How Discussing Fees With Others Helps Your Career and Benefits Your Industry

How Discussing Fees With Others Helps Your Career and Benefits Your Industry | Not Dressed As Lamb

How much should I charge for a sponsored post?

This is a question I’m often asked by fellow bloggers. It’s also a question I’m not asked often ENOUGH.

Anyone who works as a freelancer, especially in a creative industry, knows all too well the biggest question that comes with working for yourself: What do I charge my clients?

There are no company guidelines to follow or price lists to refer to. You don’t start a business and get given a handbook entitled “Your guide to fees and how much to charge people”. When I started working with brands I didn’t have a CLUE what to charge when they asked me, and I can imagine that’s the same whether you’re a graphic designer, cake maker, plumber, holistic therapist or photographer.

Unless someone in your industry has their prices splashed across their website – in my case it’d be bloggers including fees in their media kit, which I’ve only ever seen once – you’re totally in the dark.  That is unless someone is WILLING to share their fees with you, or help you with your own.

Some small businesses and services, by their very nature, have a direct selling approach. A cake maker needs to put the prices of the different cakes on their website. It’s expected that a personal stylist will advertise details about their pricing structure.

Bloggers sharing information such as fees, however, is seen as a total and utter no-no. Discuss money? No way. We like to keep our cards to our chests and anyway, everyone’s a competitor so why should I share my fees?

Here’s the problem: if bloggers don’t discuss fees or help each other, all this does is DRIVE PRICES DOWN.

You’re probably wondering how (and why)…

 

When brands/clients try to get away with not paying you anything

Brands regularly underpay bloggers, and they will continue to do so all the time we’re not helping each other to do better.

Here’s an actual example (and a very typical one from my experiences of working with brands) of someone trying to pay less, or nothing at all.

Several years ago, around the time I first started to charge brands for guaranteed content, I worked on a video campaign for an international (and very successful) brand. No work was expected of me except for my time being filmed on the day, so no blog post or social media support. Just show up, into hair and makeup, do the filming, go home.

Long story short: at the end of the day, one of the bloggers quietly – and confidently – asked me if I’d charged the brand for the shoot to make sure I WAS being paid (she is a well-known and multi-award winning blogger and someone I keep in regular contact with). Another blogger chatting with us was there too.

I said yes, I did charge them, and the other girl said no, she didn’t.

There were about six girls on the video shoot (including myself) and although I don’t know what the others had charged/whether they’d charged at all, I can imagine that the fees charged by the six of us ranged WILDLY. One is a blogger/model and It-girl type seen at All The Parties, so I doubt she was paid next-to-nothing.

Looking back now, I know that the brand took advantage of the fact that some of us were very naive. Some didn’t ask for money. Some of us did. Some of us [me] felt bad asking for it, because when they replied to my question (asked during negotiations) about whether there was budget they said “We’re on a super tight budget for this, but as I said we will be happy to pay a fee”.

What did I do? I charged them the paltry sum of £100. That’s £100 for a full day’s work and use of my image for eternity (stupidly on my part, no contract was signed). Thankfully, I did ask them to cover my travel expenses as well.

These days, I have a standard day rate that I charge brands which includes a standard six-month usage [of my image] clause. And purely for the purposes of this post – not to blow my own horn or anything – but I charge more than 10 times that now, because I know my worth. I look back and think Why did you only charge an international brand £100, all because they said they didn’t have much budget?

Why should that have affected what I charged them?

I know the reason why – because I felt bad. They made me feel bad by saying We’re on a super-tight budget. But I can bet you that the other bloggers, the ones that charged their standard rates, charged a HELL of a lot more than £100. So I came up with a figure (that I basically pulled out of my arse) that I hoped wouldn’t offend them.

The blogger who said she hadn’t charged them was told by my (very-forward-in-a-good-way) friend to make sure she charged them retrospectively. Now looking back, I know that what we should have done was to actually tell each other what we’d charged. This was a classic case of the brand getting away with not paying bloggers if they didn’t have to.

Don’t ask – and you don’t get.

