Thursday, 17 November 2011

Pay the lady

A man walks into a bar and orders a pint of lager, the barman asks him for £3.90 (London prices you understand)

The man looks at the barman and says,

"I don't actually have a beer budget, perhaps you would like to just give me the beer as personal promotion for yourself"

Firstly, I know I need to work on my stand up act. it wasn't very funny. Secondly, You know damn well that guy isn't getting his beer for free.

Now obviously I am just setting the scene here.

It is that age old situation that has been going on since blogging began.

Why do companies and magazines out there expect bloggers to write their content for free?

Would you expect anyone else to provide their services for free? I wonder if my accountant would provide his services gratis if I told him it would raise his profile?

How about if I rang Waitrose and asked them to let me shop in their store for free? Because OBVIOUSLY my attendance would raise awareness of Waitrose tenfold wouldn't it?

I am getting heartily SICK of emails telling me how much certain companies and online magazines LOVE my blog, they appreciate my skills and would love it if I could contribute regularly to their sites.

"Of course I would be interested" I reply, "would you like to see my rate card"?

And this is when things get ever so slightly awkward.

"Well I'm not sure we can actually pay for contributions at the moment, we think of it as more personal promotion to be on the site currently. Could you add us to your blogroll"

The quote above came directly from someone in Grazia Online who approached ME for content.

Oh no! No budget? How awful, Wow, don't I feel bad for even daring to ask a magazine like Grazia Online to pay me for content that THEY have asked me for!!

What do they pay the writers of the magazine with? Because I'm damn sure their staff don't do it for "personal promotion"

But it seems that bloggers will do this for love, obviously we write purely for the pleasure of the words.

Bloggers don't need to pay bills or anything so trivial, and we certainly don't need to eat for a while as we can just chew on the excitement of seeing our name in print!!!!!!
(It makes our tummy feel all funny)

I don't think I am being unreasonable here when I wonder where some companies get off asking bloggers to write for for them without wanting to pay a penny in return.

From now on I want everyone to think of me and my blog as the writing equivalent of a high class prostitute.

I am VERY good at what I do, and I don't give it away for free.

If you want me, you have to pay for me.

I don't think I am being unreasonable. It is the companies out there that think of bloggers purely as a money making scheme for their own profit that are being totally unreasonable.

And I'm not taking it anymore.

And neither should anyone else. Because while there are bloggers out there willing to be flattered into providing content for free then these companies won't ever need to change their ways.

Ask yourself this, if a company or magazine is contacting YOU about your work then how high do you really need your profile raised? You must be doing ok for them to have found you in the first place.

If we ALL put a value on ourselves and our work then eventually they will realise that we are worth paying.

Don't fall for the "personal promotion" trap.

You are amazing, your blog is amazing, your writing is amazing.

It must be or they wouldn't be contacting you in the first place.

Know your worth and don't be afraid to turn something down if there is no money in it for you and you think there should be.

Big Fashionista x x x

What do you think?

Am I right to expect payment for my content when people have approached me to work for them?

Have you been approached by companies to write for them for free?

OR do you think personal promotion is worth it occasionally.

Let me know x x


  1. Very right.

    I can tell, straight away which email is going to be of this kind. At the moment I have a company who has never emailed me previously sending me 3 emails per day asking me to write, exactly as they specify, about some CD or other. I have never said yes to them, yet every day for the past week at least, 3 emails will pop in the inbox. Yesterday I emailed them, offering my rates, and not surprisingly they have now stopped emailing me.
    There are obviously too many bloggers, perhaps who are new to the whole thing, who are willing to say yes, who then make PRs assume we all will.Its not even like many of us charge a fraction of what a freelancer would!

  2. I love this post. I get those emails every bloody day and I think that from now on I may just send them a link to your site...

  3. I think self promotion is good sometimes but don't make a habit of it. You don't want to be taken advantage of!

    I think professional/good bloggers should definitely ask for some sort of payment for their content. After all, writing good content takes time and effort.


  4. I really feel for this post, I really do. It's terrible, the love us, approach because they like what we do, some even use the word "adore", yet they don't adore it enough to pay us for it.

