The Blogging Industry: Freebies, Pitching and Getting Paid

 

There’s been a lot of drama on the ol’ internet recently, much of which has been centred around bloggers asking for freebies, smaller influencers who want to be paid for their content and whether it’s okay to pitch directly to brands. As someone who has at one point or other fallen into all three categories, I thought I’d chip in on the debate.

 

Should Bloggers get paid? Bloggers getting freebies H&M Leather Jacket The Sky Garden

 

Is it okay to pitch to brands or businesses?

I’m starting with this one because the answer is so painfully blatant, I don’t really know why it’s even a discussion point. ABSO-bloody-LUTELY. In any industry getting your name out there and pitching your ideas is key to progression and success; there is nothing shameful in introducing yourself to a brand that you think you may be relevant to, in fact it’s pretty much essential. “Hi, I’m Beth and I’d really like a free top.” is never going to go down well, but if you’ve got a banging content idea then you are doing a disservice to yourself by not pitching it.

Personally, I have made a lot of contacts and contracted sponsored content through approaching brands first. I figured very early on that I was going to need to show them what I’ve got rather than sitting around waiting to be asked, and as far as I know from all the friends I’ve made in the PR side of the things, as long as you’re polite and personal and offering something worth their time then they love it too! I’ll do a post soon on how I personally approach brands, but for the meantime this one by Rhianna is really useful and this Twitter thread by the wonderful Grace Victory sums up my position perfectly.

 

Should Bloggers get paid? Bloggers getting freebies H&M Leather Jacket The Sky Garden

 

But what if you’re asking for free stuff?

Ah, the freebies conundrum. It’s a really common misconception that bloggers are just in it for the free stuff; I’ve read it on Twitter, I’ve seen snide comments on Instagram and I’ve even had a few people say it to my face. It’s something I’m really open to talking about because whilst gifting is part and parcel of the industry – just as journos, celebrities and industry experts are constantly being sent new releases to try too – it’s absolutely not what it’s all about. 

If you’re starting a blog because you don’t fancy paying for your make up anymore then you may as well just stick a pair of your nan’s tights over your head and rob Superdrug (I’m joking. Do not do that.) because that is totally not the point and you will lack authenticity and trust from your followers.

Blogging is a job, and it’s a really tough one too. Freebies, be it lunch, a hotel stay or a gifted product, are undeniably really nice perks but they do not pay the bills and it can be really difficult when you’re expected to create work for non-monetary payment.

NOW, this works BOTH ways. Just as bloggers often complain when a brand expects them to offer free content and marketing in exchange for a £30 dress, brands and business are well within their right to get irritated when you ask them to do the same in exchange for exposure on your platform. What they are not entitled to do is publicly name and shame and divulge the contents of a private email for the world to see, a la that horrendously unprofessional hotel that I will never be staying at, nor will I be naming or linking because the swamp donkey who owns it does not deserve anymore traffic.

 

Should Bloggers get paid? Bloggers getting freebies H&M Leather Jacket The Sky Garden

 

So, should bloggers be paid (in money, not shoes) for their work and when is exposure acceptable payment?

Fundamentally my answer to any collaboration based question, whether the payment is monetary, product based or exposure based – the latter of which is obviously a huge consideration for the businesses who do let you eat, or stay, or where their product for ‘free’ – is that there has to be mutual benefit

From the perspective of a blogger, sometimes the gift or service is enough. Yes, I do have bills to pay and yes, I do rely on blogging as my main source of income but there are brands that I am more than happy to create content for without payment simply through the love of doing this job. That isn’t to say that I don’t feel equally as passionate about the products I am paid to promote, but how can you ever expect someone to hire you if you’ll only ever create paid work? It’s a bit like being an artist who refuses to paint unless it’s a commission. Especially where the item is something I would’ve bought anyway, or from a brand that honestly I wouldn’t usually be able to afford, ‘what’s in it for me‘ is blindingly obvious. On the flip-side, where a brand approaches offering me something I wouldn’t usually be bothered about or that is of very low value then not only would it be insincere to both the brand and my followers to accept, but it’s also just not worth my time.

From the brand or business perspective – and of course this is speculative and purely my view based on my experiences – there has also got to be something that makes offering a free product or service worthwhile. From their view, they are paying you in kind. No, your landlady does not accept shoes, and sometimes offers can come across as a bit of a piss take but then you’re well within your right to politely decline. Thankfully, unlike swamp-donkey hotel, most businesses are pretty social media savvy these days and do understand the worth of bloggers and of marketing budgets, whether that be monetary or in the form of a certain amount of ‘freebies’.

Note: I do use the term ‘free’ loosely. If I’m creating content that I’d usually charge for in exchange for a gift or service then that is not free. I’m just accepting an alternate payment method and I will still work as hard as if my bank account was benefiting. 

