it just doesn’t work like that.)
Think of it this way: In order to write a review, film critics have to go and see the movie in order to write about it. They watch the movie, they write the review, and they’re paid for the review. No one says to a film critic, “We’ll gift you a ticket to the cinema to see this new movie, and in exchange could you write us a review and include links to the trailer and talk about it on social media”. Payment in cinema tickets? I don’t think so. So why do brands think that payment in clothes and jewellery is acceptable for a review on someone’s blog? After all, it’s my profession, it’s what I do to pay the bills.
FILM CRITICS… ARE PAID FOR THE REVIEW. PAYMENT IN CINEMA TICKETS? I DON’T THINK SO.
Recently I replied to a brand who emailed me about guest posting on my blog (I don’t publish guest posts from brands – to me that really is something-for-nothing). I said that I’m mostly interested in writing sponsored content, if they would consider that at all. The reply I received was “I’m afraid we don’t pay for any content”.
Really? How is that any different from saying “We don’t pay for any advertising”? Who is going to give it to you for free then?
Oh that’s right… bloggers.
I’m afraid we don’t pay for any content.
I’ve been reading a lot of posts lately where people are making other bloggers aware that we should be paid – and paid fairly – for our time. Bangs & a Bun recently wrote about a preposterous offer of a collaboration that would have effectively taken up 11 days of her time for the princely sum of £100, “and a lovely lunch”:
…if I were to approach the agency, I’d most likely be told that they don’t have a bigger budget with which to do this. In which case, my response would be, you can’t afford to do the project. Simple. If you don’t want to pay people adequately for their time, you need to come up with a different way to achieve what you’re trying to achieve or wait till you can afford to do it.
Perfectly put, the key phrase being “pay people adequately“.
However, there are some areas of blogging that, for some bloggers, pays handsomely. This (UK) TV report mentions how much YouTube bloggers can receive – from £5,000 to £15,000 – for the mention of a brand, so not all areas of blogging are affected this way. But the pull that your blog (and your brand) has makes a huge difference of course.
Many bloggers do not ask for payment, however, and unfortunately that affects those of us that need to make a living from it; brands are taking advantage of bloggers and expecting something-for-nothing. I asked the opinion of a couple of fellow bloggers about this subject, just to see if I was being unreasonable. One said:
I find when a brand asks if I would like to choose something, review it and post about it, it actually takes a fair bit of time what with the choosing, the styling, the photos, the writing with corresponding links and then posting and promoting socially. Divide time spent by cost of product and we are probably talking less than minimum wage… and it’s not even monetary, it’s clothes! The fact that the brands are actually getting promotional work for very, very little expense to their company is quite wrong really.
I had an interesting email recently. It regarded bloggers as journalists in their own right… in effect it is what we do. We deliver written pieces to an audience. A journalist would have a set fee for a written piece. Why do bloggers not? It appears we, as bloggers, are a cheap and effective PR solution.
Another told me:
I find writing a post about a gifted item takes an awful lot longer than a normal outfit post. I always try to include some background info about the brand and often, the people behind the brand too (especially the smaller independent ones). I spend an average of four hours I’d say on a post which includes a gifted item because of the photos, editing, etc.
I agree that we should be paid… after all, it would be far less than they’d pay for any other form of advertising.
Most brands offer a gifted item in exchange for a review post, a do-follow link and social media shares. In complete contrast a couple of brands – just a couple, mind – have offered me additional payment for writing the review as well as gifting an item. It’s quite unusual, but I think it should be standard.
In order to come up with something fair that everyone can work from, how about this: I was thinking of a flat rate minimum of £50. Individual bloggers’ rates may be a lot higher than that, depending on the influence and reach their blog has, but £50 should be a minimum. If a brand would like a blogger to write and publish a product review, you also need to have a physical product in order to have something to write about so the gifted item is simply a necessity in order to make the review happen. But thinking that the products themselves are adequate ‘payment’ for the time and effort put in is not acceptable.
THINKING THAT THE PRODUCTS THEMSELVES ARE ADEQUATE ‘PAYMENT’ FOR THE TIME PUT IN IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
I think the problem lies with the fact that we, as women, love the thrill of shopping, getting a bargain, a free gift. Put all that on a plate for a new blogger and you’ve got an instant, cheap form of advertising without having to offer anything else – women love free stuff and they’ll jump at the chance to receive clothes and makeup and jewellery and shoes and bags… won’t they?
No, not forever.
When I was a new blogger I wouldn’t have dreamt of asking for payment – it wouldn’t have occurred to me to ask, nor would I have dared for fear of them retracting the offer. But I’m lucky enough to now be at a stage where I can be very choosy about which offers I do take up as I receive a lot of them (this is due to the fact that I signed up to lots of blogger outreach programmes), but the giddy excitement of a free gift has given way to my business head considering whether the amount of work it will generate will benefit me, my blog and my readership.
Maybe what I’m doing is fighting for equal pay: equal pay with journalists, critics, columnists.. or just being paid at all. It’s not a perfect proposition, I know that, but something needs to change. My idea has many reasons why it won’t work – but I just feel that it needs to be addressed and we get a conversation going in order to try and start to make a change.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? DO YOU THINK THAT BRANDS ARE TARGETING BLOGGERS AS A CHEAP FORM OF ADVERTISING? IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER IDEAS OF HOW WE CAN GET A FAIR DEAL FOR OUR TIME AND EFFORTS PLEASE DO SHARE IN THE COMMENTS 🙂
N.B. 14/07/2014: This topic has been so popular on Twitter that I’ve just created a hashtag: please use #fairpayforbloggers if you Tweet about it. It’s creating a LOT of discussions which I’m really pleased about!
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I just came across this post, found it on Pinterest. PREACH GIRL! I'm so tired of companies thinking free product is adequate payment. It's just plain rude and disrespectful to us bloggers.
I found this very interesting, I myself am a blogger I've always blogged for free for myself, however I was contacted about a product review for a company that can offer something for clear skin, it was the first time I had been contacted and I personally jumped at the thought of clear skin.. however I have now been contacted by another brand to do a blog post and socal media posts for them in return of paying £10 for the product, my own discount code and a way to make money through them. My thoughts are now turning to "should I be asking for money for me doing this?" However my problem is knowing when to turn around and ask for money in return? I want to blog full time and incorporate brands I love and personally use to benefit me and my readers.. however I don't want to be too pushy so doing the two posts for free felt reasonable, but I need advice on how or when to ask for money in return? (If you want a look the first free post was called "Is this the secret to clear skin?!" Thanks Amy http://www.thatbridgegirl.come
Really enjoyed reading this post. I own a brand an pay bloggers (3 today for example) as i think it is rude not to and they can sample my service.
Question though – From a brand's perspective, I keep getting requests, probably derived from the blogs I have used to try and sell me sponsored posts, had three emails yesterday alone. I have always advertised with bloggers that i have approaching them, should i avoid these guys as I don't really know if they belong to that site or not?
Hi Luke – I'm not sure what you mean by whether they belong that site (what site?), but it's totally at your discretion as to whether you work with bloggers that approach you (rather than the other way around). I don't think you should dismiss them just because they got in touch with you first – they may be the perfect fit for your brand so in which case it'd be silly not to work with them… You might not have found them otherwise!
Great post and totally agree, brands have to pay to advertise on a blog since it is hard work.
For example we write german product reviews on http://www.andreas-produkttests.de , http://www.dieprodukttestfamilie.de and get paid for it.
TOTALLY AGREE with this post. Thank you!
I find it so frustrating when brands / PR ask for coverage with zero compensation. They ARE asking you to not only work for free, but provide free advertising. They pay everyone else they work with, so it's insulting that they would think that they shouldn't pay bloggers…
I really think that the bloggers who write articles about brands for free, or just for product, do a disservice to themselves (that brand will never pay you in the future) and to all bloggers, since it devalues the service and makes it harder for bloggers (in general, as an industry) to make a living. If bloggers can't make money because others will work for free, then the quality of blogs overall will decrease, since most will have to give it up in favor of a better paying job.
