Ooh, I do love a click bait title. Don’t worry, today’s blog post is not designed to preach to you the benefits of exposure. In fact, if you know me at all, you’ll know that I am pretty vocal on the subject of not working for free and knowing your worth. However, somewhere down the line, the message has got lost and what I’m seeing is bloggers still not talking sensibly about money, trying to charge for everything, missing out on the opportunity to develop their blog and still undercutting each other left, right and centre. So, today rather than repeating motivation phrases, I am going to give you the dos and don’ts and look at answering the old age question (well since 2010): when should bloggers work for free? As always, this is just my take on it all but I’d love to hear your opinions too.
Yes, consider working for free when….
- Looking to boost your Domain Authority. I do not personally think DA is the be all and end all (and I’m not asked for it all that often) but given that the Bloglancer is brand new, I am devoting 3o mins a day to creating a guest post for other sites. Now, this is one example, where doing your research is absolutely key. Make sure you check potential sites using the MOZ toolbar as I get emails every day for sites with a DA of 1 offering me an amazing opportunity to write for them!
- The opportunity adds at least equal value to you as it does the other party. Writing for free is something most of us get asked to do every day. Although I don’t generally recommend writing for free, it needs to be thought of as a transaction and it’s only worth considering if what you get back is of equal value to what the other site gets. This is why I have rarely written for brand blogs for free because let me ask you this: have you ever read a brand blog and followed the writer that very instant? Therefore a brand is getting a valuable resource of content (which helps their search engine rankings too) and you are probably receiving little back in return. Instead, especially if you have a product or ebook to promote, I’d recommend channelling your energy towards pitching for freelance writing in online and print media as a longer term strategy If you’re going to do it, make sure it has maximum benefit. Getting featured on online sites (e.g. Get the Gloss, The Mighty, Female First and to a lesser extent, Huff Post) or even print publications, will not only provide a big traffic boost if the content is thought provoking (I once got 1000 extra visitors a day after a thumbnail size feature in the Mail on Sunday) but it’ll be something to pop on your media kit (‘as featured in…) and writing portfolio (should you want to develop a freelance career). Therefore, while the publication is getting free content, you are getting something equally beneficial in return. I appreciate this might cause an angry rant of writers saying you should never write for free and yes, ideally there is nothing wrong at all at being paid from the onset (that is the goal). If your idea is unique and can’t be done by another writer, you should absolutely be compensated. However, you can also be strategic about it and use it as a starting point- not an end point. As I say, you can also ensure your best post, product or ebook is linked to the bottom of an article to attract readers. A compromise can be contributing to articles as an expert. Use the #journorequest hashtag to search for current opportunities. Doing this lead to me being featured in The Guardian!
- It will actually benefit your readers. Sometimes, you can put aside the concept of a ‘transaction’ if it’s something really valuable to your readers. We forget that there are real people reading our blog and the information we provide helps them. Linking to sites is too often seen as ‘currency’. If you follow me over at A Balanced Belly you’ll notice that most of my blog posts have about 20 links in them! Not because I am being paid to promote but because I know my readers are actually looking for the information and/or products. And sometimes bloggers lose sight of that. I have in the past pitched to a supplement company and an accountancy software company that I think have really valuable stuff for my readers but they haven’t had a budget. The difference being is I include them on my own terms (not an infographic) because I know they’re useful for my readers. This is the similarly the case for giveaways. Although many bloggers do charge for giveaways, if it is a once in a lifetime prize that you know your readers will love you for, then it might be worth it. I remember my site almost crashed when I gave away a Nutribullet.
- You just love something. Which leads on to my last point. Recently on my blog, I did a round up of 14 things I had loved that month. Here, on the Bloglancer, I wrote about how much I loved Response Source. Both of those times, it was me writing about something I was passionate about with no brand or PR agenda- which is largely what blogging should be all about. The same goes for supporting a charity your passionate about.
No, don’t even think about working for free when…
- Someone is getting more value out of something than you are. Whether it be monetary compensation or value for your readers, if the person on the other end of the email is getting more value out of it than you, then be cautious. This is why you won’t find any dodgy infographics on my site. If they have emailed you, they already recognise your value so therefore you shouldn’t have to prove yourself by working for free first. And warning, those who build links will often promise ‘quality content’. If the only thing you are getting out of a transaction is content, then consider supporting your fellow bloggers instead and popping a guest post request on a facebook group instead.
- To undercut others. One of the weirdest exchanges I saw on a Facebook recently was a brand asking about a general costing for a post and a whole host of bloggers comment underneath to the point where people were offering to do it for completely free. Why would you do this? The brand clearly asked about costing and therefore was prepared to pay. Let me tell you this if you are new to blogging: there will always be someone who comes along and tries to undercut you. If your thing is being the cheapest blogger, you won’t get very far with that strategy.You have to stand firm and believe what you can offer is truly valuable and unique because the minute you try to drop your prices to compete, you find yourself just going lower and lower.So, while it is frustrating, it is all about the long game and if you set a value on your work, then believe in it!
- The onus is on you to ‘prove yourself’. If you are pitching an article to an online website or a brand you absolutely love, it makes sense they might want to see what you are made of and it’s clear its something of value to you too. However, far too often, I receive emails offering me the chance to work for free to ‘prove’ myself or with paid work further down the line. Never work for free simply because there’s a possibility of paid work if you meet someone’s approval. You can always redirect them to your blog which has a whole host of articles that show exactly what you can do.
I hope this blog post made sense! As you can see, working for free is a complicated (and wordy!) issue but hopefully these tips will be useful! If you enjoyed this post, please do take a second to share and find out below how you can follow me and The Bloglancer!