 

Should Bloggers get paid? Bloggers getting freebies H&M Leather Jacket The Sky Garden

Should ‘smaller’ bloggers get paid?

My really simple answer to this is only if they have the traffic and influence to make it worthwhile for the brand. I know there will be a few of you who disagree with me on this, and that’s fine. I understand the time/effort argument and I know that a blog isn’t free to run but fundamentally there is no use in a brand paying a blogger out of their marketing budget to produce content if the reach and demographic of those actually seeing it is limited. 

That doesn’t mean that bloggers under a certain following shouldn’t get paid, absolutely not. But if you’re asking for payment then you do need to be able to back it up with the stats that prove you’re worth paying. If you’ve only got 1000 followers, but 20% of them engage regularly with your posts and follow your recommendations then that is fabulous and there is clearly a benefit to the brand, though at that point it’s worth remembering that rates are always going to be based upon your reach.

I’ve seen lots of calls for quality of content to be the indicator, but sadly that’s not always how it works. High quality content should be a given. It’s who you’re then reaching with it that the brands are going to want to pay for. I know that this is incredibly frustrating for bloggers who feel that their work is more than good enough but that they can’t get the ads because they’re stuck at the lower end of the numbers game. I also totally appreciate that some huge accounts have used very immoral methods of reaching such figures and yes, it’s bloody annoying to see someone getting paid when their engagement is as flat as a pancake.

Unfortunately, that is one of the frustrations of the industry. It’s up to brands to do their research and to choose bloggers with authentic and engaged followings and who fit the brand, because if they don’t and they purely focus upon a follower count then chances are they just wasted their money. Equally, it’s up to bloggers to remain authentic and trustworthy and that includes doing it for the love, the passion, and the creativity – which is surely the reason we all started out? – rather than the potential gain.

 

Should Bloggers get paid? Bloggers getting freebies H&M Leather Jacket The Sky Garden

 

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Photography by: Kaye Ford

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30 Comments

  1. January 18, 2018 / 10:11 am

    Such a great read! Thanks so much for putting it together. I’ve been on both sides of the ‘argument’ per se. At the moment, starting out on the blogger side, but I’m in marketing for a small business. I think your content is extremely well put together and totally makes sense! Great read!
    Lorna, xo

  2. January 18, 2018 / 10:18 am

    Completely agree with you Beth! I hate seeing bloggers get snarky on twitter with brands who won’t pay them, because their following is tiny and their content is, let’s face it, average, but perhaps offer a ‘free’ product! As a small content creator, sometimes is just nice to receive a product, just to have something to create content about! I can’t always afford to go out and buy new cosmetics, or candles, or even clothes. So whilst I’m small, I’ll happily test out a new range of skincare and give my thoughts for zero money, because, I don’t, personally think I’m there just yet. Great post Beth, very informative xx

    • Beth Sandland
      Author
      January 18, 2018 / 10:27 am

      I think this is a fab outlook Rebecca. I remember receiving my first gift and being OVER THE MOON and just so genuinely shocked! I’m still insanely grateful and continually surprised by the things I get sent. I think it’s a shame people are losing that magic. Xx

    • January 18, 2018 / 5:25 pm

      YES! YES YES! I agree to all of this! I can’t always afford new things either so I’m happy to test out products for zero money because after all, it did take money to produce said products.

      She Sweats Diamonds

  3. January 18, 2018 / 10:23 am

    Let’s make swamp donkey a thing, haha. Brilliantly articulate and eloquent as always my darling. To say you are an industry treasure is an understatement xx

    • Beth Sandland
      Author
      January 18, 2018 / 10:27 am

      It’s my favourite insult ha! Thanks my love, appreciate your feedback as always xxx

  4. January 18, 2018 / 10:43 am

    Swamp donkey is my new favourite word.

    • Beth Sandland
      Author
      January 18, 2018 / 12:31 pm

      Go forth and conquer 🙌🏼

  5. January 18, 2018 / 11:18 am

    I love “swamp donkey” I think that’s my new favorite insult 😂 but on a serious note, such a well-written post Beth! I, too, struggle with not knowing exactly when to ask for payment or accept the product as a form of payment. Because yeah, bills still have to be paid. BUT, I also understand that my reach isn’t as big and I’m still in the growing phase so accepting a product (that I like and support of course) is such a huge win for me and I’m thrilled to even be offered that. Like you said, it has to be a mutually beneficial deal for the brand & blogger, and as a blogger we have to be aware of our influence and if it’s worth paying for. Sometimes it’s a hard truth to swallow, but with consistency and heart, the growth will come. 🖤

  6. January 18, 2018 / 11:48 am

    Swamp donkey had me chuckling. Completely agree with everything in this post, it all needed to be said!