IMHO – A sponsored article on a professional-looking blog should cost an absolute minimum of $10k+, and a sponsored social media post should cost $15 to $30+ CPM (per thousand followers), depending on what the brand wants and what is involved. For perspective, many social media stars make $50k to $100k per Instagram post alone. And an ad in a print magazine can easily cost a few hundred thousand dollars. These brands are paying for ads elsewhere, so why not in your blog? Don’t you give them value too?
Catherine, you're so on point. Early on we would love to review anything. Now, the luster of reviews for free has faded. It takes time, lots of time and effort. We now charge for reviews, on top of the product to review. The only exception is a product or brand that we really, really, really love; and that's on a case by case point.
There's street-talk that many PR companies just feel they can, dare I say, abuse bloggers. They are getting paid, and they want bloggers to do posts and promotions for free (we'll send you hi-res images, or product exchange).
If any blogger reading this is OK with not getting paid for their effort, that's their choice. But 3 or 6 months down the road, they may be tired and pessimistic about why they're not making any money blogging.
We bloggers really need to form our own Union to help educate and protect us. We seriously need a "by Us for Us" organization.
Great post and love your blog.
Rossana I couldn't agree more with everything you've said!! I do worry that brands/PRs are abusing bloggers… some of the offers I get aren't "offers" at all, it's just all take and zero give. How they think that they're actually offering anything of any benefit to us is beyond me. Even if I wasn't a f/t blogger and wasn't bothered about making money from it, I'd still question why I'd work with them when they're the only ones who get anything out of it.
A union would be a fabulous thing. It'll take the right person to get one started, but if they did I'd back it all the way. I'm sure in a few years it will happen – it just needs to be sooner!!
Thanks so much for your kind words my lovely! x
Thank you so much for this article!!! I thought I was alone or being unreasonable when I ask for payment and some of these brands want 1200 word review articles in exchange for a product AND they want a do-follow on top of that. It’s abuse and so unfair. I’ve been standing my ground lately. I charge a flat fee of $225. Either pay it or leave me alone. So glad you wrote this. We can’t eat their products and not to mention depending on what the product is, that’s free advertising making us walking billboards who also slave to write good articles reviews. Please bloggers know your worth and don’t be afraid to stand your ground.
I understand completely – I've been a freelancer myself. What's the best way to approach a blogger? Do I offer money right away? Ask their fee? I don't want to insult anyone! We're a start-up so I'm trying to spend my limited budget wisely. I'm also trying to avoid the blog networks – eliminate the middle man and have the fee go directly to the blogger. Do you have any suggestions for me?
Hi Shari, thanks so much for asking! First of all – I personally don't charge start-ups a fee for a product review. Any indie labels, or bloggers setting up an Etsy shop, etc. come under my bracket of "exempt" brands because I want to help them out. I think it's great to approach a blogger direct, but to get a good response and to make it worthwhile will take a fair bit more work (hence why PRs charge you to do it for you).
– First of all identify which bloggers you think would be a good fit for your brand. Use your own criteria for this – it could be their writing, photography, style… you choose.
– Secondly, have a look for their PR/sponsor/media kit details and have a thorough read… there's nothing worse than an offer of something that you've clearly said in your media kit that you don't do!
– Thirdly, send a personal, friendly email that addresses them by name, explains a little bit about your brand and why you think they'd be a good fit (i.e. what you like about their blog). Don't make it too long – no more than a couple of paragraphs or they'll switch off. Be very clear about what you're offering and how you'd like to work with them, include links and "value up to" if they're able to choose a product to review.
Basically anything that doesn't look like a blanket email, that proves you've read their blog (and media kit) and that is really nice and clear about how you'd like to work with them will win them over (well it does me). And when it comes to it, retweeting their Tweets when they tag you in and your own Instagram posts/FB posts/Tweets linking to or featuring them is always appreciated.
Don't feel that you have to have a big budget to pay bloggers – if you approach them nicely enough and explain that although you're a start-up business you'd like to get a great relationship going I'm sure you'll get a great response. As long as it's the opposite of "something for nothing" you should be okay!
Forgot to mention: don't be afraid to say you're new to this and you've only just started approaching bloggers… sometimes it's nice to know you're the first blogger they've asked 🙂
If you like you can email me, should you need any more questions answered… I'll see if I can help!
Good luck and let me know how you get on!
I completely agree with this. Writing a post alone for me takes at least two hours because I am so detailed. But doing a sponsored post would take so much more work and time. I definitely think they should pay to get post.
I'm glad it got you thinking, Ang… I'm also glad we're starting to admit to ourselves that it DOES take so much time! Thanks for your comment :))
Hurrah! I've just been offered my first paid review after editing my media kit to offer this (otherwise I only accept products of relevance on the understanding it doesn't offer a guaranteed review) but now I have a question…
I feel it may be hugely obvious but… Do I request payment before posting the review, or after?
I kind of assume it's before (as who's to say they'll ever pay otherwise) but I keep hearing about bloggers chasing invoices.
Hi Amy, unfortunately with any kind of freelance work or a job where you're offering a service, you invoice the client after the work has been done. So yes, you do end up chasing invoices occasionally, but it is the minority who are late payers. The good thing about blogging is that once payment becomes late you remove the post until you get your invoice paid – at least we have that at our disposal to use. But that is the nature of any services based profession; if you were doing a big job, however, you could ask for an advance and then the balance on supply of the goods… that would apply to larger, more complex jobs.
Hope that helps (and well done for getting your first paid review)! C x
I forgot to say: on the invoice put a "payment by" date – I usually make it a month after the date of the invoice, that is the most common time period. Then you have something to work towards when chasing, you have an official "payment is late" date.
I know this is late, and maybe you're sorted it out by now, but…you can charge for half up front. A lot of bloggers do it, because it locks in that promise — and you at least have half of it, if you don't receive the other half for some reason. Otherwise, companies may say something like, "Oh, well, we decided we wanted to cancel," or, "We'll only pay you if you change ___ to ___ in your post," thus lording the payment over you.
It also helps to have a contract in place — even as simple as stating your sponsorship terms. It helps companies realise, "Okay, this person is serious," and drop the "bloggers are second-class media" ideal.
I'm so glad you've written this, you've put in to words what i've been trying to say for a long long time. As a nail blogger, reviews for me can take hours and hours and hours. If I receive a collection of say 6 colours, that's 2 hours actually painting them, 2 hours at least editing the pictures, at least an hour writing the blog post, and then all the social media work involved as well. Yet I have to offer this for free for fear of not receiving the products, because I know product reviews are some of my most popular posts. I wont do any other work for free, and if people expect it of me then I refuse them, but it's very frustrating that reviews are expected to be freebies. Another thing that frustrates me, is that it's considered taboo to sell samples. I know that's a whole other ball game, but I personally feel that if, after hours of work, I don't want a sample sitting around gathering dust, I should be entitled to sell it and therefore make some money from the 'freebie' post i provided. I will definitely be referring to this post in future!
Thanks for this post, Catherine. I've come back for a reread of it, as a magazine asked to use one of my craft tutorials, and only mentioned that they would send me a free magazine. This has led me to write myself a policy for such situations, that I can copy and paste when someone emails me.
Great post! I charge now a lot of the time . I'm a sewing/ DIY fashion blogger and getting free fabric just isn't enough since I not only have to blog about the product but MAKE something with it as well. So. much. work.
I've only ever once received payment for a review – and it was part of a big blogger outreach programme for a huge food brand. To be honest I was surprised to be paid, but then the product wasn't worth much, and with the visibility of the brand across the 50+ blogs it was featured on then it made sense to be paid.
I do find though, that if brands want awareness then they're definitely getting that on blogs. If they want people to actually click through, I find the click through rates are pretty low even if the views on the post are high. Only one company has asked for what I would expect my click rate to be – I'm quite embarrassed to say…however, comparing it to advertising in a magazine or newspaper, then there is no click through so probably similar reaction by consumers to traditional print.