    Problem is, there will be always bloggers and wannabe fashion writers looking for experience willing to do it for free. Take my case, I arrived in Spain almost a year ago. 5 months later no job on the line, no interviews. I approach several newspapers, get some rejections, then one that tells me to do it for free, as a trial, and after a month, probably contribute to their lifestyle section as a paid writer. So bored out of my mind, desperate to have something to do, I take the gig. Write for over 3 months, for free, no paid lifestyle writing in the horizon.

    Some of my friends tell me it's experience, that I should take even if free. Others tell me I'm too good a writer to give away my hard work for free, they tell me to value myself and tell them to get lost.

    Finally, I've given up. Sadly a part of me listens to the friends that tell me to take "any experience" and then I feel like I will get nowhere if I don't write for free.

    Is it the industry the core of this problem? is it the mad amounts of writers competing with each other? or is it a sign of the times? Whatever it is, it's plain wrong, and I agree with everything you say Kellie xxx

  5. I am absolutely sick and tired of this practice. If they don’t have a budget for freelancers then they shouldn’t be trying to get content from them – end of story.

    It’s like another weekly magazine and their competition to be their fashion blogger for a whole year! A whole year of working for free and thus neglecting your own blog so when the door hits you on the way out you’ve lost your own readership/sponsorship/advertisers etc etc

    It’s bollocks. Big fat hairy bollocks and anyone whose caught asking for free work (because if you’re reading this and don’t see the problem, words don’t just come from no where and the electric that powers our laptops – it ain’t free my friends) should have “FREELANCE ISN’T FREE” tattooed across their forehead.

  6. I think as long as there are people out there willing to give it away for free bloggers will always be seen as the cheap alternative.

    I think we as people are here to pave the way for the next generation. We have to work together though. And respect our own worth as writers.

    Some brilliant comments as always

  7. Someone told me the story of a writer who was offering 1,000 words for 38p the other day. THIRTY-EIGHT PENCE. Who can a) compete with that b) afford to do that. Ok his work is probably shit or ripped from the internet but companies are always going to go with the cheapest and only realise their mistake when their brand suffers (and believe me it'll suffer) because their content/marketing bumph/pr etc is so crapola

  8. Great post! It's true...we are taken advantage of! I don't understand why they think they can get away with it. Oh exposure to my blog - how kind of you? That's REALLY going to pay my rent!!!

  9. Really great post.. I do take special umbridge at magazines who have no intention of returning the favour..

  10. Amazing post!!! Good on you for writing it!! I agree with you 100%!

  11. This article is amazing. The end.

  12. I think I'm going to make myself unpopular here and say that there are circumstances in which I would see it as worth doing it to raise my profile. Especially if they were willing to accept a previous post rather than new content exclusively for them.

    I can also see a little of their point of view. Lots of bloggers do it as a hobby rather than an income. So in their mind they probably see blogging as nothing to do with paying the bills. Also, there is a culture of getting people to do unpaid work as internships to gain experience in these industries. It's probably accepted as a norm. The economic climate probably do mean the purse strings are a little tighter too.

    I understand that the willingness of some to do it for free makes it harder for those that wish to make an income. Having said all this, no-one has ever approached me about writing for free so this is purely my musings on the subject!


  13. Back in my day, the only way to help build your portfolio was to persuade magazines to run your copy for free - but then there was no other way to publish it (I'm talking days before the internet!).

    However unethical you might feel it is, it could be helpful for your career - IF that's what you want. Personally I think the assumption that all bloggers are wannabee journalists is a big one.

    Also remember there are limits, if you do decide to work for free only write one or two things - and get feedback on your work - both the quality and how successful it was for the magazine/website - and use that to negotiate for paid work in the future.

  14. I get these emails daily too, and 50% of the time when I say "It'll cost ya" I never hear back and 50% of the time they do reply and say they can pay X amount. But for some reason I've never accepted it or done it (even the paid stuff) as I don't even have enough time to write for myself, never mind other people and then even £50 doesn't seem worth it- as I simply don't often have the actual time!

    I agree with you 110%...

    Especially Grazia?? No budget. Hmm..

