How I Will and Will Not Participate in the Business of Blogging

I just updated my “Make Me an Offer” page. I had to. I’ve found that in replying to pitches I’ve developed a pretty consistent set of beliefs, but they weren’t reflected on the old page, and this was leading to some frustrating interactions. I had to make some things clear.

Briefly, my policies are as follows:

1. Reviews are reviews. Send me a product, I’ll review it. No charge. It might take a while.

2. Giveaways and Promotions are services. I will charge for doing these. I will not attach them to reviews anymore. Mixing the two worlds was giving me headaches.

3. Ads….I haven’t made up my mind about ads yet.

I was offered the opportunity to do a giveaway on my blog today, for a not insignificant cash-value product. But in the initial pitch it seemed like the idea was just “Here! Give this away!”

Why? Why would I? Because giveaways are just what we do? Because I’m a nice guy? Because you asked me to? Because my readers would really benefit from it/love it and then I’d be known as the cool guy who gives things away and then I can get more traffic and charge more for the ads I don’t have?

So, I e-mailed back:

Thank you for your interest in promoting your product on Backpacking Dad.

I am happy to run a giveaway for you in a one-post format, providing my own written content in addition to the provided terms, and using your visual media and linking to your client’s services. I will do a 3-day promotion, beginning on a Wednesday, 12:01 am PDT and ending on a Friday, 11:59 pm PDT, with regular reminders through social media avenues like Twitter and Facebook, as well as footer reminders in any new blog posts submitted to the website during the period of the giveaway, which will reach feed subscribers as well as site visitors.

My fee for doing a giveaway of this nature is $200.

If these terms are agreeable, then we may begin by setting a start date for the giveaway. If they are not, I am open to your thoughts. In any case, I look forward to working with you some time in the future.

Cheers,

Shawn Burns, Backpacking Dad
http://backpackingdad.com
http://twitter.com/backpackingdad
http://www.facebook.com/backpackingdadblog

I wasn’t really expecting the person to say yes to this. It’s not an unreasonable offer for my time and effort, especially since there had been nothing in the pitch about my own compensation (not even an offer of a product for me), so I was feeling a little cheeky and decided to more than double the cash-value of the product for my fee. But it’s an unreasonable industry standard, at the moment, when people are doing this stuff for nothing. I fully expected them to decline. Which they did.

Hi Shawn,

Unfortunately we can’t compensate bloggers for running this giveaway.
Thank you anyway!

 

 

But…then why would a blogger do it? I don’t really need hundreds of dollars to run a giveaway for a brand, but they don’t get to decide what my time and effort is worth, and they certainly don’t get to assume that it’s worth nothing at all.
But it struck me during the exchange that if I had just been more upfront about this, maybe I would endure fewer frustrating interactions. So from now on I’m going to set expectations, instead of letting someone else wander in with their own. This might mean I never, ever do another product review (except the backlog) or giveaway or promotion, because I’m making clear that my opinions are free but my time costs money, and they have to decide which one they want. I’m okay with that.
Do you have clear policies about product reviews/giveaways/ads/promotions? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants when interacting with companies?

 

 

27 thoughts on “How I Will and Will Not Participate in the Business of Blogging”

  1. I've never charged for a giveaway, but I am warming up to the idea. Lately I only do a giveaway if it's a favor to a friend (small biz, books by people I know, or is a fun thing I chose to do myself like the laptop)- but I think maybe I would consider more giveaways IF I charged for the "service" of doing the giveaway.

    I have ads and to be honest a many of them were product/giveaway pitches that I politely refused but offered my ad rates instead. I continue to do this when it's a company that I feel fits "me" and my blog.

    I don't have a set policy, tho. Sounds like I would need more sleep to plan that out. So for now, it's kinda made up as I go along this weird and lovely path.