And likewise, don’t discuss – and you don’t get what you’re worth.

 

Why not discussing fees with other bloggers won’t help you – or the blogging community/your industry

You may have noticed that I’ve said this a few times now: Knowing what you’re worth. I’m always banging on about this, because it’s the biggest barrier to freelancers and creatives being paid, er, what they’re worth (there I go again).

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And the ONLY way to know what we’re worth is by damn well biting the bullet and asking others in our field what they’re charging, or at least what THEY think we should be charging based on x, y and z.

I know what anyone who’s ever asked another blogger this very question will very likely say: She didn’t tell me her fees. She was very shady and dodged the question, or didn’t reply at all.

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard that from a fellow blogger, “She wouldn’t help me…” then I wouldn’t need to charge brands myself at all – I’d be minted.

 

THIS IS THE POINT:

By refusing to help other bloggers where fees are concerned, they will continue to be in the dark as to what they should be charging. Therefore they’ll undercharge.

(I’ve never known a fellow blogger come up with a fair pricing structure all on their own with no help whatsoever.)

All the time bloggers undercharge brands for their work, the brands will continue to get away with underpaying and not paying them what they’re worth. And when they approach someone who DOES know what they’re worth [like me], they’ll refuse to pay my fees because “X Blogger only charges us £100 for the same work and she has the same number of followers as you”.

What brands realise but bloggers do not, is that it’s NOT that a blogger who knows their worth is overcharging, it’s that MOST BLOGGERS ARE UNDERCHARGING.

Every one of us is worth something to someone [in business]. Your worth is the maximum that someone is willing to pay you. If you’ve never raised your prices or never had to negotiate your prices down (hence the reason I always quote higher than what I’d accept), then you’re definitely undercharging. And if you never raise your prices you’ll never know. You’re allowing a whole industry to be undervalued and underpaid.

 

Shame on those who don’t help other women in business

All the time bloggers won’t tell others what they’re charging – or least help others to come up with a fair price – they are simply damaging their own ability to charge a fair price in the future. It harms the WHOLE community. SHAME on those bloggers who refuse to help others. I don’t care what their excuse is,  there is NO reason valid enough to excuse a refusal to help other women in business.

I know plenty of bloggers who have refused to help others. Luckily it’s never happened to me, because the first time I ever asked someone (we were chatting at an event and I’d literally just had my first request for a quote) she helped me out. And I couldn’t have been more grateful.

I based my first fees on what she said (and admittedly I was still basing my fees on what she said for a couple of years and never thought to increase them, despite my profile and popularity increasing) until I got myself an agent.

And only then did I gain the confidence to charge what I was worth, because someone else was doing it for me. If someone ELSE tells a brand you’re now worth TRIPLE what you were charging before, you can hide behind the sofa until it’s all over and they’ve sorted it out between them. Back then, make ME do it and I’d end up feeling sorry for the brand and only charge them £100.

As most bloggers do not have an agent or manager doing the negotiations for them, it’s VITAL they find out what they should be charging, and by asking it can give you the confidence to actually ask for the right amount.

 

A golden rule in marketing

In the conversations/DMs I’ve had with bloggers about fees – especially when I’ve been asked how much they should charge a brand – I’ve always been shocked at how little everyone is charging.

As an analogy: I used to work in marketing (nothing especially high brow, I did my own reading on the subject to try and improve my skills). I read that one of the golden rules during a recession was to NEVER drop your prices to try and stay competitive. Constantly low prices can have a negative impact on your brand because otherwise people will think your product or service has become/is of lesser quality. (Top designer brands never have ‘mega sales’ during a recession: It would do more damage than good. Imagine Chanel having a “mega bank holiday weekend sale!” – er, no.)

By presenting yourself [your blog] from the beginning as a brand that delivers quality work, you are presenting yourself as a business that means business – and therefore charge higher prices.

(This is, of course, only after you’ve been blogging for a while and proved your mettle. No one can start a blog and expect to charge top end prices within a few months of starting.)