  15. Possibly another unpopular point of view here, but I honestly don't feel annoyed, aggrieved or cheapened by the offer to write original content free of charge.
    I am NOT a professional writer. My blog is not a source of income. I do it purely as a hobby and if approached with such an offer I would be flattered (honestly!) and would not even consider asking them to pay.
    The recognition, site traffic and the ability to project my work to such a wide audience would be payment enough for me.

    I view it much the same way I view internships - these are valuable learning curves and experience building - I've not known anybody to demand payment for an internship.
    The understanding is surely that you use these experiences to get yourself out there and get noticed - until you have enough of a portfolio to start talking £££.

    It's like the building blocks to something bigger and better.
    If the time then comes when you feel you want to monetize your blog or your freelance services, then you have a published portfolio (other than your blog) you can reference and use as a standpoint to negotiate payment. Ie: I have work published in X,Y,Z magazines - this is the standard of my work - now lets negotiate a price for my work.

    My viewpoint may be a little naive and I will hold my hand up and admit I don't have a great deal of experience in this area. This is just my personal feelings and knowledge. Everybody has to start somewhere and I'm sure a vast majority of professionals have had to offer up their services free of charge in the early days.

    As a blogger I wouldn't dream of asking payment without experience of freelance under my belt. I personally would accept Grazia's offer and use it for the experience and as something to add to a cv/portfolio and future negotiation point.


  16. I am one handed with small ill child on my knee but if I had both hands free I'd have written exactly what Georgia wrote x

  17. I think some companies out there are arrogant of their "perceived" position in the market. As you know I'm a blogging virgin but not daft enough to know the basics of good manners let alone good business etiquette. The assumption that Bloggers are a cheap alternative or not treating them with the respect they deserve is a particularly short term view. Even more concerning is that they're not thinking about their own Brand and the impact it has on them. Having said that I think I'll ask for a Blogging Survival Kit from Santa. There's so many do's and don'ts, my heard hurts. Hugs Marge Prude xx

  18. Some brilliant comments here, but as always I've gotta have my pennies worth. I am in complete, 100% agreement with Kellie.

    As bloggers we are now becoming valued as a way of getting a brand's message out there to a large and relevant audience, quickly. If you compare blogger outreach with PR or traditional advertising there is simply no competition.

    Brands may not necessarily directly pay for coverage in magazines, but they do so indirectly through advertising (advertise with us and we'll guarantee you PR coverage) and swanky trips out for the beauty/fashion editors. It may technically be free, but it's actually not. Why should blogging be completely free way of getting your message out there in a much more effective way?

    I work in social media and when putting together a proposal for a client I ALWAYS say "If you want X number of guranteed posts you're gonna have to pay X for them." I tell clients that they have to pay for decent coverage and they're ok with that. The brands that don't pay haven't been told the facts about blogging, inevitably by their agencies who don't really get it either. The reason that people say they have no budget is because they haven't bothered to ask for any. Simples.

    I've done my fair share of free writing, guest posting, links and all the shebang that gets sent around. Now I'm over it. I put a lot of time and effort into my blog and I know how much my time and effort is worth. I made the decision some time ago to do NO free work unless it was something phenominal. If you want me to do something for you then you're gonna have to cough up some cash (or at least give me some kind of decent kick back.) And this tosh about promotion for my blog on your site? Whatevs. Nobody is going to click through to me, so stop kidding yourself.

    I do get frustrated that a lot of bloggers don't fight for what they're worth, making it more difficult for the rest of us. It's not about being a journalist or being a wannabe writer - it's about having a space that is valued. That space should be valued enough to be paid.

  19. There is no such thing as an unpopular viewpoint. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. We don't have to agree, but I think people who are saying they just blog as a hobby are undervaluing their own worth. If people didn't provide free content then they would have to pay for it.
    Re experience if I wanted to work in journalism and wanted to get my foot in the door then would I intern? Maybe I would but I still stand by my opinion that if I'm approached for original content I'm within my rights to ask what the payment will be.