  7. January 18, 2018 / 12:05 pm

    Really great well thought out post. I’ve put off starting a blog for years for a bucket load of reasons, and not least of all of late the amount of people I’ve seen who seem to be of the mind ‘ok I’ve started a blog, what are you going to pay me to post’. Or equally the instant desire to monetise.

    Certainly, there’s no issue with wanting to earn from the work put out there, but if it’s the initial driving force it seems a little skewed to me?

    There’s really no such thing as free. If a brand sends something to you, they aren’t doing it out of the good of their hearts. They want you to talk about it. I think a lot of people don’t realise exposure has a value.

    Rambling now. I’m sure I had a point. 😉

  8. January 18, 2018 / 12:29 pm

    The way that hotel handled that email was shocking! I would personally feel uneasy emailing a brand to ask for something for free like that but there’s nothing wrong in politely declining, rather than publicly humiliating someone. As you say, sometimes being gifted a product can work well for both the blogger and brand, so I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s up to each individual to decide if it’s right for them or not. It’s all a bit of a minefield really but it would be nice if there could be more respect shown and politeness sometimes. Fab post Beth x

    Jenny | LuxeStyle

  9. Martha
    January 18, 2018 / 12:40 pm

    I’m just a little confused as to your true standpoint on this matter because your pinned tweet on Twitter is a sarcastic hit at a brand offering you a mince pie in exchange for content: https://twitter.com/bethanysandland/status/932369858951565313

    I personally do agree that certain bloggers and influencers should be remunerated in exchange for content, or at the very least provided gifts to be reviewed/showcased, but not every brand/company is in a position where they have the budget to be able to do so. Does that mean they should just not bother with blogger outreach? If a blogger always has to be gifted/paid to feature product then where does the authenticity come from? It’s no surprise that the digital audience is becoming frustrated and switched off to influencer endorsements these days.

    Regardless where people stand on the paid/free features, one thing I think everyone should agree on is snarky/bitchy posts from either the brand or the blogger is in bad taste. We cannot hold companies to one standard but then say bloggers are in their right to name/shame brands when they contact you wanting to collaborate with no payment involved. Where do you really stand?

    • Beth Sandland
      Author
      January 18, 2018 / 1:10 pm

      Hi Martha,

      Firstly I just want to say I’ve removed a line from your comment because you mention a brand by name, and it isn’t even a brand I’ve worked with or mentioned ever myself. I would never, ever name or shame anyone.

      That aside, thanks so much for your reply and joining in the debate! My stance is exactly what I’ve written in the post above. I don’t get the impression from your comment that you’re a regular reader of my blog or Instagram because I work very closely with a lot of brands on a gifting basis and I also often share products I’ve bought myself, and most of my clothes are not gifted or sponsored by I’ll always tag them.

      The tweet you reference about the mince pie was a joke, written as one and taken as one by those who know my sense of humour. I was in no way referencing or bitching about the brand, it really was just genuinely funny. I can’t see any circumstance where it would be a serious suggestion to pay someone with a mince pie?

      You’re right about not every brand having a budget and I have worked with and supported several start ups too. However I do think generally speaking there should be some form of mutual benefit: if a brand chooses to approach you asking you to buy their product, then post about it, I do find that a little uneasy. It would be like me messaging someone and telling them to read my blog! I’d much rather buy products I’ve chosen to and shout about them!

      For me, the authenticity comes from only ever sharing things I love and have/or would spend my own money on. It doesn’t matter to me if my favourite moisturiser was gifted or I bought it; I’ll share it all the same.

      It’s a shame you feel ‘switched off’, I do think bloggers have a responsibility to consider the brands they’re working with and the products they’re promoting, however I do not feel out of touch with my followers, rather quite the opposite. I always have a lot of positive feedback from the products I do share (sponsored/gifted/purchased) and tangible proof through link clicks or affiliate sales.

      Hope that helps! X

  10. January 18, 2018 / 5:37 pm

    What an amazing post Beth, put so blammin well!! Just about to go and get a pair of my nans tights (joking)

    BIG LOVE

    Siobhan
    Justauniform.com

  11. January 18, 2018 / 8:06 pm

    Couldn’t agree more with your view Beth! The blogging world gets so much bad press and what’s happened recently has really irritated me but it’s good that brands are slowly but surely seeing the worth that bloggers have for brands! Personally, I wouldn’t have heard of a lot of brands if it wasn’t for bloggers I follow using their products/promoting them 🙂 x
    http://www.cocoamay.co.uk

  12. January 19, 2018 / 9:04 am

    Love this! Totally agree with everything that you’re saying, and I think it would benefit a lot of people to read this! I don’t think people realise how much work and effort you have to put in as a blogger! I know I wouldn’t spend all the time that I do doing it if it was to solely get sent free products….it would be a lot easier to go out and buy them! We do it because we love what we do, and getting products sent to us is just a perk of the job (like most people in employment have!)