I'm a hobby blogger, although I do make some money from my blog. I've never asked for money for a review, but I would probably ask if it was a low value item, or there wasn't some other benefit to my blog – competition etc. I generally would only review items that I would find helpful to us, so it works for me, but I can see where professionals are coming from. I guess the interim route to encouraging more people to pay for reviews, is to ask for payment to have a review published within a certain time scale, or including certain links etc. Otherwise, pot luck whether it's posted.
Lovely post, and I totally agree with you. The only thing is, I don't know when I would let a brand know that I have a fee, especially when I'm the one approaching a brand. Tips?
Hi Iris – thanks for your comments! The best way to give all information out is in a media kit – mine is under my Advertise/PR page (see tab under my header) if you wanted an idea for what to include. I write in there what I "do" and "don't do", and then for all emails I have an autoreply that goes out every time. In that email I include a link to to my media kit, and it says
"In the meantime, if you are enquiring about Advertising, Sponsorship or Collaborations on my blog, you may want to read my media kit" etc. etc.
After this post I may well be revising my media kit to reflect whatever I decide about charging for product reviews.
I'm afraid I've not approached a brand myself (I'm lucky enough to have too many contacting me to have time to do it the other way round!), but if I were you I'd describe them as "sponsored product reviews" in your pitch. That way you're telling them you want to review something of theirs, but it also suggests payment – that you don't work for free. Hope that helps…!
This was a really interesting post! I am a new blogger, but am always interested in learning different sides of what can potentially be a full time business for some. You make a great point regarding how much time a post actually takes. I joke with my husband that blogging has become my second job. I love it so far, but can see how certain projects should be compensated monetarily based on the sheer time and effort they require.
I have my own personal guidelines when asking for money
1. If they ask me to be part of a campaign
2. ask me to post about their brand as a lone product review
3. state a deadline or time frame
4. ask for things to be induced in the post
5. give me a brief (i.e one jumper worn 3 ways)
If they just offer a gifted product to include within an outfit post with no other specifics I won't ask for money
*4.ask for things to be 'included' not induced LOL
Hi Catherine, thanks so much for sharing your experience which is so valuable! I am self-employed working as an English trainer. But also certified online editor so with preofessional skills and putting them down to the benefit of any brand that approaches me. And thats why I am not willing to sell these excellent skills of mine short. In the media this debate has been around even with free lance jounralists for ages…how much do you agree to except or how little are you willing to accept??? Sabina @Oceanblue Style
I wish every blogger will read this. I wish every brand that is not a small indie business realises they need to pay us for product reviews just as they should pay for the models who wear their clothes for their site (no a photo on the site will build your portfolio is not proper pay for the model, we model the clothes too), the stylists who put it on the models (we will be the styling their products too), the photographer who took and edited the photos (we will do that too), the social media and seo promotion company who will provide them with quality content to generate interest in the brand (hey we do that too)!
Wow…so much advice and so many opinions to read, dearest Catherine!! As an almost brand-new blogger (my first anniversary will be this September!) I've only had one product "review" request so far; and yes, it was in exchange for an item of clothing only. Of course, I was super excited; as you wrote in your post, I love fashion…and receiving a "goodie" in the mail was like hitting the jackpot!! But you make a truly valid point – pretty dresses won't pay my mortgage; so I will be thinking A LOT about whether I will provide further "reviews" or "sponsored" posts without at least a minimal monetary remuneration. Thank you, Catherine, for bringing this really important blogger issue into the spotlight!!
Such a great post — thanks for sharing! Visiting from Funday Monday linkup!
Note to all commenters (and readers!) from the author:
Thank you SO MUCH everyone for all your comments and input thus far… I will try and reply to as many as I can, as soon as I can! It's started a really interesting debate.
Just to put a few things straight that people seem to be getting mixed up or maybe I didn't make clear:
1. When I say "product review" I don't necessarily mean something that needs road testing like a pair of straighteners or a mascara: I mean a post featuring ANYTHING that's been gifted. As a fashion blogger, my gifted items generally don't need to be 'tested', like dresses or necklaces. I mean any post that features an item that has been gifted to you by a brand, whether you've had to 'test' it or not.
2. When I talk about a 'brand' I mean established companies, usually high street retailers, who have a marketing/outreach budget. They often use an agency for the blogger outreach so if they've contacted me that way, I know that they are already spending actual cash on the agency – none of which is used to fund the work I put in.
3. I wouldn't dream of charging small, independent labels, Etsy sellers, fellow bloggers who sell a product, etc. I'm happy to support those sorts of sellers any way I can through a giveaway or even just wearing an item of theirs on loan.
4. Sponsored posts are called sponsored because they've been paid for – so saying they should be paid is a given. Anyone publishing a 'sponsored post' without payment is either guest posting or doing themselves an injustice (and the brand should be called into question)!
5. When I am approached to have an item gifted, 99% of the time the brand expects that it will feature in a post. I DEFINITELY wouldn't accept an item without featuring it, but my point is that I do a really good job: I publish great photos, link to the product (which they always expect) and follow up with lots of social media mentions. I'm saying that for all of that I feel that I should be compensated, as well as the fact that the brand receives click throughs, social media mentions, coverage, etc.
5. I can only comment from a UK bloggers' point of view when it comes to declaring taxes: if any bloggers aren't declaring their earnings from sponsored posts, affiliate link earnings and so on then that's a whole different debate. I am only referencing product reviews that DON'T earn any money for us any way.
There's LOTS more I want to say, so I think a follow-up post further down the line will be inevitable, with lots of references to the comments left here. Thank you so much fellow bloggers – watch this space 🙂
I love that you've written this. The topic of bloggers being paid has been a current issue for me. After blogging for over three years I feel I've achieved an excellent standard – well written pieces, with clear imagery, shared to a relevant, worldwide audience. I'm proud of what I produce and I do feel that any blogger with this same integrity deserves to be treated professionally, as you would a journalist or any other content author.
I was approached by a well known name only recently who wanted me to produce content actually on their own website, so not even my blog. Even though I was expected to produce valuable content, because of my label as a blogger it gave them automatic entitlement to class my contribution as somewhat low grade and not worthy of payment. The phrase "we have little (or no) budget to pay bloggers" has become the fail-safe response to avoid stumping up a fee they'd otherwise most definitely be made to pay if the writer wasn't a blogger.
Oh how I long for the day when companies and brands come to appreciate a blogger wasn't born yesterday and deserves payment for hard work.
I think if a brand is offering "free product" without payment, you don't have to guarantee placement. I don't think reviews should be paid for.
However, I do think that sponsored posts should be paid for. If a brand wants a specific message to get out to your readers on a specific timeline, they should absolutely pay for that. A lot of times when a brand is working on a specific campaign they will sponsor bloggers to participate in creating content. But that's not really a "review."
As a reader I would really have a hard time believing a sponsored review. But sponsored content? It really depends on how well it's done. Sometimes it's great, sometimes, eh.
Loved this insightful post! I agree with you, blogging is a form of PR that should require payment. It's something I'm sure many bloggers have on their minds but are afraid to ask, mostly because, as you mentioned, professional blogging is still working its way into prominence. It's daunting to ask for payment when you're just starting out so I do wonder if some brands take advantage of fresh faced writers who are just excited to have any retail interest. I'm sure many brands haven't actually paused to consider the amount of work that goes into repping their products though, so maybe a majority of this "exploitation" (if we can call it that) is unintentional. Perhaps that's naive, I don't know. What I do know is that businesses that are savvy enough to spot the potential in hiring bloggers will do well because blogs are so widely received by varied audiences. Thanks again!
This is a really interesting post Catherine and judging by the comments, one which lots of bloggers are thinking about. I agree with everything you've said but being on both sides of the coin (as both a blogger and working in blogger outreach) it's just never that simple. The main problem (which I shouldn't really complain about as it gives me a job) is that many brands still don't really understand blogs and they find it incredibly difficult to decipher between what makes a good and a bad blog so just follow the crowd. The blogging community is so huge nowadays and every blogger is in it for a different reason that there can never really be a 'one size fits all' solution.
I don't think a huge budget is always necessary to work with bloggers, I've helped many young brands establish relationships with the blogging community without spending any money and I think its very important (for both sides) that this type of communication continues otherwise blogging will essentially become advertising and only the really big players will have a leg to stand on.
