As I celebrated my third “blogoversary” this week, or the third anniversary of my very first post on my personal blog I took a little time to go back and read some of my early posts and reflect on how much I’ve learned in those three short years.
I must admit that I’m not offended by my writing. In fact, I feel proud of the fact that my style and topics haven’t changed too much in the past three years. I was expecting to be horrified by my early writing but I have to admit, it’s not half bad.
But there was something that offended me. It was a post I wrote called “Have I sold out already?” The wording was a little tongue in cheek because I did feel a little apprehension about writing for a contest about refrigerators. But I was so young (well, three years younger) and naive and thought it was a really neat idea.
“So today, I’ve just discovered something new. If you are a blogger, get ready to roll your eyes and say “come ON.” I’ve discovered blogging contests. I saw one that could win me a free Samsung fridge. What fascinates me, from a social media and marketing perspective, is the absolutely free promotion Samsung will get from this contest. The only blog requirements are that you share 3 tips for shortening the dinner preparation cycle.”
At least I can say that I understood the reasoning behind it. I write about Product X, they get free promotion and SEO, and I get a chance to win a new refrigerator – all for writing a simple little post!
If you’re new to the blogging world, you might be tempted to take advantage of the same type of thing. And I don’t blame you. But I will caution you.
When you decide to wear the hat “blogger,” you become a representative of a large body of mostly independent writers. Some write purely for the joy of writing. But many people are doing their very best to create a career path in blogging. That means creating a platform for generating revenue.
Generally speaking, the revenue can come directly from a blog for ad space, affiliate links, sponsored posts, or simply as a platform for selling something (crafts, services, ebooks, etc.). Where it gets tricky is determining how much each of those things is worth to you as a blogger.
If I had to put some criteria on determining your online worth, I’d look at things like traffic (unique visitors, page views, average time on site), engagement (on your Facebook page, through your comments), and probably influence (think Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and blog subscribers).
So let’s say you’re new and you don’t have a lot to offer in any of those categories of criteria. What do you do?
You work on it.
Everyone wants a foot in the door but taking offers before you and your blog is ready can hurt everyone in the long run. Here’s why.
When bloggers work for free (which I’ll clarify in a minute), it maintains the perception that many of us are just housewives sitting home hoping to earn a little fun money for girls night out. When you choose to work for a brand for free, you are saying that your time is not worth compensating. And for those bloggers that do charge, it makes their cases a lot less compelling.
Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?
Most of the successful bloggers I know are businesswomen. They are building empires. They are making money.
But that’s not me, you say. You have to start somewhere!
Here’s a newsflash: It’s not me either. But I’m working on it.
I’ve made a few hard and fast rules about blogging and compensation that I urge you to consider and adopt where appropriate:
- Remember that you are not “just a blogger.” You are a content creator. What you provide to brands is the whole package: your skills, your talent, your audience. Sometimes, your video and photography skills. Sometimes, your creative writing and thinking. You make them look good. They should appreciate that.
- Don’t ask for compensation for a review. It not only taints your view of the product in the eyes of your readers, but it probably taints your own opinion as well. While some bloggers charge an “administrative fee” for their time for a review or for giveaways, this is not a policy I subscribe to.
- If the product for review isn’t compensation enough for your time and energy in creating content, don’t accept the review.
- Stay away from blogging contests. Yes, I’ve clearly fallen into that trap many times. And almost every single time I was away disillusioned and disheartened. No one should have to work for the chance to be paid so don’t work for a chance at a gift card. It’s just silly and you’re worth more than that.
- Be willing to work without compensation if it helps you build a relationship for future business. Many big firms want to work with the same bloggers over and over again because they know they are honest and reliable and will do a good job. This doesn’t mean work for Kellogg’s for free. It means consider a strong offer from Weber Shandwick if a job might gain you some much needed visibility with them. PR companies work with people they like!
- Be flexible and creative when it comes to paid opportunities. Many small companies will reach out to you directly but really have no clue how blogger outreach should work. Take the time to educate them and suggest ways to work together that would be within their budget. They appreciate it and you’ve created the possibility of a long term relationship.
- Work with blogger-specific agencies. There are so many great organizations outside of traditional PR that really serve as blogger advocates. Check out some of the best agencies to help you get paid blogging work.
- Give back! While you have time, space, and energy, lend your voice to a cause that you care about! Write your thoughts on a topic, help promote a fundraiser, donate ad space on your blog. And if you don’t know where to get started, visit my site Charitable Influence for a little inspiration.