A question I often get asked as a professional blogger is how to know which offers of work – whether sponsored posts, gifted items or collaborations – are suitable for me and my blog, and which are not.
Turning down offers of paid work is never easy. When you become a full-time blogger, it’s almost certainly guaranteed that your income will reduce drastically. Bills need to be paid and food needs to be put on the table: It’s a bitter pill to swallow, turning down paid work when your income is so low. But unless you want your output and reputation to suffer in the long run, it’s a pill worth swallowing.
I’ve been blogging full time for three years now, and only now have I started to see what you might call a half decent income coming in. As with any person starting their own business, it takes two to three years before you really start to see any monetary reward for all your late nights and dedication to your business. It’s really tough being self-employed, but if you can stick it for long enough and believe in what you’re doing, it should hopefully all pay off in the end.
WHAT CAN YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE OFFERED WORK THAT YOU REALLY NEED BUT THE OFFER IS TOTALLY UNSUITABLE? DO YOU TAKE IT AND HOPE THAT YOUR READERS WON’T NOTICE, OR DO YOU KEEP TURNING THEM DOWN?
But what can you do when you’re offered work that you really need but the offer is totally unsuitable? Do you take it and hope that your readers won’t notice, or do you keep turning them down, one after the other, in the hopes that you’ll get your “big break” one day and Gucci will come breaking down the door to work with you?
The reality is, of course, that this won’t happen. I’ve turned down a huge number of offers of paid work while I’ve been blogging (and ten times as many unpaid ones) and it’s really, really hard to do it when you haven’t really received any sort of income that month and you’re wondering how you’re going to pay the bills.
There is a solution – a sort of compromise, if you will.
This method could help you make unsuitable offers of paid work – especially sponsored posts – work in your favour. It could even help you earn more money in the long run.
It’ll take a lot of belief in yourself, a fair amount of guts and a lot of patience. But if you’re prepared to protect the integrity of your blog under any circumstances at the risk of losing out on one or two paid campaigns here and there, this could work for you as it has done for me. Here are the ways I do this:
1. Learn to say no thank you to unsuitable offers
This is a sure-fire way to put your readers off and lose their respect and trust (and loyalty). If you start to publish regurgitated content that was all-too-obviously written by a brand simply to push their product, or you try and “naturally” talk about dog food or finance when you have a beauty blog, it’ll feel disjointed and awkward nestled among your usually fantastic and personal posts. You’ll know in your heart whether a work offer feels “icky” – if it feels icky, don’t accept it. Just politely say “no thank you”.
2. Tell the PR or brand what you DO want to do
Unless you’ve received a mass email from some cheap Chinese website selling $10 dresses (which I always ignore and block), it’s always a good idea to reply to the PR to say no thank you because 1. It’s polite and 2. It puts you in good stead in the future. Nobody wants to work with a blogger who’s either ignored an offer of work or sent a stand-offish or rude email. And secondly, it gives you an opportunity to tell them exactly what you do want to work on instead.
SAY WHY YOU THINK IT WOULDN’T BE A GOOD FIT FOR YOUR BLOG AND WHY IT WOULDN’T APPEAL TO YOUR READERS. THEN SUGGEST A WAY THAT YOU THINK WOULD WORK AND BE MORE INTERESTING.
When you reply, say what sort of things you do like to write about and should they have anything like this in the future, to get back in touch with you. Or if it’s gifted items, say what sort of things you do like – what your style is – so that they get to know you a little better. Tactful honesty often goes down very well with PRs because you’re not then wasting their time (and your own).
3. Suggest a way of doing the job differently
Even better than saying what you’d like to do in the future in case it comes up, think of a way to take the project on in a way that will fit your blog and will appeal to your readers. Remember, no one knows your readers better than you do, and many PRs may appreciate the time and trouble you’ve taken to suggest something else. They won’t always be able to be flexible, but quite often it’s possible to suggest something that they hadn’t thought of that they also think would work.
By explaining why you think the project they’ve suggested wouldn’t be a good fit for your blog and why it wouldn’t appeal to your readers, they get to know you a little better. You’ll stick in their minds more over another blogger who just replies to say “no thanks”.
I’ve done this many times over the years – 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t led to anything else straight away, but just occasionally it does work in your favour. It’s a great way to build relationships with PRs, and although sometimes these relationships take a while to build from nothing to something really great, it’s usually absolutely worth it.
I have a great working relationship with a brand that I’d always wanted to work with. It’s taken more than two years, but I’m now working on major campaigns with them. It started from a little sponsored post that I changed slightly to suit my readers (with their agreement, of course), going onto gifted items, and now a major campaign (or two, hopefully). With bits and pieces in between to keep the contact and mutual support going.
BE FLEXIBLE. BE CREATIVE. STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD. DON’T BE AFRAID TO STICK YOUR NECK OUT AND SAY “HOW ABOUT WE DO THIS TOGETHER INSTEAD?”.
The moral of the story is this: You never know who you’re dealing with, and what sort of contacts they may have now, or in the future. Be flexible. Be creative. Stand out from the crowd. Don’t be afraid to stick your neck out and say “How about we do this together instead?”.
4. If all else fails, suggest someone else
You may find that for whatever reason, the PR cannot waver from the brief they’ve been given by the client, and changing it just for you won’t work. What I often do in this circumstance is to suggest other bloggers you know who you think may be more suitable. It’s best to do this with bloggers you know (in real life or online), because you can say to the PR to mention your name. It’s good karma, and always satisfying if you see a fellow blogger work on a project or with a brand that just wasn’t right for you.
Although it shouldn’t be expected, you never know when someone may do the same for you one day.
DO YOU THINK THIS WILL HELP YOU MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT WHAT OFFERS OF WORK TO TAKE UP AND WHAT TO TURN DOWN? DO YOU THINK YOU’LL BE BRAVER AND START SUGGESTING OTHER WAYS OF WORKING WITH A BRAND? COMMENT BELOW, OR TAKE IT TO TWITTER @NOTLAMB!
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