If Content Is King, Why Should I Remain A Pauper?

SOCIAL MEDIA | | June 29, 2011 at 8:49 am

Yeah, this is another of those posts I don’t want to write. I debated writing it because I don’t want my blog sounding like a whining fest but I needed to put this out there. Many blogger friends talk. Whether it is on twitter (especially DMs), Skype, on phone (yes, several of us still resort to this age old technology method), on Facebook, in email (yes we respond to our bloggy friends first) or in person and we discuss blogging. We do it because we want to learn from each other what is expected, and whether there is a trend in habits and most often to see if what we’re working on sounds fair. Brands and agencies (and everyone) should want to be a fly on the wall for these discussions. Not because of spying but to learn. The fact is we’re all learning, and we’re all evolving.

The fact that the Social Media field is growing so rapidly, means it is difficult to keep up with putting up tips and tricks or guidelines. When I wrote that post about the unfair pitch I saw someone tweet that they would have just deleted the pitch (rather than make a stinker I presume)- and contrary to what that person  implied – I did not write that post to create drama. I wrote it to highlight the matter. Someone needed to – several of us were already talking about it. Had it not been out there brands would continue to think that that was acceptable practice, good brands would not have believed that such ridiculous pitches existed, newer bloggers might have felt that this was acceptable behavior and other bloggers (in the know) might have felt alone at the frustration at it. Whatever you chalk up the reason for me writing it I will say this – it made the brand sit up and take notice (enough to change the wording) and I somehow doubt any brand would have the gall to put up a pitch like that again. You can thank me later!

The same goes when I wrote about those voting contests we are made to dance to the tune of. Now back to the point of this post – boy do I get side-tracked easily. This post is not about reviews, compensation for your blog, events or pitches so please refrain from getting off-track when you place a comment (I do enough sidetracking for us all). This post is about content. More specifically content created for brands on their “property”. If you want to slice and dice it further - THIS IS ABOUT CONTENT YOU CREATE FOR A BRAND’S SITE!

Let me make it simple:

If you create content on a company’s site you should be paid!

No ifs or buts about it, and that took me a lot of courage and confidence to not add “in my opinion” there but I said it, so there. Now if you are wondering if I have ever done it the answer is YES! You can chalk up my reasons for doing it before to any from the big bag of reasons containing “I wanted to build a relationship” “I believed in the cause/topic” “I wanted the link” “I wanted the traffic” “It was an honor writing for the publication” “I did not know you could ask for money”. The thing is I have grown and learned (a little) and this is not because I think I am influential now (I don’t have delusions about that at all) and now expect to be paid but because just like the blogosphere,  I have evolved. I think we all have.

Let me slice those reasons I mentioned up there:

“I wanted to build a relationship”

I have done, and will continue to do things gratis for something if I feel kindred enough to the relationship. I will however make sure that these are favors and not expected behavior. The issue is once I do it for free (like I have) it becomes a habit and the “You did it before” comes in – then I have dug myself into a hole. Seriously what a dark and yucky hole it is – because I feel like a heel saying I want to be compensated. I feel cheap and greedy and I can just see them thinking “This Mommy Niri is too big for her boots these days“. I start feeling like a hooker who will do anything or write anywhere if the price is right. While I will expect compensation for creating content that does not mean if someone is willing to fork out money then I will write anywhere. My writing is still my baby – I would still like to be careful where it is featured or included.

“I believed in the cause/topic”

This one is a tough one for me, especially since philanthropy is a passion of mine (as you can see in Mommy Niri Cares) so I have written and may actually do it for a cause – but not on a brand’s site where people actually get paid to work there. I also do not appreciate people making me feel guilty with the “out of the goodness of your heart” nonsense. Getting paid does not make me any less good.

“I wanted the link”

This one is a plain stinker. Notice that you are not offered a link from the main site but a micro-site or their blog? Chances are that site has less traffic than yours. And if it does don’t worry you will help them with traffic by all the promoting of your post that you do.