  20. iteresting read... im clearly not as popular as you ;) hehe

  21. I have to admit, initially, I'd probably be flattered if a company approached me. BUT - I've learned the hard way that if you let people walk all over you, either online or in the real world, then you'll keep being treated that way. If I approached a company and asked them to run an ad for my blog for free, I can imagine the response I'd get. They should get the same response. The fact that they're already a very well established name doesn't grant them the automatic right to use people who are still building their own reputation. You're building yours the right way Kellie - smart writing and a strong sense of who you are, and Grazia can fuck off. They might have "no budget", but they have a neck like a jockey's ballsack for expecting you to provide them with free advertising and be grateful that you're linked to them. Pretentious pricks.

  22. There's a really big difference in perceived worth between blogs. Those that are pulling in the equivalent eyes on pages as a magazine readership have far more power to command a fee. But, many small blogs all together can add up to the same number of eyes! You also have to consider reach and influence.. your blog might be highly influential to a small number of *valuable* people and if that is the case then you can also command a fee in some cases. But what you need to point out to anyone wanting you to contribute for free in some way or link etc, is that your blog has a high concentrate of beauty readers and is therefore a perfect environment for their product to be seen. Nobody comes to a beauty blog unless they are ready, willing and able to engage with beauty! On beauty or fashion blogs there is no dilution like there are in magazines with lifestyle, travel, health etc forming a big part.. beauty is only a couple of pages in most magazines... you would possibly buy a magazine because you were interested in cooking or travel.. you would never alight on a beauty blog for that reason! That's why blogs are absolutely unique.. they cater in a concentrated way with an willingly engaged audience and that is why they are of value.

    Whether you do or don't want to make money from your blog, the message is the same. Your blog has worth.

  23. Hi there
    This has been the very first post I have read on your blog and I really respect you for writing about this issue. I even wrote one on the same topic on my blog. The issue being when the fashion/industry tries to get work of you for free by using b.s words like 'self promotion', 'good for your profile' and 'offering you a platform'.
    I think the key words you have put in your post are 'know your worth'. I've worked in the industry for years and one thing I've learnt is clients don't respect the cow when they get the milk for free. Also the term, start as you mean to go on comes to mind. Meaning with the free jobs I've taken in the past, when I've asked for asked for money further down the road, its been more difficult and awkward.
    I also think its particularly disgusting when big brands don't cough up the dough...
    And you are right, bloggers, writers, stylists and the like all need to gang up and say flat out 'N-O' to this trend, or else things will never change.

  24. Great post! Fair play for being able to stand up to a big name like that. I'm pretty new to the blogging lark and I'm not sure how would react if I was approached! I don't think I'd have the confidence to ask for money!

  25. Wow, So I finally just finished reading your post, and ALL comments too! I have thoroughly enjoyed what you write... However i'm one of those weird, annoying people who make one opinion but then change.. And then think hmm actually I just don't know WHAT I think! So now I'm stuck...
    I think as blogging has really taken off, we are definitely undervalued (right word?!) and brands think it's easy just to ask so and so to write a post about it, because they know in return they'll get ratings (hopefully!) so at first it can seem a great thing. But in reality, it's not really helping bloggers to stand up and say 'actually i'll do it if you pay me this?'. Ok, so i don't really know where I'm going with this. But I DO agree with everything you say, and yet at the same time, I think you can write things for free to an extent. if this makes sense!
    Good post though Kellie!xx

  26. *Virtual round of applause* from me. I've been saying this sort of thing for ages. Because we're bloggers we're expected to blog for the love of blogging and often for businesses that wheel and deal for the sake of cash and profit - which we never see. I could start ranting again, but I won't. I admire and applaud your attitude. @Chaoskay

  27. I agree with everything you say, Kellie. I consider myself a blogger but I have a background in journalism, with training and qualifications. In my day, there weren’t internships but I would write letters, asking for work experience and was accepted on a couple of occasions. I desperately needed more experience so what did I do? I set up my own online magazine and it was about music (all unpaid of course, no monetary gains from it but a huge amount of enjoyment and crucial experience). I reviewed albums, gigs and interviewed pop stars and bands (Im talking about the likes of Maroon 5), all while I balanced my A Levels and degree. A well known magazine was impressed enough to offer me paid freelance work while I was still at university and they paid me generously. It was a massive boost to my confidence that a high-profiled publication recognised my efforts to be worthy of a professional journalist and it paved the way forward for me getting paid to write for magazines.