    Steph

  2. I fly. But I usually do a giveaway and review together, since I'm usually giving away books, and I like to read 'em first. But I agree, I like the concept of separating the two and you have to do what works for you. Makes me wonder where the companies are that would say YES to that. And how to find 'em!

  3. I don't do a giveaway unless it is something people would really like, and I get a copy, too, and it's something I actually want/need and worth the arbitrary "hourly fee" that I've made up in my own mind. So – not, I'm not giving away the fruit snacks I was just offered, but probably yes to a DVD my kids want. But I'm curious – why not the giveaway/review combo? To me it's a win-win, since I get the product and then one to give away.

    1. I think of a giveaway as akin to an endorsement, and I feel weird about

      promising (in advance) to do a giveaway but then ending up not loving the

      product as I review it. It's happened before. I know other people might feel

      a different kind of weirdness, giving away a product they HAVEN'T reviewed.

      But I can see that more cleanly linked to advertising than opinion, so

      that's the way I draw my own weirdness line.

      1. Have you ever reviewed a product you weren't comfortable giving away? Did you do the giveaway anyway? With products I got for review that I didn't like I simply email them and let them know that I had issue with it and won't be posting a giveaway. I let them chose whether I post a review or not. None have opted for the review oddly enough. I struggle with this choice too as I feel its a bit like a lie of omission to not tell people about products I don't like but I don't see biting that hand that feeds me.

  4. I really like your policies. And being clear about expectations will keep everyone from getting into a situation that isn't palatable. I haven't ever thought about being paid for giveaways, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

    Do you not find that even reviews take your time, though? I'd love to hear your thoughts on that differentiation.

    I recently got a pitch where they wanted me to review their products (without giving me any) for a paltry $10 donation. The products they wanted me to "review" were all a minimum of $50. So, essentially they wanted me to buy something and tell the world about it. No thanks. I can do that on my own without a PR rep contacting me.

    1. Reviews do take my time, but if I'm willing to review a product it's because

      I want to see what it is like. So I'll put the time in. If that means I

      build a reputation for honest reviews, then that's worth the effort. Also,

      since I don't charge for reviews I can be way lazy about them :}

      1. I do the review/giveaway together – but I don't promise to do the giveaway upfront. If I like the product and plan on giving a positive review, then the giveaway has already been cleared with the client. If I don't like the product, I most likely won't review it and won't add a giveaway component. Because, to me, that would be weird to be all "this product sucks now go try it for yourself."
        I see your point about separating them and now have food for thought about products that I'm not interested in reviewing but might be interested in hosting a giveaway for my readers.

  5. Hear, hear! Two points of reference:

    One, a recent speech given by Mike Monteiro of Mule Design Studio, who has his head on the straightest of any creative media person I've ever met on the web. His talk, "Fuck You, Pay Me" was about this exact thing: My time and effort are worth money. Now pay me. A video of it can be found here:

    Two, what can only be described as a rant by Mr. Harlan Ellison, inarguably one of the best science fiction/spec fic writers alive today. He's known for his strong opinions; one of the areas he's been most vocal on throughout the years is his insistence on being paid for his work. You can find his rant on YouTube, and it's worth a listen. Or fifty.

    So you're in good company, my friend. Stick to your guns. And tell anyone who wants you to spend time and effort for no compensation to bugger off.

  6. I'm wondering if you'd have any advice for someone like myself with a small biz, a nice product, and almost no ad budget… I sometimes approach bloggers who I really admire and follow, offering to create custom work for them AND offer a giveaway on their blog if they would like to do so. It's partly a gifty gesture from a fan with the slight hope of a bit of exposure. This has been enthusiasticly recieved a few of times, and sometimes I hear nothing in response *cough, cough*. Does this strike you as inappropriate?

    1. No, I don't think it's inappropriate at all. If I love something I will do a

      giveaway, endorsement, whatever for free. I think direct blogger outreach

      for a small business like yours is a great idea.

      Was the *cough, cough* for me? Have you asked me this before?