I do however think that anything commercial such as competitions, link building exercises, anything which a brand is using to their advantage in terms of sales/ SEO /traffic generating turns into more of a commercial partnership and therefore the blogger needs to be compensated.
I usually advise brands to work with bloggers on an individual basis and find a way of working for that specific project that benefits both of you. The reason things get so murky is that every blogger ultimately has a different way of working and demands different things. Like you say, getting paid adequately is all you are asking for, but unfortunately many bloggers don't have this same reasoning and will make ridiculous demands up front. Like in any profession there are good journalists and bad journalists, whereas only the good journalists will get the well paid jobs at the top newspapers and magazines, the difference is that ANYONE can have a blog and everyone will have one for different reasons meaning the perimeters for payment can differ SO much. Some bloggers base all importance on stats and following while others may have incredible content but not drive as much traffic. For me each project should be taken on a case by case basis and payment should be determined on the amount of work the blogger will put in, the quality of that work and what the brand expects to get out of it.
Although as a freelancer and as a blogger I know how important getting paid for the work I do is, I do also always try and look at things from a brand perspective as I've been on that side almost as long. Many (and by no means all) bloggers seem to have forgotten the fundamental elements of PR – it's called public relations for a reason as you need to build and maintain relationships. Nothing comes for free, and this needs to be remembered by both brand and blogger – brands need to realise that bloggers must be compensated for the work they do and promotion they give, but bloggers also need to realise that a free product or a paid placement is never just a given, you need to work hard to get to that stage and once there, prove that you're worth it by writing quality content and doing what is asked from you.
A lot of rambling to basically say that I don't know the answer either but I do think things are moving in the right direction. Brands need to hire specialists (me please!) to ensure that they work with the right bloggers for each project and bloggers need to (like you have been doing) evaluate their worth honestly and with figures to back it up so that brands can see what they are paying for.
Personally I think you're worth much more than £50 Catherine so make sure you ask for it!
Great, thought provoking post!
Catherine an exceptional article! I could not agree more with you! It will need to be people like you, with very successful blogs, to be at the forefront of changing this dynamic for everyone!
I know not only as a blogger, but also a company owner, I would prefer there to be payment exchanged for the writing of reviews. Even having a small sized company, I would never expect a blogger to review my product without financial as well as product compensation. I think you have laid out a very reasonable plan , one that I would be happy with … on both ends … as a blogger … and a company owner.
Thank you for writing another exceptional article my dear!
I am new to blogging scene and still clueless about many things in the industry. This discussion is the most insightful and thrilling one that I have ever read about blog monetising. Thank you, now I know what I have to be aware of if I decide to make a blog my profession.
this was a great article! After three years of blogging, I am transitioning into professional blogging and this has been a dilemma for me as of late. I am becoming more assertive in speaking up with brands and companies who try to send me freebies with no monetary compensation. I know my worth and i refuse to settle! thanks for sharing!
As the age old saying goes .. "why buy the cow when the milk is free" … there are so many new bloggers that will do free product reviews for the free product, that I doubt that companies will every really pay anyone's time. Plus, people become very jaded when they know you're being paid to promote/review products (I've seen this on youtube many times).
I appreciate this post! I started out about four years ago and gladly took products for free, but four years down the line, I no longer do that. I look at blogging as part of my career–I wouldn't do free work for a client in my freelancing jobs, why would I do free work for a brand? It makes no sense.
For me, I let brands know why I charge what I charge. I tell them how much time a post takes, how my effort I put into it. And then I give them a price. If they don't value my time, then I don't want to be working with them anyway.
Never work for free. Never.
This is a subject that I've had an opinion on for quite a while. Personally, I think it's difficult to monetize a blog with reviews. If I know a blogger is getting paid for a review (and honestly, even when the item is gifted), it's hard for me to really trust that review. No one wants to speak negatively about something "given" to them…..I have NEVER red a bad review on a blog. And I think that really says something.
On the other hand, about a year ago, Love Meagan and some other bloggers worked with Brahmin and took pictures for Brahmin's look book. The bloggers took the photographs, edited them, promoted the items in their blog and social media. For that, they received nothing more than 3 new Brahmin bags of their choosing. I even thought at the time, "Well, Brahmin is coming out WAY ahead on this one!!" They were able to put together a professional looking Look Book without having to hire a photographer, model, AND they reached a MUCH larger audience than if they tried to promote their look book on their own….because each of these bloggers had a large following. And they received all this and the incredible exposure for no more than about 25 bags (wholesale). I thought at the time that these bloggers were selling themselves seriously short and I still do. Why sell your talent for a few products that actually don't cost the company very much?
I would think that the best way to monetize a blog (if I were going to try to monetize) would be to market my talent. Think The Glamourai or Man Repeller and styling. Karla Deras in designing jewelry lines for Roman Luxe. Jamie Beck and photography. I guess I imagine blogging opening up opportunities, not necessarily being the end in itself.
Great thought provoking post!!
I am starting to understand now that I am reading all of the bloggers views/opinions, however, in the states and maybe even out of the states, anyone asking for compensation should be required to have a business license and should be taxed on the income received. After all it is bring turned into a business and if you feel you should be paid whether it is actual funds or bartering, become licensed and demand what you feel you should be paid for your time and expertise.
This is the discussion the first union leaders had:). How decide what "adequate" is? The free market, and the low barriers to entry in blogging, would say that free is what the market will bear. That in order to be paid, we need to first of all become excellent, and then band together, whether formally or informally. I can't imagine any actual banding together, seems like blogging is actually a privilege and we aren't truly hard done by. But I can imagine an informal market standard emerging. I think the easiest and fairest way to compensate right now is affiliate links/sales. Then how to compensate for brand awareness, vs. profits, well, that's a problem marketers have always had:).
A great blog post and incredibly well written. I'm a beauty blogger and have been so for four years, having gone 'full time/pro' about a year ago. Within the beauty bloggersphere it's also incredibly difficult to get money from brands to justify the time, effort and space on my site – but it is getting better.
I've made a general rule for myself, which helps me to negotiate: if it's not something I would do normally (i.e. off my own back) then I charge for it. This includes things like competitions, specific product reviews, the inclusion of videos/links, promotion of advertising campaigns or collaborations… Anything that is above and beyond what I would've written anyway.
Although a lot of brands come back with the 'we don't have budget' or 'we don't pay for content', a lot more are understanding the need to pay for good quality placement on relevant and targeted sites. I've worked with a huge number of brands on a paid basis, with many now coming to ME with a budget and objective! I do think things are changing, but there's a huge way to go.
I also think it's important to weigh up the benefits of working with a brand for free. A lot of activity I do in the hope of building relationships or undertaking paid work in the future; if I can prove the value, then it's easier to ask for payment after. Some brands I know work for my site and readers, so provide hits/engagement which can sometimes be more valuable – from an SEO pov – than cold hard cash.
I think the issue, like you state, is about ADEQUATE remuneration, whatever that may be. Expecting the world for a measly pair of jeans is simply ridiculous.
I guess I come under the heading of hobby blogger however I definitely agree with what you say. I have lost the thrill of "freebies " and am getting very fussy about what I will write about. I do make some money from affiliate links but not much. I understand that if you work through an agency that they although they negotiate high fees they also take a high percentage. I agree with a minimum fee perhaps we should all club together and make a stand.
Following up on my recent comment.
I definitely distinguish between major brands and small individual companies.
My term "appropriate payment" also reflects the other side: Besides the popularity and outreach of a blog there are huge gaps on how bloggers write, review, take photos, keep up with deadlines and promote their posts on their social media accounds i.e. how valuable their post really is.
Annette | Lady of Style
I've been blogging for the past 4 years but I've started collaborating with brands in the last year and half only. At first, I accepted gift vouchers and the 'free publicity' they offered on their websites and other social networking sites. But then I thought to myself (and I discussed this with my blogger friends as well) that it really wasn't worth it. The amount of time and thought it takes into every post always deserves some sort of compensation, especially if it's for a particular brand or website. So I have stopped doing posts unless I get some sort of payment for them.