    I blog for myself because it’s my choice to, I enjoy what I write about, I call the shots on when I want to write, how it looks on the blog, etc but the moment a third party wants to wade in, the rules change. Writing is time consuming, it demands careful planning, thinking and other such logistics (much like what journalists do). I have contributed to non-profitable, voluntary publications because I feel strongly about where they come from but the likes of Grazia who are sitting on a massive advertising budget are frankly insulting the efforts of bloggers by poaching their work for free and getting a big, pat on the back from the powers above for saving x amount of money. If they can afford to pay themselves, they can afford to pay you. The moment you transfer your skills outside of your blog to an organisation who are making money, you do not hand over your work for free. Don’t undermine yourself. Yes, there are hundreds of other bloggers who will do it for free (maybe they’re very new, maybe they aren’t confident of themselves) but always remember, you get what you pay for (or not).

    I’ll leave you with one recent story about a blogger who was approached by a big magazine to write exclusively for them. They agreed they would start to pay him after the first article. A date of publication was decided before the magazine decided to pull the article totally. This magazine rakes in a lot of money from big designer companies advertising in their glossy magazine yet they were on the prowl for free work, and messed this blogger around. Totally unprofessional conduct and as a result I no longer read their magazine, knowing what ugliness goes on at their editorial desk.

  28. Hey Everyone! I don't fully agree with Kellie, but my response was ridiculously long, so I published it on my blog instead... Hope it makes sense, ENJOY!

    Much love, Madison x

  29. Here’s my take on this…

    Everyone's circumstances are different and what is a pretty offensive offer for some can be a great opportunity for others. It'd a bit of a generalisation to say all bloggers have the same worth, because ultimately anyone can become a blogger (not a successful one, obviously, but they can call themselves one) and to be quite honest, I would definitely not pay for some bloggers' content.

    I'm not a blogger per se - I used to have a music blog with it's own loyal following and am in the process of properly starting a media careers blog - but I still feel strongly about this. My old blog gradually lost its life when I got approached and started writing for other sites for no money. I've given a lot of my time to write for other sites, mainly small sites who genuinely have no budget, but a few weeks ago I contributed to a National paper for no money (they used the same budget excuse). This is very different to the Grazia situation in that I approached them, but for me the chance to get a byline in a National whilst at Uni was a massive coo.

    I don't agree with a point I saw on Twitter about people who write for free ruining it for everyone else. It's my life and at the moment I'm in a position where I'm willing to gain as much experience as possible, whether it be paid or not, so I will continue to write for free for the right kind of experience. In the current industry, that's what I've got to do to stand out as I'm more than aware there'll be others willing to. There'll come a time when I'll have accumulated enough experience and I'll whack out my rate card, but for my current projects I'm content with just being credited. I have no journalism training and ultimately I'm only 19 and an Undergrad student so, whilst I believe I am a great writer, I know my worth and I'm fully aware there are likely to be better content providers out there. I'm getting to the stage when I'm beginning to consider only writing for payment - the response I received from my Guardian article gave me a clear idea that people were actually very interested in what I had to say - but there are certain opportunities I'll continue to take out of love for the project or out of the desire to enhance my CV.

    (Continued below...)

  30. Do I have regrets about putting my blog on the back-burner to pursue other projects? Yes, I often do. But I believe in the projects I write for (I've quit the ones I didn't and the ones that began to take me for granted) and I'm sure I'll keep interning and writing for certain projects for free until at least graduation. Maybe I'm at a different, earlier stage in life, or perhaps I'm blinded my ambitious dreams, but writing for free works for me at the moment. I know there's a difference between doing this all as a student and your situation, and really I doubt we're in competition for the same kind of writing opportunities, but to say everyone deserves payment is idealistic and not really in tune with the way of the media industry as it currently is. I know I've probably given thousands of hours to unpaid creative work and I've done work experience that quite probably bordered on being illegal in line with Minimum Wage Guidelines, but I want to stand out from the vast crowd of current graduates and their 2:1s. Maybe I shouldn't be so reluctant to conform to how the industry works, but ultimately that's just who I am. I try and make the most out of the way the world is, I don't try to change it. Yes, that's a big flaw of mine, but hey, it's how I've chosen to live my life.