It goes without saying that you HAVE to deliver the goods and give the brand their money’s worth with fantastic photography, copy and presentation, but I think it’s better to put in more effort to make it slick and professional and charge more from the outset.

It’s harder to increase your prices later.

I think if most bloggers who charge for their work worked out their equivalent hourly rate for the amount they’re being paid for sponsored posts I think they’d be shocked at how woefully below minimum wage it was. It also doesn’t take into consideration the months and years spent building up an engaged audience and loyal following.

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Although from a slightly different perspective, this tweet went viral earlier this year (the second sentence is especially relevant to bloggers):

So if you’ve been blogging for a while, and a brand is wanting you to do something for them, then you are worth something to them. It doesn’t matter whether you think (or anyone else thinks) you SHOULD be charging them because “it’s only blogging” – you’ve obviously impressed them enough for them to want YOU.

Brands are getting a crazily good deal by getting bloggers to e.g. write a post for less than £100, even if the exposure/page views, etc. are at the lower end. Absolutely no work is required by the brand (except for an email or two), and they often get social media exposure thrown in as well which bloggers tend to do without thinking – whether or not the brand has paid for that as an extra.

They owe you for the months and years you’ve spent working for nothing, building up your audience. They’re not just paying you for x number of hours it takes to shoot and write something.

 

How bloggers should help each other

If you are one of those people – not just bloggers – who needs to know what sort of prices you should be charging for your time/product/services, then it’s simple: ASK. I recently read the following in a Creative Boom article about how graphic designers should set their freelance rates:

 

“James Kirkup, co-founder of London branding agency Studio Beuro, has an alternative strategy that cuts to the chase. “Ask other designers,” he suggests simply. “The nice ones will tell you how much they’re on.”

While he’s not suggesting you unthinkingly copy their rates, this should give you a more solid grounding in coming up with your own, because you’ll be able to compare factors such as your own level of skill and experience, location, portfolio and client base with theirs directly.” Source

 

“The nice ones will tell you how much they’re on.” It’s as simple as that. The nice ones realise the benefits you get from helping out others. It FAR outweighs any negatives you THINK might happen as a result of one of your “competitors” finding out what you charge.

By asking others you can GUARANTEE you’ll be able to charge what you’re worth, and probably rethink your pricing structure entirely.

And if they don’t help you? You know who NOT to recommend to PRs in the future. You know who NOT to invite to events. You know who NOT to pass on information to that you think might be useful to them. As my mum always said, It’ll come back and bite them on the bum one day…!

No one benefits from not helping others. And definitely no one benefits from not helping other women in business.

 

A final word on asking others for help…

Many bloggers have asked me in the past about a brand that’s been in touch and asked for a quote for x, y and z deliverables. I have ALWAYS helped people with those sorts of things because I understand the value it has to the blogging community for everyone to be charging fair prices.

If you are in this situation, I’m more than happy to help (a DM via Instagram or Twitter is probably the quickest way to get an answer out of me, my Inbox is usually heaving and I always appreciate it not being added to)! Most times people have been shocked to find out what I think they’re worth.

But don’t just ask me, ask others you correspond with as well. (This is where regular commenting elsewhere in the blogosphere really does you good – you won’t seem like a stranger to them then.) You’ll also be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, as it were.

Good luck – and go earn those pennies (and pounds and Euros and dollars)!

HAVE YOU HAD ANY EXPERIENCES OF OTHERS NOT HELPING YOU? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS!

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32 Comments

  1. May 7, 2019 / 2:31 pm

    Catherine, this is such a great topic and thought provoking. Thank you!

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 9, 2019 / 7:24 pm

      My absolute pleasure, Lisa! x

  2. May 7, 2019 / 11:49 am

    Another great topic! And I need to be charging more because I always fall for that guilt trip of “we are on a really tight budget”. Ugh. I am still learning. Thanks for all you do to guide us!

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 9, 2019 / 7:25 pm

      That guilt trip is the WORST, Shelbee – brands that use it should be ashamed of themselves. I hope it helps you get the confidence to charge more!