For a review post, I would like to take my own pictures, edit them and add a bit of artwork as well. All of which takes time and a certain type of effort. And the compensation cannot be 'getting to keep the product' because frankly, I didn't ask for it. I was approached to review it. Hence I deserve something in return for my time.
The same goes for events and openings that I keep getting invited to. I take time off, and so do many others, and there was a time when I used to skip work or take a half day to attend product launches, and then I'm travelling to and from the venue, all of which cost something, even though it's minimal. And the brand should know this. I cannot fill my stomach with the cupcakes and quiches they offer me at events right? There has to be a certain kind of code and a minimal payment amount and there should be no negotiations about it (unless if it's prices, that's understandable) but nothing around.
But then again, while I might refuse to do a post/review if I don't get paid, there are 10 other new bloggers who are just waiting for a chance to jump into my shoes and take my place. The Indian blogging scene is tough. Every second girl is a blogger and a fashion stylist nowadays – most of who know nothing and have not even attended a tiny crash course in fashion. And then they try and give out fashion advice without knowing anything. Dressing yourself up is easy, but suggesting what others should wear, keeping in mind your followers come in all different shapes and sizes is tough. These new fashion-clueless bloggers will do these reviews for nothing. Not even for keeps of the product, and that's what scares me. As a blogger you're not irreplaceable. It's not that hard to open up and account and start a blog on blogger or WordPress. Anyone can do it, Having a blog now is the new MySpace and soon everyone will be on blogger and leave their Facebook profiles! And this is what every brand and PR company needs to realize asap. Because it's actually due to their actions, that they get manage to get badly done reviews and they encourage mediocrity and the standard of blogging and bloggers diminishes.
Sigh. Sorry for going into such a huge rant.
Not a problem, thank you for sharing; but I feel this is why huger companies hire an actual PR company and probably feel that they can get away with bloggers doing it for free. If you are gong to events, I think you should at least be getting paid for mileage and or gas. And I think in the future you should be asking for such as that is not your business you are going there for, you are going to help out the other business and they should at least have the decency to give gas or pay for time spent at the event.
Such a great help, Catherine. What a BRILLIANT post.
This is a really interesting (and well researched, well done!) piece that has really made me stop and think about some of my own policies. Now you've made me think about it, I think I seriously need a rethink. I'm a food blogger, and I charge brands a fee for developing a recipe for them in a blog post, and that fee covers ingredient costs. But if they send me product, even if it is a brand I love, I'm doing that for free? I don't need them for content, and you've made me think why should I be doing that? It is also no different from where publications pay me to do the same thing for them. So thank you for bringing this perspective to me. I'm going to leave my existing brand relationships as is, but I'm going to change my policy for new ones.
"I don't need them for content"
I think this is such an excellent, excellent point! I can (and have!) written for years from my own research and imagination. I do feel sometimes that PRs and brands believe that the payment is in the provision of content, but the whole reason people come to our blogs is because we're perfectly capable of providing our own content and that's why we blog.
Honestly, this is a magnificent post. It made me think and my brain isn't used to so much thought process 😀 But in all seriousness, I agree. It IS a lot of work, it IS something we should get paid for. But the world has thousands and thousands of bloggers who are willing to do this without getting paid, if every single blogger in the world decided to boycott we might have a chance, otherwise we don't.
Another thing that has to be taken into account is how popular the blogger is. Because, it's easy for a much more popular blogger to ask for 50 pounds, but what about the ones that are still lost in the last pages of Google?
I've had so many offers that are just plain exploitation. I had a very famous glasses manufacturing company that wrote to me if I could review their products. I was very happy, until another letter came in that stated I had to review their pictures…They weren't even willing to send me products, I had to review a fucking pixel! Thanks, but no!
Thanks for this posting. In Finland we are wandering just the same questions. And now our tax authorities have decided that bloggers have to pay taxes also of the products they receive! Personally I prefer to pay taxes from money rather than some products.
I am a hobby blogger but even I know that writing a post takes time. And time is valuable – and worth of paying.
After reading your post and also the comments, I think this subject gets touchy =D
I can relate to how you felt initially when we get free products for review. I was ecstatic to receive free items and write about it. Well, I guess that was in the beginning. We all got wiser as the years passed and now we know that reviewing products for free is definitely time consuming. I believe it depends on one's goal for the blogging journey. My goal for the blog is to gain more exposure and in the future, I would definitely demand for more than what I am demanding now for a post and advertising on my sidebars. As for now, I'm not a huge blogger comparing people like Chiara (The Blonde Salad) or Garance Dore hence, I would only agree upon paid advertising for brands that I think is worth my time to work with and would give my blog an exposure in return.
Great post. Brands (and PR companies) are smart and they know the opportunities they have with bloggers for lots of advertising and extensive write-ups, all for nothing! I was like you, very excited to be asked by a few companies to select an item for a review post, but having done it a few times, I've decided I'm not doing it anymore. It is too much work and I am getting nothing but a dress and a headache out of it. I realize now that the only people companies are ever going to pay serious money to are people like Garance Dore or Man Repeller, etc., that whole crowd. I hope you are one of the break-out bloggers who can get into that realm of blogging, I seriously think you can, my bet would be on both you and Adrienne, but I think for most bloggers, they need to look at it like a stepping-stone to something else, not something that is going to pay the bills. I am using my blog to get my writing out there and now I'm starting to get paid to write, which was the goal all along! Thanks for a provocative post. XO, Jill
Thank you Jill, so much… and you're very kind! I'm also really glad that you're getting paid for your writing – blogging really is the best way it seems to break into that industry these days.
I agree with you about feeling that it's just not worth it (accepting gifts as payment for review posts). I'm starting to think of it this way: if I ask for a fee to review a dress and they refuse me, what have I lost? A free dress. I have loads of dresses and I certainly can't eat them or use them as petrol for the car, so I've lost nothing. I might ask a fee from nine brands that say no, but the tenth one might say yes, so therefore I'm quids in.
I have learnt on several occasions (usually for something that involves my actual presence as involvement in a project) that unless you ask for payment (outside of expenses being covered), they won't offer it. I'm learning more and more that I deserve to be paid as well as having my expenses covered. I'm getting there slowly but surely…!
Thanks again Jill x
Hiya! Thank you for this post 🙂 I feel as a brand, that if the content generated by the free item sent to blogger is not generating money back to the brand, that the blogger should not be paid. It takes money on the brands end, to send out items which then have to be reported on taxes and paid for as well. I do believe an incentive program could be set up between the blogger and the brand, but to send out free items and pay is asking for a lot if the content does not generate business for the brand and I do believe a lot of brands can attest to this as a lot of small businesses do want to get the word out. I do understand the bloggers point of view as well so I think an incentive or something could be put into effect but the truth is, a lot of brands feel that the free product is the pay.
Thanks Denyce for your comments! I do think that if a blogger's review post isn't generating any money for the brand, then the brand approached the wrong blogger in the first place.
For example, if a brand asks a web design agency to build them a new website and their stats then don't increase and it doesn't generate more income for them as a result, then that doesn't mean the brand shouldn't pay them – they just picked the wrong agency. The agency carried out the work that the brand asked them to do, so they are entitled to payment.
The responsibility is on the brand to pick the right bloggers to get the word out for them. It may mean paying more (or, indeed, anything at all!) for the blogger to do a good job, but as in all businesses: you get what you pay for. If a brand doesn't think what the blogger is charging is value for money, then they should pick another blogger – it's as simple as that 🙂
I'm going to add that the brands have every right to ask us to do it for free. Lots of people want to blog about style, and in the early days they will be honored and happy to take brand requests, as we were. If we get theoretical about this, we'd just say this is an immature market. Sharing information is the right way to mature the pricing models – i.e. a sponsored post prices should start at $X for midlevel bloggers and rise to $Y for established bloggers. At the moment, all this pricing is pretty closely guarded by PR agencys, marketing agencies, and RewardStyle, who acts as a combo affiliate platform/blogger+brand connector. That's to be expected in new markets.
