Playing the BackgroundÂ Subterranean Homesick Blues– Bob Dylan
I don’t want to make you feel badly but I get paid to write. In fact I earn so much money from my writing that I have begun using single dollar bills for kindling. Yep, that is right I burn money in my fireplace like it is going out of style.
Don’t want make you feel insecure but I get invitations to speak at every major blogging conference including the secret ones that only the A-listers attend. Heck at the last one George Clooney and I hung out together for at least 6 minutes and it is not because he gave me a drink order. Hell, if he had done that I would have given George the patented Jack Steiner steely eyed glare and the last six dark hairs on his head would have gone white.
Don’t fuck with me George, I am a dad blogger- hear me roar. They say that behind every good man is a good woman but behind every good mom blog there is a great dad blog.
But enough of that crap, let’s cut to the chase: Dad Bloggers get paid to blog. We don”t work for free.
Know Your Worth
Ok, I’ll drop the sarcasm but continue with the message because it is important and applicable to all bloggers. Know your own worth. Your time is valuable and if someone asks you Â to work for them you deserve to be compensated for your time.
Unfortunately some of you haven’t figured this out yet because you continue to work for free or even worse for peanuts.
What that means is that when someone asks you to write about their business/product/service you spend hour working on the post(s) but get little to nothing in return.
1) Brand XYZ has you spend four or five hours working on several posts reviewing/promoting their product. They provide you with a $10 gift card to use as part of a giveaway that you all hope will draw readers. In return you also receive a $10 gift card.
The problem is that you just spent four or five hours working for a $10 gift card. Let’s pretend that the gift card is the same as cash. All that time you spent working was for less than the minimum wage.
2) Brand XYX contacts you and asks you to write a post about their product or service. They don’t offer a gift card or any sort of giveaway, but they don’t expect you to work for very long either.
This is still a problem. They came to you because they think you reach their target audience and you just provided them with free advertising. They are paying someone, somewhere for the chance to promote their product/service/company. But you just gave it away and your time for free.
Several years ago I had a lengthy disagreement with some mom bloggers about this and why their working for free was bad for all bloggers. It is bad because when you work for free you devalue your work and mine.
Two of them disagreed with me and said that I was preventing them from monetizing their blogs. My response was that what they were doing was no different from putting out for free. Â I am sure that they wouldn’t sleep with any man that asked. I received a very strongly worded reply from one of them and the silence from the other.
All sarcasm aside, I really do get paid to write and I really am paid for my time. That is not me being snooty, obnoxious or sarcastic either.
In most cases the people that contact bloggers about these reviews are getting paid. I strongly doubt that they would work for free, so why should you.
Hajra February 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm
I was actually asked to write for a magazine where I will write the first few articles for “free” and if it works, then they will pay me. Like Ameena says that is Business Sluttery! You need to get your work on and see what it is worth. If you want to work for free, then you know what you’re worth… nothing…
Bell February 24, 2012 at 6:59 am
If anyone approached me asking for free or “voluntary” translation work I’d tell them to get outta Dodge.
The sad thing is this has actually happened. My response back then was, “Translators are people, and they need to eat, too. They studied for years to prepare for the profession. You’re asking me to provide a service which demands high-level reasoning and search skills for nothing, in order to benefit your organization. While your charity [yes, it was a charity] may be of merit, I suggest that you approach professionals with the intention of paying them for their time, which is the only way you’ll get quality service. We have bills to pay and need to focus on work that pays said bills.”
A similar situation is when somebody approaches a visual artist saying they can’t afford a lot but they can give you “exposure.” Well, exposure and a few bucks in my wallet will buy me a bus ticket.
My photography’s been published in California and NY. I got exposure, all right. Did that exposure translate into more business? Actually, no.
My policy: never accept commissions from anyone who offers to pay with intangibles. It’s either ignorance or bad faith, and in either case not worth anybody’s time.
You keep telling it like it is, Jack.
Jack February 24, 2012 at 7:51 am
I am consistently amazed by some of the things I see people do.
Your story about exposure made me smile. I have stumbled onto blogs that have copied and pasted entire posts of mine.
When I have contacted them to ask for them pull them down or pay me they have sometimes responded by telling me that I am receiving great exposure by being there.
It has never translated into anything. I am not against that. If the New York Times wanted to provide a column and a link to my blog I would seriously consider writing for them for nothing or next to it.
But that is because extended exposure in the NYT can yield significant benefits.
As for translators, well I wonder about people who would approach someone like yourself to work for free.
It is not easy to properly translate text/speech into other languages. One small slip can create all sorts of chaos.
It reminds me of being in Israel in ’85. Back then the girls liked to wear these black rubber bracelets.
If memory serves they were used to hold grenades together. Anyway, they would approach soldiers and ask for a gumi.
But it was important to ask for a gumi shachor and not just a gumi.