      1. Yep — I wrote you in February… I'll email you again, and you can respond if you like… I really don't want you to feel harrassed! It's really difficult to send a note like that to someone you admire and be convincing about your non-spamminess.

  7. I've done the same thing and I've had some good results. I'm often pleasantly surprised when a company accepts my offer.

  8. I just hopped over here from Bossy – and seriously…you've got the right idea I think. Years ago, when I had a blog that I attempted to make a little coin on (as opposed to the one I use now as an online journal/homepage for my writing projects), I found myself intensely stressed over the whole business. I find the corporate sponsoring and giveaways actually really offensive – why would they not pay someone who had written ad copy for them? Do they pay their in house advertising team in blenders? I think bloggers should be paid as freelancers – 200.00 is NOT an unfair rate AT ALL. I see all the time bloggers who have been given new kitchens, new clothes, new toys for their children – but do they ever get paid well, a fair rate for their work? I hope I'm wrong, but except for the major players – they don't. It feels like companies are getting a free ride and it's yucky to me. So, right on with your policies. I dig.

  9. I just hopped over here from Bossy – and seriously…you’ve got the right idea I think. Years ago, when I had a blog that I attempted to make a little coin on (as opposed to the one I use now as an online journal/homepage for my writing projects), I found myself intensely stressed over the whole business. I find the corporate sponsoring and giveaways actually really offensive – why would they not pay someone who had written ad copy for them? Do they pay their in house advertising team in blenders? I think bloggers should be paid as freelancers – 200.00 is NOT an unfair rate AT ALL. I see all the time bloggers who have been given new kitchens, new clothes, new toys for their children – but do they ever get paid well, a fair rate for their work? I hope I’m wrong, but except for the major players – they don’t. It feels like companies are getting a free ride and it’s yucky to me. So, right on with your policies. I dig.

  10. Yes, yes, and yes. I have changed how I do business as well, and will continue to do so. I do need to change my written policy, though, and am planning several other changes in the near future. Just because I'm 'only a blogger' doesn't mean that my time isn't valuable.

  11. It is never inappropriate to ask to be compensated for your time. If more bloggers learned to charge a reasonable wage we would have fewer posts in which people complain about not being compensated.

  12. I just wrote about this kind of stuff, actually. I used to fly by the seat of my pants – and fall for a lot of pitches because I was naive. But then it occurred to me that if a brand will pay $75 for an hour of my time in a focus group, why shouldn't I expect similar compensation for time on my blog?

  13. Bloggers own their opinions, but should be compensated for their work, full stop. If the value of the product is sufficient (free car, house, wardrobe etc,) you might decide that is sufficient compensation. Usually, though, the cashy kind is better :-) Utility companies and banks prefer it when paying the bills.

  14. Can I plagiarize parts of your policy? I will change every third word or so. Or give you total credit. I have a fly by the seat policy now that needs a good tweaking…

  15. Asking for the money – totally the way to go. A ton of the moms do it, and they're getting it. I think it weeds out the better brands and PR firms from those looking for access to our audiences. The thing is, there's all these other bloggers out there willing to do this stuff for free thinking, "Hey I've arrived. Pretty soon I'll be getting the big bucks from this." The great irony in this is they end up being like the slutty HS cheerleader who ends up getting a rep for giving up the goods for nothing and in the end that's all these bloggers ever get – nothing. Bloggers who want to get compensated have to have respect for themselves and the value their blogs offer. And bloggers have to be able to say "No." I think there has to be a prestige factor involved. If regular readers know a blogger has a strict policy and then sees that blogger do a review or whatever, then it creates more value for whatever that product or giveaway is.

    PS – Your Dove Soap deal you did was brought up several times in NOLA.

    1. Please tell me no one thinks Dove was involved in #WEAREYELLINGABOUTSOAP. That was, like so much of what I do, shenanigans for the shenanigans of it.

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