Some of us are pretty open about our pricing. I don't earn much, but what I do earn I have disclosed on the blog in end-of-quarter summaries. As time goes on, I expect more information to be public all around. That said, the big deals will always be negotiated "off-market," as they say:). The same is true even for stock exchanges, the archetypal market mechanisms.
I partly agree with you Lisa; you're right that a brand has the right to ask us to do it for free, but in that case any company has the right to ask any freelancer to do work for free… you'd just be a fool in any other industry to do it for free, surely? It's not going to put food on your table if you're forever working for free and doing companies favours – it doesn't make good business sense.
But that's great about you being open about pricing – although I don't advertise my fees in my media kit, I'm happy to share with any bloggers what I charge (and what I think is a fair pricing system) if they email me 🙂
I feel I do also want to add that I feel entirely different about independent brands – Etsy sellers, indie websites and the like often run by one person. As an indie brand myself I know all too well how difficult it is to compete with massive companies with huge advertising budgets and this is where I really love my position as a blogger, to be able to post a review/feature in exchange for a free item or in some cases absolutely nothing at all, is fantastic for me! I would do it all day long if I could.
Thank you 🙂
Sophie I should have mentioned in the post that I too exclude indie sellers from this. When I said "brands" I'm referring to larger companies, usually high street retailers with well-known names, those that are outsourcing their blogger outreach to an agency. I left a long comment the other day (go further down the page) that explains what I exclude and how I'm happy to support small start ups and the like 🙂
I received my first "we don't pay for posts" response the other day. This was from a PR company that has previously paid me to place a link. I was shocked and I still haven't replied, but once I find the correct words I will be responding with something about how shocked I am and how I (and other bloggers!) don't work for free.
I think it comes from the fact that blogging is such a brand new entity and we are making our own rules. Unfortunately with things as they are it is currently the PR companies calling the shots, not even the brands. What gets me the most is that the PR company is getting paid for OUR work; they do have a budget, they're just not spending it.
The other problem for me isn't so much the hobby-blogger vs professional blogger, it's this attitude of being "lucky" to receive "a gift" from a brand or PR collaboration. This is not a gift and bloggers are not receiving a favour from the company in question. Like you say, this is payment for our work and as the basis of your blog post points out, it's not actually enough payment. I don't believe I'm lucky to receive items for review, I know I've worked hard to create great content for my blog and brand and I take great pride in the quality of my features and this is why I get offered opportunities. No one is doing me a favour and I won't apologise for having this opinion, it doesn't make me bigheaded; Your employer isn't doing you a favour when they pay your monthly wages, you're not lucky to receive it – you've worked hard for that payment.
As bloggers we need to claim back the power and this can be only be done by standing up to the companies that are trying to exploit our services for free and not being afraid to turn them down.
I'm so pleased you wrote this post. You put it across so simply and I believe it's a very important topic for our growing industry.
Sophie | Onetenzeroseven
Maybe you should let them know, that they had paid you in the past, so some sort of incentive will need to be worked out. If they feel you id not generate enough publicity, then they will not want to pay.
And as for the employee comment, employers are paying taxes and reporting their items and payments to their employees and then again paying more taxes. I'm not sure bloggers report their income and or items they receive as barter for posting/payment. If these things we're set in stone, then I think brands would be more open. But when brands are spending and feel like they are not generating, then this is where the problem may come in.
If you feel that it is an assignment you do not want to take on, then you should not take on that assignment, everyone is able o pick and choose who they want to work with whether it be free, sponsored, or paid.
If PR companies believe working with a certain blogger isn't going to be worthwhile (i.e. generate enough publicity) then they shouldn't be proposing a campaign at all, not looking for free work to be completed. That's a waste of time for both the brand and blogger.
Actually I report all my earnings to HMRC because otherwise it's against the law. I'm self employed so I complete a tax return every year, but anyone making extra money should be registering for self assessment and completing one too.
However I don't understand how this is relevant to PR companies? Whether I pay taxes on what they pay me or not, it shouldn't affect them in any way.
And while it may be true that we are free to turn down any work as we see fit, the original post is about our opinions on whether we are being treated correctly as bloggers and I believe we are not.
I'm not speaking for PR companies, I'm speaking for small business brands. PR companies get paid to do what they do because they are supposed to be legitimate companies which in return that is what they do, provide PR, and they do it for pay. They are licensed for business to do so. Now, whether they are soliciting bloggers to do the work for them for free or not, that has nothing to do with what I am commenting nor on my opinion. That should be worked out between the PR company and the blogger and in that case, I feel like, the blogger and or PR should come to an agreement on whether pay is involved or not; since they are a company being paid and trying to solicitate for their client. What I additionally am stating is that a lot of new bloggers and or some bloggers want to not only get free items and get paid, they solicitate the same message to companies back to back in hopes of getting free items. I feel like if they are soliciting, then no; they may not be obligated to be paid, they are already receiving the product for free. And no one will know if they are generating leads for the companies unless people start speaking up and or are questioned; "How did you hear about us?" and or an incentive program is put into place for bloggers.
As for reporting earnings, lots of bloggers don't report. Which means they receive pay and or barters, not paying taxes [in the USA] for their items while the companies are paying and or reporting, which in return is more money out of the companies pocket, which I'm sure for the bloggers that are doing a good job, may not matter but for the ones who don't do a good job, it could be a waste of time but you'll never know what is a waste of time if you don't try and for little companies that don't have big budgets or money, they just need to choose wisely as well who blogs about their products.
I have lots of respect for bloggers, but I was not under the impression that this was a full time job, I thought it was a hobby. Who want's to work full time and not receive any pay at all?
Any paid blogging doesn't really seem like a truthful opinion. I can see paying for space, advertisement, and or consignment, but to give items away and pay for an opinion, I think companies need to stop paying for opinions all together, when in fact some people are only saying nice things because they are being paid.
None of this is pointed at anyone personally, just my opinion on the whole thing as well as welcoming all others with their opinions.
Thank you for your post.
I think there are a number of ways you can find out if it will be worthwhile to work with a certain blogger: If their target audience is similar to the brand's, if they have an engaging audience (i.e. Get lots of tweets/comments etc) and you can find out from tools such as Google Analytics where hits and sales are coming from. Of course nothing is ever set in stone and you can do all the research in the world and still not receive a 'return on your investment', but I think that's true with anything. Like you say, you need to assess whether you can cope with the loss and choose wisely. I do believe it can be quite obvious the difference between a blogger who is good at their job and a blogger who is just looking to get free stuff.
Blogging is a full time job for many and an income stream for even more people who don't necessarily blog full time, but the money they earn goes towards paying their bills. Regardless I think bloggers are offering a service and should be paid adequately; whether you're doing it for pocket money or to put food on the table. It's a business transaction. Some bloggers may be doing it as a hobby, but the companies providing the 'free stuff' or payment are certainly doing it to make a profit.
There are so many different types of blogger I guess, some do get paid to provide a good opinion, but personally I get paid to include a brand or company on my blog. The opinion is 100% my own and if this isn't possible, I wouldn't work with that brand. I also hope the blogs I read and love work in the same way. The same with declaring earnings: I'm sure some bloggers don't fill out a tax return, but I do and I hope the people I read and love do also. Unfortunately with any avenue you will always get people who don't do the 'right thing'.
But yes! Same here, this is all just my opinion. I mostly wanted to put across that there are some bloggers that are doing things ethically and not everyone is just trying to get free stuff. I'm just writing about what I love and trying to pay my bills at the same time. And I think it's perfectly acceptable for people to do that; magazines do it! Why not individuals?
It was really interesting chatting with you 🙂
Thanks Sophie and Denyce… you two seem to have covered just about every angle in your discussion! A few things I wanted to comment on/back up:
The declaring taxes thing is very different in the UK to the US, and, I'm sure from every other country. Not everyone "has" to fill out their taxes in the UK – if you simply work full time for your employer it's all done for you. However, if you receive any extra income or you're self-employed then yes, you have to declare it by law (which is what Sophie mentioned). I'm sure many bloggers in the UK don't do this, mostly because they are ignorant of the law.