Why? Because gumi was slang for “condom” so it was the equivalent of walking up to a soldier and asking for a “rubber.”
Made for some funny stories.
Annie Andre February 24, 2012 at 1:40 am
i had no idea you were so knowledgeable.
To me it feels like a chicken and egg situation. Do i build my brand and create high value for readers for free and then think about monetization or vice versa?
I’ve been reading about the freemium business model which i hadn’t heard about until last month. It’s really hard to wade through all this info and try to earn an honest buck.. I too want to burn dollar bills in my fireplace.
Jack February 24, 2012 at 5:13 am
There are lots of ways to approach this. I usually try to boil it down and break it up into small pieces.
It is all about the eyeballs. Advertisers usually have a specific set that they want to reach.
If you can provide “proof” or some sort of support that you can help them obtain them they will spend money with you.
So I would look at your blog and figure out who is reading it and who wants to reach them.
You may decide that at the moment the numbers aren’t as large was you wish and spend some time trying to grow things a bit.
It is a very crowded and noisy field, but if you can sustain your effort that provides a certain amount of help and proof.
What I mean is that over time you continue to pull in new readers and are able to show prospective sponsors that you are committed to making it work.
I don’t have a problem with barter and giving some things away provided that there is a plan and an exchange that offers value.
Annie Andre February 24, 2012 at 5:24 am
Thanks Jack, that was very helpful. Slow and steady wins the race.
Jack February 24, 2012 at 5:29 am
There is no one way to do this.
You can find success in multiple ways, but like most things it takes time to build. Nothing wrong with that, just requires patience.
It is part of why I say that the only people who last are those who have a good time blogging.
One of the reasons I like this is because it is a chronicle of my life and my kids. It is fun to look back and see what was happening and to see how we have grown and changed.
Trey Burley February 23, 2012 at 9:48 am
Gone are the days of ‘can I pick your brain’ for us also.
Jack February 23, 2012 at 3:09 pm
That is one of my pet peeves. I like helping people and don’t mind offering suggestions, but sometimes you know they aren’t going to do business.
All they want is to waste your time by asking a million questions.
Jens P. Berget February 23, 2012 at 12:01 am
You’re right. I haven’t looked at blogging as a business, or part of a business, not until recently. And that’s why I’m doing some changes.
But, I am also considering not getting paid for my time, since I am focusing on people and building relations. And if I get an interesting enough approach, I might add it to building a long term relationship instead of getting paid up front. So, eventually I’ll get paidâ€¦ I’m not sure if this is such a good idea, but I keep saying yes to nice people 🙂
Jack February 23, 2012 at 12:38 am
Building relationships is something that can make a lot of sense and lead to interesting opportunities.
The people that I wonder/worry about are those who devalue my work because they don’t care enough to place value upon their time.
vanita February 22, 2012 at 8:42 pm
great post! you’re bloody right. and being the inspiration that you are, you just inspired me to write a post. Thanks Jack.
Jack February 23, 2012 at 12:36 am
Can’t wait to read it.
Alan February 22, 2012 at 6:28 pm
But it also goes back to what you are doing this for. Some people want to make money being a writer. If that’s what they want, they should act like it. And be willing to say no.
Some want to ‘attract brand attention’. If that’s the case, then they can keep doing what you suggest.
But there is a third point, one about mutual benefit. I think a brand’s job, if they want to engage a community, is to make the brand worth engaging. That means experiences and insights that can’t be bought and add value to the blogger’s content. Hopefully, it is interesting enough to spark a conversation and inspire some posts that the writer may not have been able to come up with him/herself.
Jack February 23, 2012 at 12:28 am
I can see value in attracting brand attention. Sometimes there is merit in working for free because you can leverage it to get something better.
But that takes work and thought and I am skeptical about how many people put the time in.
Your point about insight is important. If I am a brand and I haven’t the budget or means to compensate bloggers I would work extra hard to find that angle you mention.
Ideally that helps the blogger start a discussion among his/her readers about the brand.
From a blogging standpoint it is nice to have unique content that we can use to add value to what we have to offer.
Nancy February 22, 2012 at 5:43 pm
Good point. I see more and more bloggers doing guest posts on other bloggers’ sites that don’t appear to have advertising, so what is the payoff? Maybe for some the need to read encouraginging replies to the post are worth more than $, or they are hoping to drive more traffic to their monetized blogs.
Jack February 23, 2012 at 12:24 am
Obviously there are a million different reasons for blogging. I do it because I love writing.
A few years ago I decided that it made sense for me to try to figure out how to monetize this and see what I could make out of it.
I play fast and loose here but I know precisely what I am doing. I am not sure that all bloggers do.
To me it seems important to understand why we blog and what we hope to accomplish because it provides the mechanism for trying to build a plan.
Guest posting can provide exposure to new audiences and potentially provide new readers.
There is no guarantee that it will so you need to pay attention to when and where you do it.