  13. January 19, 2018 / 9:49 am

    Really enjoyed reading this Beth, I couldn’t agree with you more and really think bloggers shouldn’t be afraid to approach a brand if they think they can bring something to the table that would be mutually beneficial.

  14. January 21, 2018 / 4:42 pm

    Beth this post is BRILLIANT!! I have always been quite scared to pitch to brands but I never see anything wrong with it!!

  15. January 22, 2018 / 8:25 am

    Such a great post. I love how instead of firing abuse on twitter, you have taken your stand on the sensitive subject by posting an informed and articulate post about the issue. Go girl!

  16. January 27, 2018 / 8:27 pm

    I think this is a really great post. I’m not at a stage yet where I’d ask brands to collaborate, but I’m hoping to soon!

  17. January 28, 2018 / 2:47 am

    I’m a bit torn on this issue because I do think that smaller bloggers should get paid, but under certain circumstances. I think if a brand reaches out to a blogger, I’m assuming that it must be because something is attractive about them. So, I think it’s definitely fair for the blogger to treat it like advertising space. You would pay an outdoor advertising company for a billboard placement because the amount of traffic coming through is attractive. If I were a brand, I would think the same when enlisting a blogger. I think it’s the same with social media advertising. There’s never any true certainty what result you will get. I think it can be a very complex issue.

    GG | ww.girlingamba.com

    • Beth Sandland
      Author
      January 28, 2018 / 10:30 am

      You’re right, the ROI is almost impossible to track aside from affiliate links etc. Your billboard analogy is also right, but there would be no point in someone paying to put one up on a back road that a minimal number of people drive down, and I think that’s where I stand in terms of paying small bloggers who don’t have the stats/traffic to back it up. I think that’s where gifting can be really great as it’s still recognising someone, it often gives bloggers something to write about where they might be stuck and for the brand they’re introducing the blogger and her/his following to the product, it just may not be enough reach to warrant paying yet. Xx

  18. Jessica
    February 5, 2018 / 12:03 pm

    Really useful and worthfull article thanks ❤

  19. February 7, 2018 / 12:14 pm

    This is such a well-written post! Totally agree with you, and it’s reassuring to hear that that us smaller bloggers are seen in the same light as bigger bloggers if they’re engagement is good x

  20. Pat
    February 8, 2018 / 7:00 pm

    Hey! Thanks for putting this up & answering these questions in an honest way.

    Just wanted to point out that in regards to the whole ‘swamp donkey’ fiasco , it was my understanding that the hotel published an email sent to them by a blogger but kept all identifying information (name , email , brand) anonymous and it was then the blogger in question who later announced it was her, and subsequently brought all that attention on herself … seems unfair to lay all the blame on the door of a business.

    • Beth Sandland
      Author
      February 10, 2018 / 5:22 pm

      They didn’t cover her details very clearly, and so they were found out by people and she received a torrent of abuse before she made the video. The reality is it was publicity for them both. What I really disagreed with was the fact he ever published it online and the banned ‘all bloggers’. Equally, the same guy has banned vegans, breastfeeding mums and gluten free people so she should’ve done her research better – he’s clearly antagonistic!

  21. February 11, 2018 / 12:25 am

    I totally agree to all your points. And i understand both sides since I used to sell cosmetics/hair care products and would ask bloggers for review in exchange of a product.
    I just started a personal blog, and I haven’t approached any brand. I dont think I have what it takes to make their money worthwhile YET. And personally I am not the kind of person who ask for freebies because I know I can afford stuff or work hard to get it. I have done hotel and product reviews for free, and i have paid for all of them. Hopefully, in time, I will be able to show something worth their time.

  22. March 6, 2018 / 9:44 pm

    That was super great! I am new and still small and have not even thought about approaching businesses or anything like that! I want to get plenty of great content that is true to me and my vision, and have great people who enjoy it for what it is! Then maybe one day I might make a dollar from it or even receive one thing free and that will be lovely! But I absolutely agree that no matter what the content should be excellent always so companies are getting what they pay for and on the flip side they should be willing to pay for the excellent work! Super great read!
    http://Www.gettheeblowdryer.com

  23. Kayleigh
    March 21, 2018 / 7:35 pm

    This is a really cool post. I’m looking into pitching myself to a few companies at the moment and some guidance is definitely needed.

    KB

    http://kbchaos.wordpress.com/

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