2017 was the year that bloggers really started to know their value. Around the middle of 2017, I started to ask PRs for budget when they emailed me about collaborations and I realised that my words and the long hours I poured into this blog were worth more than a free lipstick or exposure. The content of this post may surprise you because if you follow me on Twitter – which you should, by the way! – you’ll know that I’m a huge advocate for bloggers being paid for their work and I often share with people my tips on getting sponsored content, pitching to brands etc. In fact, I actually preach quite strongly against accepting free blogging work. However, sometimes money isn’t the only form of payment you can accept and, while I think you should always ask for campaign budgets, sometimes it’s okay to work for “free”.
And, in the words of Uncle Bryn, I’m going to tell you for why.
A big part of blogger and brand collaborations is establishing a relationship and sometimes, in order for a good relationship to be made, you need to be not an arse if the brand tells you they can’t pay you. For me, I just use my judgement when it comes to brands I’d like to establish a relationship and those that are probably just going to be a one-time thing. How to establish this is quite personal to you. For me, I try and establish good relationships with beauty brands and homeware brands because that is my niche. Working with big beauty brands is a huge deal to me whether they want to pay me or not. If the idea of the collaboration gives you butterflies in your tummy and makes you text your other half saying “you’ll never guess who I’ve just agreed a collaboration with!” then that’s a good sign that you should still go for it, even if they’re only offering gifting and don’t have a budget.
With some brands, I’ve been too excited to even ask for budget and just accepted their terms of gifting without negotiating. I wouldn’t advise this as you may sometimes miss out – but don’t ever let budget be the be all and end all for you. Work something else out. Once you have established a good relationship with a brand, it is very likely that they may come back to you with more collaborations in the future. And, maybe they didn’t have budget for the last collaboration you did together but they do now.
For working for free once, you’ve secured your future self a nice little fee.
Blogging, essentially, is a form of networking and I think that making contacts with brands and solidifying relationships with PR companies is one of the most important aspects of the whole thing. Some of the best collaborations I’ve had have come from meeting the PR in real life and establishing a really good relationship because then they can see that you’re more than an Instagram feed or how many comments your last post got. Over Christmas, I sent all of my favourite PRs a friendly “Merry Christmas” email, in which I expressed an interest in collaborating in the New Year and a lot of them got back to me and I’ve now re-worked with them again in 2018. Blogging is fantastic way to learn how to network and if you can get yourself to events then I definitely would.
Building a relationship takes time and sometimes, for brands, you might be seen as a risk. If, like me, you’re quite new to blogging and your follow count isn’t high, they may not want to invest in you with payment straight away. Sometimes, the initial collaboration is just a trial run.
Obviously, sometimes, brands do take the complete piss. I had an email a few weeks back from a PR who wanted me to include a link to her client’s personalised gifting website in a blog post. I get these kinds of requests so often and link-based work is one of my main forms of income when it comes to blogging. I hit her back with an email asking what their budget was. She replied saying “I’m sorry, they haven’t allocated a budget for this one.” I took a look at the website and thought ‘okay, well, there’s no budget but the gifts are really nice so maybe I can feature them in a gift guide.’ So, I replied saying that was okay and I’d happily work on a gifting basis only. She got back to me a few moments after saying “oh, it’s not a gifting campaign either.” At this point, I was majorly confused. I hit back with “so, what are you offering in exchange for a link?”. She replied with “oh, um, I didn’t know we’d have to give you something in return.” Now, this is an example of when you should not work for free. In my opinion, collaborations have to be mutually beneficial and, in this case, that collaboration wasn’t mutually beneficial.
It is a very personal thing to know when it’s okay to work for free when it comes to blogging. It’s something that is definitely a gut reaction for me. We’ve really seen a shift in the industry in the past year – bloggers now plucking up the courage to ask for money and know their self-worth. Long gone are the days of brands taking advantage because, more and more, bloggers are starting to know their worth. They’re not working for discounts or exposure and hopefully this means that brands will offer this less and less. Brands are understanding what an impact “smaller influencers” have and what bloggers can do for them and therefore are far more willing to pay them for their time and their hard work. I know that me of all people preaching about how it’s fine to work for free may seem as uncharacteristic but I’m going to let you into a little secret: I work for free quite often and I don’t hate it.
Top & hat – LOTD
Coat – Missguided
Boots & Skirt – New Look
Bag – Radley