“I wanted the traffic”

Have you been promised traffic for your content? Well a good giveaway on your site also delivers good traffic. Issue is traffic like that is so temporary. It’s short lived. And all in all is not worth the effort. Sure they may read your content there and someone may actually click on that link to your site, but chances are pretty good the majority won’t! Think of it: how often do you click through all the links when you read a post? Exactly! Now if that content sat on your own site – the traffic to read it is 100% yours to keep!

“It was an honor writing for the publication”

I am sure it was. Of course the honor does not or should not diminish if you are getting paid to write there (in fact, that they would actually think highly enough to pay you should increase that honor). If you need real life examples then Huffington Post anyone? I wonder if any of those unpaid bloggers manage to use their “honor” in writing for them to get another job or pay the mortgage??

“I did not know you could ask for money!”

Really, I didn’t! I bet many of you didn’t too. And those of us that do or are learning this – well we should be sharing it with others so they don’t feel so alone in that dirty hole trapped considering whether asking for money is tantamount to greed. Also I bet that many brands and agencies did not even consider that content for brands is actually quite different from reviews etc.

Are you bored with this post yet? Ok, I promise I am almost done. When the FTC can come out and make laws about declaring getting paid then working for free should be something I hope the laws should start to look at. Make no mistake that writing on a blog other than your own is working for them, not you! The skinny is working for free for a company could be construed as ILLEGAL. Don’t believe me? Then read this or better yet how about the Department Of Labor site about FSLA law and take special note of minimum wage. Geez, I feel cheap again!

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  1. 1

    I wholeheartedly agree. Thank you so much for providing voice and championing this topic amongst us. I love tuning into your thoughts about this. xo

  2. 2
    Sky says:

    Niri, thank you so much for putting it out there. More and more after sending over my rates I hear “Other bloggers do it for free.” Well, that’s great and they get what they pay for (I hope they realize that!) my stuff, it’s not free.

    Again, thank you – thank you, thank you!

  3. 3
    Janna M says:

    Thanks for this post! I needed to read something like this. I appreciate your candor and honesty and we’re lucky that you share your wisdom on these things.

  4. 4
    Oh Diane says:

    Great post. Too many companies think of bloggers as illegal immigrants, meaning that they will take any opportunity presented to them at low rates. They need to wake up and realize that we as bloggers are not second class citizen and should be paid what we’re worth. The funny thing is that many of these companies have huge advertising budgets, they just don’t want to part with it.

  5. 5
    sarahviz says:

    You nailed it. Amen.

  6. 6

    Writing for free has been an issue in the freelance writing community for a LONG time. I wrote something about this on my pretty much defunct personal blog a few years ago…and a bunch of commenters who wanted to be writers gave the same reasons you list here. This was back before Huffington Post and my argument was that any publication big enough to give you the exposure you would want for writing for free would be big enough to pay a decent rate.

    Coming at this from the perspective of someone who was writing freelance before I’d ever even heard the term “blog” (or had a kid for that matter), all these people providing online content for free has had a chilling effect on paid writing.

    Part of the issue is that publishers (even big ones) are still trying to figure out how to make free content pay…or at least keep it from destroying their print publications. Now, a company that is selling products doesn’t have the same issue…they aren’t “giving away” their product…but it has affected the whole content industry.

    Niri…did you see the article I wrote on promoting cause marketing for free. It is up on Bloganthropy.org:


  7. 7

    I just left a comment that isn’t showing…I included a link so it may have ended up in your spam ;)

  8. 8
    Kim - Mommycosm says:

    I wholehearted agree with you. There are many grey areas in this crazy blogging thing, but this isn’t one if them.

