Last Friday, I read a post by the lovely Ciaran from Momfluential called 5 Stupid Reasons Mom Bloggers Work For Free. It’s a great read and I respect Ciaran’s take on blogging very highly.
It seems that about every 6 months, there’s an outcry that mom bloggers need to stop working for free, because it undermines the rest of the community’s ability to be legitimate businesspeople and charge fairly for their work.
In principle, I couldn’t agree more with this outcry, because I know how hard I’ve worked on my own blog and career over the last two years. If a brand can get someone else with the same reach as me to do for free what I would charge $X to do, why would they pick me?
I’ve had several posts started in the last year talking about why we shouldn’t work for free. And I’ve never been able to hit publish. Why?
Because it’s just not that simple as to say “don’t work for free.”
Blogging Needs Interns, Too
The bottom line is that newer bloggers don’t have a ton of influence. College students frequently intern at companies in nearly every industry to learn the business and cut their teeth. Bloggers shouldn’t be any different. The best and brightest will learn, build their influence, grow their personal brand and move up to the more lucrative opportunities – and by then, should understand when the time is right to stop working for free.
Which brings up the next factor that muddies the waters:
Not All Bloggers Are Created Equal
We cannot all be measured by the same stick. Some bloggers work at their craft as a full-time job. Others may spend only a couple of hours a week at it. Some are extremely talented writers who keep their readers coming back for more…and some, well, are not. Some are fabulous at marketing themselves and some are happy to just take whatever comes their way.
Should the fact that you are a blogger entitle you to be a paid professional?
I believe that paid work is EARNED, not a blogging birthright.
Talented, professional, creative and influential bloggers who generate quality content should be paid: bottom line. But I’m sorry to say that not all bloggers make the cut. I realize some reading this might respond, “but any blogger who reviews a product for and tweets and Facebooks about it is creating content and that is worth pay.”
No it’s not. Not if the content is crap. Not if people aren’t compelled to take action after reading it. I’ve worked on the side of a brand, and believe me, I’ve been surprised at the lack of influence a person with a sizable blog and Twitter following can have.
In fact, I believe the theory that every mom blogger should be paid does more to undermine the earning potential of our community. Why? Because paying everyone implies that everyone is delivering value. If someone can throw up a crappy blog with half-assed posts and still have the same crack at being paid as someone who approaches their blog professionally, aren’t we just settling for the least common denominator? What incentive does a blogger have to improve themselves?
Compensation is Different For Every Blogger
Each and every blogger has a meter by which she defines success. How the needle on that meter is moved, though, is different for every person.
Danielle Wiley, who runs The Sway Group and represents a lot of the more “famous” mom bloggers, commented on Ciaran’s post that:
I also think that free stuff is enticing. But, as I’ve said before, five posts, 10 tweets a few Facebook status updates are worth a lot more than a free refrigerator. Why not charge what you’re worth and then buy the fridge your own damn self, you know?
And that *feels* like that should be true. But how many of you average bloggers out there are routinely offered $1500 or $2000 to work on a brand campaign? That’s not the reality we are operating in. I realize someone could respond, “If we don’t push back, brands will never change.” Maybe the more successful bloggers have the street cred to push back and ask for that, but I’m not sure that most of us do.
So why not take a free refrigerator? If that has significant value to you, and your personal success meter says this feels right, more power to you. I never begrudge that from any blogger. And that’s why I’ll be reviewing a very expensive mattress on my blog tomorrow. And I won’t feel bad about it OR that I’m letting my community down.
I Am Responsible For My Own Success, Not You
There are a lot of bloggers who reviews tons and tons of products for free on a daily basis and they are looked upon disparagingly, called “sellouts” and said to be ruining the environment for the rest of us.
This makes me very sad. We don’t know every blogger’s financial situation. For some, not having to buy a bunch of baby products because they’re doing reviews is a huge, huge contribution to their families. And while I know that yes, these bloggers may be impairing my ability to charge more for my work, that’s a burden that many bloggers are not able to shoulder. They are trying to feed their families and doing the best they can. They are not responsible for my success or failure – I am.
Instead of worrying about what those bloggers are doing and how they’re affecting me, I believe that continuing to generate quality content will ensure that paid opportunities will continue to come my way. My opportunities have only grown exponentially, not diminished. There is space for everyone.
Maybe it’s erroneously Darwinian of me to think that the best of the best will financially thrive in blogging. Maybe I shouldn’t look at it as a competitive industry. But I think the best way to ensure that the best among us are paid is by creating an environment where you are paid because you deliver quality, not because you have the title of “mom blogger.”
I believe that setting the bar high is the best thing for our community’s earning potential.
What do you think?
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