  3. May 6, 2019 / 6:49 pm

    You’re always so generous with this kind of post Catherine.
    And you are spot on about everything you say.
    If more experienced bloggers helped less experienced bloggers then we would ALL make a little more money and the brands wouldn’t get free advertising from naive bloggers…to the detriment of full-time bloggers.
    You’ve helped me in the past to figure out my worth and have the confidence to ask for a fair fee and (more importantly) say NO if I felt cheapened or unsure.
    I’ve said no to some big names and sometimes felt like maybe I should say yes just to make some extra cash (or get onside with PR)
    BUT we have to genuinely believe, don’t we?
    There are things I won’t endorse… no matter what the fee.
    Maintaining Integrity is vital.
    You’re a great example of that.
    Everything you do sits comfortably.

    This is why you have legions of fans… both fashion lovers AND fellow bloggers.
    XXX
    Samantha
    (Now I’m wondering if I need to put up my prices as I’ve never been negotiated down! Hmmmmm??? Thank you for that seed. X)

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 9, 2019 / 7:26 pm

      I was SO glad to have helped you Samantha – I’m sure you remember how shocked you were to find out how much you should be charging that time!! Thanks so much for those kind words: I love your authenticity and the fact that you maintain your integrity with everything that you do!

  4. May 4, 2019 / 4:14 pm

    This is why I always look to you first for information and advice Catherine! This is so timely as a group of us have been discussing charging brands and how much to charge them. I’ll definitely be sharing this with all of them. xo
    Debbie
    http://www.fashionfairydust.com

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 9, 2019 / 7:27 pm

      Aww that’s so nice of you to say, Debbie… I’m SO pleased to hear you’ve got a group going on for exactly this reason!! Let me know how you get on, and thank you!

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 9, 2019 / 7:28 pm

      Thanks so much Anna 😀

  5. May 3, 2019 / 6:50 pm

    This is all excellent advice—I know I’m guilty of under-charging brands ($100 for several hours of shooting, editing, and writing—ha!), and I’m going to negotiate for more in the future. Thank you for being such a strong advocate for bloggers and fair payment!
    Cheryl Shops | http://www.cherylshops.net

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 9, 2019 / 7:29 pm

      I was guilty of it too for a LONG time, Cheryl – it’s never too late to turn it around! I’m glad you can see how $100 is pitifully low – and quite insulting when you think how much work goes into what we do. Let me know how you get on, won’t you! x

  6. May 3, 2019 / 2:06 pm

    I appreciate your thoughts and experience on this subject. Yes, the tweet has an amazing point.

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 9, 2019 / 7:29 pm

      Thanks Kim – the tweet was so on-point, wasn’t it?

  7. May 3, 2019 / 12:58 pm

    I am one of those bloggers who asked you for help a few years ago and you’ve been a constant resource ever since. I’m eternally grateful to you Catherine my darling, especially for your dedication to this particular issue. It certainly needed addressing on a public platform because we are definitely not in a transparent business. Not yet at least.
    As you know, I asked quite a few American bloggers for advice when I moved to the States. These are Women I’ve followed for a while and feel we are “virtual netfriends” but as you know, no help was forthcoming. A couple wished me well and were very encouraging although not particularly helpful and others were downright shady, vague at best.
    It was quite shocking to me actually. However, I will always lead by your example and give any information that will help a fellow blogger, including my fees or stats. I think talking about what you earn is a very important part of helping Women in general. Feminism is all about lifting others, not “keeping your cards close to your chest” and as for competition, well nobody is YOU (or me) so nobody is YOUR competitor.
    Bloody brilliant post mate, don’t ever stop doing these xxx

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 9, 2019 / 9:42 pm

      That is SO upsetting, MT – why on earth wouldn’t they help you I wonder?? I find that shocking as well – tells you a lot about a person. As I said in the post, SHAME ON THEM. It only hurts their own earning potential. I’m glad we talk about these things, and I’m only too pleased to be able to help you or anyone else with things like fees. You’re so right about “nobody is YOUR competitor” – well said!