  9. 9

    We talk about this all the time on the Blogging Angels, and I have to say it is a conversation worth having over and over again. But, for a new blogger exposure can be considered compensation. If you are trying to create a name for yourself having a few bylines on HuffPo or other big pubs is certainly a way to build your brand and create cred for brands. When I was a regular ol’ print freelance writer building a book of clips was the most important thing I could do out of college. It proved I could write. But even the tiniest local papers paid! At the end of the day you should not be creating content for another site that they then own unless you are being paid. If you retain ownership of your content then you have more leeway to decide what constitutes “compensation.”
    The bottom line is that if you feel like you are being used then you are.

  10. 10
    Mitch says:

    Stop apologizing for writing what we all need to hear!
    You are helping us to all get educated and I thank-you for that.

  11. 11
    Sarah Peppel says:

    I completely agree with the ladies who compare this to the whole freelance writing world. I’ve approached blogging as a way to build my platform for writing and I write on my blog just enough to get to the paid part because I can’t afford to spend all my time just for traffic if it is not going to pay much. On the other hand, by giving a free weekly column to the local paper, I believe it looks good to the college where I teach Writing for the Media (who does pay me) and gives me credibility in the community. I’ve gone to every other week so that I can post at a group site which is promising good connections (yeah, I know . . .). We’ll see how it goes as to whether I can continue that or not. At the paper, another columnist wasn’t happy with me giving my content for free because she felt it hurt her chances of getting paid the measly $25 per column. But, by not getting paid, I also retain the rights to the content which feed into another blog I have which does pay decently in ads and affiliate links. Long story short, you have to weigh the trade-off every time you give something free. I love good causes too and it’s hard to pull back from giving away too much which we as women love to do. I love all this discussion about balancing both – giving and getting paid for what your work is worth. I need this. Thank you!

    • 11.1

      Here’s the thing about clips–you can still get them and get paid.

      I can definitely see your point about retaining rights having value…it definitely does–but many other outlets won’t publish or pay as much or pay at all for previously published material. If you are syndicating something published first on your own site, that may make sense to do so for free…but if the other site is publishing first, your site might been seen as the duplicate copy.

      I would prefer to be paid a little bit even for syndication but I could definitely see the value of syndication unpaid if there are links, traffic, etc. Even if it is a low rate, it still puts you in the “paid” box. And it is easier to negotiate higher rates with your next opportunity if you can honestly say you are “paid” for x, y, or z.

      Original work should definitely be paid no matter what.

      I do struggle with the whole writer vs. “online personality” thing, too.

      I’ve been hired as a writer and it is easy for me to price that. I know what I’ve been paid in the past. But a lot of brands are hiring or approaching bloggers not based on the quality of their writing but rather on their influence…these two things may be interrelated but they are not the same thing.

      Either way, though, they have value!

  12. 12

    I’m not sure why people can’t think of this in real business terms. If a site hired someone like a freelancer to write it would be paid. Somehow when your a mom they think you don’t need to be paid. I hate to say it but it’s because some mom bloggers work for the exact same reasons you claimed and set the standard.

    I think each blogger needs to know and promote their value to a brand. While some may write for free, others need to be paid. There’s nothing wrong with saying that and I think having a open and honest conversation needs to be started when dealing with requests to write on a brand site to promote them and their message.

  13. 13
    Erin L. says:

    Sorry for the delay in my response. I’ve been thinking on this a lot and there’s just no other way around it…you are correct. If you write content for any site, you deserve to be paid. When I need new copy, I hire a copywriter. This is the same thing. Now…there is always some sort of reason to consider writing for free (initial publicity, exposure to a specific audience, resume builder) but that should always be short-lived. You are providing a service and as Nikki noted above, it’s a business proposition. Both parties should benefit.

  14. 14

    I agree whole-heartedly, and it’s important that we are open about these things and continue to have discussions like this, or we’ll never see any real changes take place! As brands, they need to start respecting the work we do BUT as bloggers, we need to start valuing ourselves more – because if we don’t believe we’re worth it, neither will they.

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