The point about paying for an opinion: Not all product reviews – mine especially being a fashion blogger – are not strictly somewhere that you're expressing an 'opinion' as such. Usually you've been gifted an item like a piece of jewellery or an item of clothing, so you can pretty much tell you're going to like it, otherwise you wouldn't have chosen it in the first place! However the reason for charging a fee for any post where a gifted item has been featured is for what the brand ultimately gets out of it as well as the work you've put in. A post with links and subsequent social media mentions is like a gift that keeps on giving… for the BRAND, not the blogger and they know that.
But really you've said so much that I would have said myself I can't add anything further to your discussion – it's made for great reading! Thank you both!
Tried to leave a comment earlier, but I think it went awol! Great post, you have hit the nail on the head. I can really relate to this, not so much with my styleican.co.uk blog, as it is still new, but my other established home interiors blog, tidyawaytoday.co.uk, which is how I earn part of my income. I recently attended the Blogtacular conference and one of the things I took away with me was that if a brand is making money from your work, you should be paid. I feel more confident now about asking if a brand has a budget (and if not they need to find one!). Brands know bloggers have influence and reach, that is why they come to us, so they should acknowledge our worth and realise that we don't work for free!
"If a brand is making money from your work, you should be paid" – what a fantastic quote! Thanks Antonia. I think a lot of us have realised through this discussion that we're effectively working for free a lot of the time, and that it's not acceptable. Confidence has a lot to do with it as you said – negotiating is yet another skill we need to have as bloggers!
*I meant negotiation, not negotiating. =doh=
Thank you so much for this very informative post. I'm a brand new blogger (only been here 3 months), and I just did my first review in exchange for an item of clothing. I don't know what my future holds, although I would love to one day move to professional blogging. I agree with everything you wrote here. As a brand new blogger, is it okay to be doing unpaid reviews (in exchange for the item) as I'm building – and then switch focus if/when I become bigger? I have such respect for the blogging community, and I certainly don't want to be contributing to the problem!
Well said 🙂
Like others have said, I wrote a reply that then disappeared… damn you, Blogger!! I think if we're writing a long reply it just times out. Stoopid thing – I'll try and remember what I wrote first time.
Anyway thank you Lana – and well done on getting your first review after only three months! It was over a year before the first brand contacted me to gift me something. I think what you said about doing unpaid reviews at first is probably right, but that's how it is at the moment – and this is what I want to change. If only it could magically become a standard thing that brands know to pay for reviews, but I know that won't happen overnight.
If we're charging them, however, they do have a right to ask for a quality post – large, clear photos, a decent write up and some social media sharing. Therefore the onus is on the brand (whether via an agency or not) to look for bloggers who create quality content.
So just as any self-employed person would increase their fees/rates as their reputation and demand grows, so should you increase what you charge. I increased my rates (for sponsored posts and banner ads) as my followers, interactions and visits grew so there was justification to put my rates up.
Do everything you can to grow your audience organically so that you are able to move from accepting gifted items to accepting them *plus* a fee. Hope that gives you something to think about! Thanks again, C x
Every bloggers remembers "the first time" and I couldn't have been more excited when I was given a 50€ voucher! My blog was young and it was great at that time.
But my blog has grown, I have done numerous collaborations, learned a lot and realised that I fill a niche as a mature blogger here in Germany. There are only a few and even fewer who monetise their blogs. I am happy to have an international readership which is my advantage when it comes to international collaborations.
BTW, German readers tend to be very critical when it comes to monetisation, something I have never experienced with my North American readers! For them it is just fair to get compensated for your work.
I still do product presentations (I don't want to call them "reviews" as this is more for beauty bloggers) without payment when I really love the brand and the product and my personal standard rate has been covered more or less. If I still love the product but it has a lower value I am considering to ask for a compensation in addition.
Any yes, as Amber also mentioned, I spend an awful lot of time on all my posts but when I collaborate with a brand I pay even more attention to every single detail!
Same as you I don't publish guest posts but do sponsored content. Again I have my minimum rate and just two days ago I turned down an offer from a major German brand which, I am sure has a huge budget for advertising. The gap between their offer and my rate was too big.
In order to evaluate an "appropriate" payment for a post I am glad to be in close contact with other bloggers and we do share and discuss our rates which I find extremely helpful.
Thank you for bringing up this important subject, Catherine.
Annette | Lady of Style
Yours is a blog I truly, truly admire, Annette – your confidence and professionalism is second-to-none (bloggers take note)! It's good to hear that many of us like yourself, Amber, LPC (to name a few) take a lot of pride in our work. Brands need to make this distinction when deciding which bloggers to work with – blogs of a professional standard deserve the compensation that is due to any profession – and that's cold, hard cash.
You do a professional job? Pay us us you would a professional.
Oh and it's interesting what you say about German brands: I think there is a huge difference from country to country where blogging and bloggers are concerned. Obviously I can only talk from a UK bloggers POV, but I do get a lot of offers from the US so it's easy to compare. I've had two or three offers which would have paid me very handsomely, but they didn't realise I was in the UK. Time to move, I think…!!
Thanks so much for your great comments my lovely x
I can't say what should or shouldn't happen, but it became clear to me recently that I do an enormous amount of work for reviews, and the time had come to insist that be a paid service. I had been using the products as giveaways, and would like to continue to do so, but the hours and hours of imagination and logistics had become draining.
Now, alternatively, I could be less of a diva about it all and just write a quick and dirty review, but that's not my voice, not my goal, not my style. I find that a few discerning brands(;)) are willing to pay for my work and I go over and above to make it worth their while. This is true for my direct advertisor(s) as well.
It goes without saying that I have never taken on product I didn't love, or an individual advertiser I didn't believe in.
Thanks Lisa for your input! I'm with you on every single word you've said – in fact you've written what I would write myself about the way I approach things. I'm also not one to write a quick and dirty review (great description!) as I take far too much pride in my work.
I, too, wouldn't take on a product I didn't believe in… where's the fun in that? I'm sure you'll agree it would take the enjoyment out of blogging.
Yes, yes, yes!! I don't think people realize that even though we're full-time bloggers it doesn't mean that we're making adequate money. I still work for free 90% of the time. Not being paid for reviews is lame but what I hate more is when companies email me asking to promote their brand for free in exchange for absolutely nothing, not even a product. Why would I want to do that!?
I would not do it, and that is an insult. I think the brand should at least give something, come on, that is just very rude. I believe in that case, you should definitely say no, or not even respond.
You wouldn't believe how many brands contact you offering images for you to publish – the phrase "please contact us if you'd like to see more images" is all too common. They seem to think we're totally stuck for things to write about and that we'll write about them for free.
It IS an insult – you're right – but I assume some bloggers must be doing it, otherwise why would the brands keep contacting us this way…?!
This is a very interesting post.
I can see the point from both sides.
For blogs that are signed up to the likes of linkshare, the relative success of a blog is obvious.
If you are a brand selling 4.99 items, you just need eyeballs, but if you are at the pricier end of the market, a blog may have a handful of followers, but if they have cash, they are a better bet than a supposed 'big blog'. These affiliate schemes have been the main income for 'big bloggers' but as the volume of blogs increase so the direct sales reduces.
In the past Brands paid commission on a 'last click' basis, ie if they made money, the blogs made money.
But now there are too many blogs and not enough cash to go around, so the only ones who can survive are those with private incomes, or those with valuable databases who are still shopping.
The bit that commission based income does not take into account is the nebulous 'environment' argument that contributes to brand building etc, but not necessarily direct sales.
In the way the Vogue commands a premium over say Prima, even though circulations may be similar, brands are prepared to pay for the 'perfect fit' and I guess blogs that want cash, need to identify their USP and court suitable brands.
But isn't this the catch 22? Don't we love blogs precisely because they are real and independent and not funded by advertisers?
I'm not sure I've understood a lot of what you've talked about, Alexandra, sorry…! I would, however, like to think that my blog is still "real" as you put it, even though I've been doing it professionally for almost a year. I made a conscious effort when I went full time to tell my readers that although I need to fund the blog and seek ways to earn money from it, I still wanted to keep the integrity of my blog and make the transition almost invisible… I'd like to think I've managed to do that.