      We are all worth so much more than this!!!! Thank you mate x

  8. May 3, 2019 / 2:41 am

    Wow, what great information, Catherine. While I’ve never been asked to do a sponsored post or work with a brand (probably because I have NO idea how to get started doing that. My bad. And, like you say, I don’t know who to ask!), Well said by you.

    Thanks for sharing, once again, your amazing expertise.

    xx Darlene

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 9, 2019 / 9:43 pm

      Thanks Darlene – when the time comes I’ll only be too happy to help you! x

  9. May 2, 2019 / 11:14 pm

    This was SO interesting Catherine – we definitely need to get over the old fashioned British thing about not talking about money, and when you put it like that; about how it’s doing all bloggers harm, it makes me wonder why we haven’t sooner!
    The thing I’d love to know – at what point can a blogger start to charge? Is there a number of sessions, users or page views per month that when we get to, we have some worth? If someone could let me know those numbers I would appreciate it massively!! I’ve been writing my blog for 15 years, so experience isn’t an issue (and I’m really hoping the quality isn’t either), but my numbers are low.
    Thank you for a brilliant and thought-provoking post. 🙂
    Helen x

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 9, 2019 / 9:48 pm

      I did think it was a British thing Helen, but from what I’ve heard from US bloggers they’re even worse than us Brits!

      Basically there is no minimum number you have to get to in order to have some worth – if a brand wants to work with you, they want to work with you. The fact that they’ve approached you means that YOU have the advantage, so you automatically have worth. As far as blog posts go, I always say don’t accept anything below £150 when you’re just starting out. Social media support is then extra. So even if your stats are low, still don’t accept less than £150… it’s just not worth it otherwise! Hope that helps 😀

  10. May 2, 2019 / 10:40 pm

    Such a great post, and what a difficult topic to address for a lot of people. Transparency is the only way we’re going to make any improvements. You have been SO helpful to the community… and to me! Thank you for always saying what needs to be said, and saying it so well and with such kindness. xxx

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 9, 2019 / 9:50 pm

      It’s my absolute pleasure, Lisa – as you say, transparency is DEFINITELY key if we want to see things improve and brands stop taking the pi$$…

  11. May 2, 2019 / 9:51 pm

    Wow – you blow me away – another fabulous post! Thank you so much for this, as always a great help. x Jacqui Mummabstylish

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 9, 2019 / 9:51 pm

      I’m so pleased you think so Jacqui! Thank you xx

  12. May 2, 2019 / 9:39 pm

    Catherine this needs shouting from the rooftops!!
    I do know my worth (with lots of help from you!!) but when brands get free work from others, it harms all of us professional bloggers agreed.
    Yes to ‘that elephant in the room’ when you do a big campaign and you are dying to ask what the others are getting!!
    A superb post !
    Ashley xxx

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 9, 2019 / 9:54 pm

      Oh we definitely need to address that elephant, Ashley – the scenario I described in the blog post was a classic example! If EVERYONE on a campaign was aware of what everyone else was getting (and depending on the work involved quite often follower numbers shouldn’t make a difference) then we might just start to get somewhere.

      I look forward to the day when bloggers stop doing X, Y, Z and the kitchen sink for free/for pittance 🙁

  13. May 2, 2019 / 7:41 pm

    Well, we Dutchies are pretty direct and we talk about our payments with each other. The thing is, that I learned from you not to use do follow links, but a lot of Dutch bloggers do use them and they don’t care at all!

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 2, 2019 / 8:23 pm

      I can imagine you’re all very direct, Nancy – that’s such a good thing!

  14. May 2, 2019 / 7:33 pm

    Brilliant post. I must confess I get confused about my worth though! I have also disclosed what fees I have asked for when a few bloggers have asked though. xx

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 2, 2019 / 8:24 pm

      Thanks Laurie x

  15. May 2, 2019 / 7:13 pm

    Well said Catherine. I sometimes wonder if the reticence to talk financials stems from the British reluctance to talk about money. But the numbers need to get out there, for brands to stop exploiting bloggers.

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 2, 2019 / 7:14 pm

      You’re 100% right, Gail – the sooner everyone understands this the better! x

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