    I want to work in the media and, whilst having a successful blog is an undeniable achievement, interviewers are bound to be looking for me to have been published elsewhere.

    I'm slightly wary of posting this in fear it will jeopardise my chances of being offered money any time soon. I know I won't write for free forever but I'll unashamedly admit to doing it now. For me it's just an online version of an unpaid internship - and that's a whole other essay I could write...

    Rant over. Sorry!

  31. I do think you should change your text next to the comment post box, you clearly don't have the time.

  32. Brands and publications rely on bloggers dying to be featured or 'in there' with them for this no budget ploy to work.

    I'm not totally against writing for free. I'm a trained journalist and contributed (ie for free) to dozens of publications to get my name out and build a portfolio of writing. But this was for my career, before blogging really exploded, and to get into other people's publications.

    When you have a blog, you don't need to prove yourself, you're already there. The only benefit is being recognised by prestigious publications, but should that mean making THEM look social media savvy for free?

    My issue with Grazia and Sunday Times Style is that they want to be on side with bloggers and yet they have taken the piss out of them in print (fashion week put downs and barometers). We can all take a joke and sometimes blogger behaviour can be hilarious, but don't then come asking for free content.

    If you get approached for something that you really want to do, like ELLE showing off your wardrobe or home, just make a personal decision and go for it. Sometimes free things can lead to paid opportunities, just don't ever feel exploited or pressured.

  33. In fact writing for someone else should be charged out at a premium. When I write for myself it's fine; when I write for externals there is the constant stress of remembering not to use the word 'fuck' indiscriminately - or even discriminately! Someone has to pay for that level of professionalism.

  34. I definitely agree, however, I feel like it's my fault. I've put so much into my writing that I haven't noticed that I haven't been getting paid for it. I've been blogging for over a year and I've never tried to make money, like progressively. I never put out a product or put ads up, or did anything really that obvious to make blogging a living.

    A few weeks before today, I'll be honest, I have been thinking about it, and I feel like I need to redesign my blog to make it more serious than if it just looked like a hobby.

    Great post!

  35. Hi,

    I actually was representing Grazia when we were doing a lot of blogger outreach – apologies it’s taken a while to respond.

    This is an important post and an interesting debate has been had in the comments.

    Sorry it’s been taken in a way that Grazia won’t pay for content from bloggers – in many cases we actually do. Indeed, there is a section on the site devoted to this with contributions from people who have been paid for their efforts (not all of which are Grazia employees):

    In the Autumn we took took the step of getting many more bloggers more involved with the brand. We now have weekly round ups of blogs who want to be involved with us on the site, and linking to their content and linking to them in articles. We also regularly mention and promote them on Twitter. We also ask bloggers if they’d like to guest post – if they want to, then they can. You can check them out by searching for ‘fashion blog love’ or ‘beauty blog love’ on Google.

    The email that’s been quoted was rushed – I can only apologise that it implies Grazia won’t pay for content on their site or indeed ‘does not have budget’. Of course Grazia regularly employs freelancers and pays for contributions. By getting bloggers involved with our brand, we felt we offered a platform for them to promote themselves and their blog from our website (all content would be credited, linked and promoted via social media), thus we felt this offered value for contributors. Indeed, many bloggers have enjoyed being involved with us:

    We’ve also taken the approach that if people don’t want to guest post, then that’s fine – we have never hassled anyone into publishing anything for us for free.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention Kellie.


  36. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment James.

    So do you want to know my rates?


  37. Every blogger out there needs to read this. I'm defined as a Mummy Blogger (although as a filmmaker) I write about working in film too. I decided right from the offset and when I was a wee fish in an ocean that if pr companies liked my writing style (I'm a freelance writer) then they had to pay, as they would in the real world. I'm shocked by how little other bloggers (and far more successful than I) charge people. If you don't ask, you don't get. Well done you

  38. By all means, send them through - we would suggest a trial post and there is potential of writing and maintaining a blog on Grazia. I've dropped you a mail?

  39. Completely agree! The other day a big sports shop contacted me to advertise their logo. I said yes, for a fee and they said the same thing. No budget! Eh? They were selling things at £200 a pop! Madness.

  40. James I never received an email today.

    Can you resend?


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