If I find and read a blog and find out later that they are a full time blogger who is obviously making money from their blog, then I don't turn off simply because they *are* making money from it. If I like the blog, I'll read it, if I don't – I won't.
It's difficult to find the perfect fit with a brand from the blogger's POV – the brand may think your blog is a perfect fit, but if they're not prepared to compensate you for your time then they're hardly a perfect fit for you as a blogger. But do tell me if I've misunderstood what you meant, and thank you for your comments, I do take everything on board…!
Hi Sashreek, thanks for your thoughts! Can you think of any other industry where a similar situation – advertising in other words – is transparent where fees paid are concerned? I couldn't think of one, so for that reason I don't see why bloggers should disclose what was actually paid to them. We never know how much a company paid a magazine to write a sponsored post where they talk about "this season's picks from XX brand" or such like (you know those two page spreads that say "promotion" in the corner?), so why should blogging be different?
I'm always totally transparent about payment in my product reviews that are sponsored (I call them "feature posts") – don't forget this post was written nearly three years ago so my situation has entirely changed and I'm now a well established pro blogger – and always, always disclose. I think it's very obvious when a blogger is genuinely written a positive review of a brand/product, and equally when they're writing it just for the money. It affects their writing. Good bloggers only work with brands whose products they like (and say so in their disclaimers), and as I've always said to my readers I write the post the same whether it's sponsored or not.
Personally I have no problem with bloggers accepting money for reviews – I can tell if it's an honest review because it's really, really hard to fake genuine enthusiasm… The fact that they were paid/not paid doesn't make any difference to me as a reader!
As an example here are two posts I wrote – one was paid for, one wasn't. I can honestly say there's no difference in my enthusiasm, just a difference in some "extras" that I agreed to include in one because the brand were paying me:
Oh, wow, I should learn to use paragraphs! Apologies for that wall o' text!
Excellent post, Catherine. I wrote a post on this very subject a couple of weeks ago, having become frustrated by the number of frankly insulting approaches I was getting from brands: one of the things I said in the comments on that post was that it won't change unless bloggers start speaking up about it, so I'm really happy that you've written this!
On the subject of whether reviews should be paid, this is something I've been thinking a lot about. My background is journalism where, as Elizabeth says, we would review products for "free", but with no guarantee of coverage. Blogging is different, though: I don't do "reviews" as such (other than of beauty products, which I've normally purchased myself), but I do accept items for inclusion in outfit posts, and I must admit I do feel obligated to write about them. Although I'm not writing a review, it is very different from a normal post: I feel obligated to get the post up as quickly as possible, to make sure the photos are the best they can possibly be (not that I don't do that with all of my posts, but there's more pressure when it's a collaboration!) etc, etc. As you say, it's hugely time consuming, and although I've been happy to do it in exchange for an item I really love, lately I've been starting to feel taken advantage of. For instance, last week I was approached by a brand who wanted to send me a pair of £16 jeans to feature. I liked the jeans, and had actually been considering buying a pair myself, so I was tempted to say yes, until I read that, in addition to including them in an outfit post (with specific links), I would also be expected to promote the brand on social media a certain number of times, AND take part in a Google hangout, which would take up a good hour of my time at least. Sorry, but that's a lot of work for £16 – and, of course, there's always the risk that I might not have liked the jeans in person, or they might not have fit well, in which case it would essentially be work for nothing. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to be offered a free dress or whatever (assuming I genuinely love it), and feel very lucky to be in a position where I regularly receive stuff like this, but as you say, I can't pay my mortgage or other bills with dresses, and I'm starting to feel that if a brand is expecting a substantial amount of work, they should be paying for it, and with more than just a £16 pair of jeans!
Thank you Amber (and no worries about the block of text!)
Your example of the £16 pair of jeans is so crazy… but so typical!! I've basically lumped all offer of gifted items – whether they need road testing (like a hairdryer) or not (like a necklace) – into the pot that I call "product reviews". I can imagine that beauty bloggers and lifestyle bloggers have an even harder time as they really are testing a product and writing up their thoughts – it'd be interesting to hear from some of them, their input would be great!
I still feel that what the brand is effectively getting is free advertising, and the fact that bloggers are being taken advantage of in this way is just wrong. Just because an outfit post with a gifted item is similar to a post without a gifted item doesn't mean we should be content with the item only as payment… oh listen to me, I'm now just repeating what I said in the post!!
I'm really glad you've commented, Amber – I value what you have to say as a professional blogger! C xx
Great post, I also agree with you. I have only been blogging for a few months and when I started to get asked to review products, I thought it was great!. Esp. because I'm not working or have any money coming in. So getting products for 'free' I thought it was great!. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to sound ungrateful because I really do enjoy this and I love giving my 100% honest opinion on things. But I have started to notice the time I spend (on some projects) on advertising / promoting and then writing up a blog post. I'm starting to think these free products aren't worth it.
I know what you mean Donna – it is hard not to sound ungrateful, especially to someone who doesn't get many offers of gifted items. But there comes a saturation point eventually, which is why I know I'm lucky to be able to pick and choose. Trouble is, we unknowingly shoot ourselves in the foot when we start getting the offers because we're so excited about receiving something that we *think* is for free – but really, it's not!
Some products are definitely not worth it. Some brands definitely aren't worth it, especially if their approach is impersonal or their request for what you do in return is unreasonable. I'm glad it's made you think :))
(and thank you so much for your comment!)
That is a very important question to ponder. I am very new to blogging and nobody has asked me to review anything. However, I have been working as a freelancer my entire career and my policy is very strict: no pay, no work. I do nothing for free, it's that simple. I also do no 'favours' that require my professional skills, to anyone, and I make no exceptions whatsover. I have to be strict as my work involves some unpaid preparation time, and if I started 'helping out' people (because 'I'm so good at what I do' or 'it might generate some paid work later') I would be working 24/7… So, I think we should look at product reviews as work that was commissioned by someone, and that someone should pay for our time and effort. And I think 50 pounds per review (4.5 hours work) is not nearly enough. Frankly, I probably would not do it for that… And someone with your position as a very popular blogger should definitely ask for a lot more.
Hi Tiina, I suggested £50 as a minimum for new bloggers – something they'd be comfortable asking for. I mentioned that the rate you charge would be dependent on your blog's reach, so yes, my rate would be a lot higher than that (and is for sponsored posts). However, at the moment it's effectively £0 because of the fact that we're being paid in clothes, not cash! Though many brands (either directly or through an agency) offer anything from $10 upwards – which is the biggest insult ever.
Thanks so much for your comments Tiina – it only goes to prove that I am justified in what I'm suggesting…!! x
Great post! I think it's really important to have these discussion out in the open, in fact I've got one in my drafts for the Blognix blog.
It's a really grey area and like you said Blogging is still so new as an industry.
In terms of ethics, I've generally operated on a basis that reviews are non-paid but they don't guarantee coverage on the blog. If a brand wants guaranteed coverage then they need to pay, guaranteed coverage = advertorial. It's the same with magazines – they get sent loads of products but there's no guarantee of coverage unless the brand pays for advertising.
I think this boils down to the Blogger's business model.
In journalism, generally, the writer gets paid for reviews not by the brand in question but from the publishing house (magazine or paper). Their revenue comes from advertising.
In blogging, the Blogger is both journalist and publisher. And that's where the grey area comes into play. If we operated like print media than our revenue would come through advertising and we would review items for free but with no guarantee of coverage.
I'll be interested to see what comes out of this discussion. Would it be ok to link to from the Blognix blog when I finish that piece?
Thanks for your input, Elizabeth…! The point you brought up about advertorial is interesting, and certainly puts another factor to consider into the whole mix. You're more than welcome to link for the Blognix post, thank you (and do tag me in on Twitter so I can read & RT, etc)! c x
I think professionals as yourself should be paid a fee and receive items for a professional and exceptional written piece Hobby bloggers should receive iitems