Working With Companies: Asking for Compensation
By: Ashley Robison

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In last week’s post on the Vogue Influencer Network, a lovely gal named Laura asked:

I have been approached by companies before wanting me to do posts about their new website/product before, and no one has ever mentioned compensation. I’d really love someone to do an article about how you approach the subject of compensation with companies. I know I would feel rude emailing them back simply stating ‘Whats in it for me’ Is there a certain etiquette that we should be following?

I can’t speak for a certain etiquette– I can only know what I’ve personally done and what works and what hasn’t worked in the past.

 

To start with, here are some excellent articles, both from the IFB archives and other excellent sites, that talk about working with brands & companies and compensation on a whole:

I learned to ask for compensation when working with text link advertisers.  You know the type– you receive an email saying,

Hi, I like your site and thought my site would fit well on your blogroll.  It is called “Wholesale Women’s Clothing.”  If you send me your link, I’d be happy to put it up!  Alternately, we’d be happy to do a guest post for your site.

These advertisers are trying to leverage a link on your site for a higher Pagerank and Alexa ranking, so I never share a link without compensation (*See the above post: Fashion & SEO and Are Text Links…).  When I used Text Link Ads, they helped determine a rate for text link sales– they charged advertisers $15-20 per month, so that’s where I begin my negotiations.   So I might write back something like,

Hi there,
Thank you for your interest in Dramatis Personae! I don’t accept shared link or guest posts,, but you’re welcome to purchase an ad or link on my site.  Rates begin at $15 per month, and there is a discounted rate for 6 months and 12 months purchased upfront.  If you are interested, please let me know.

Now, a lot of text advertisers back down as soon as you ask for money.  Regardless of whether you sell a link or not, it’s a great way to get comfortable asking for compensation.

 

Sometimes a company will email you with a specific idea in mind– maybe they want a banner on your site or perhaps they’d like a sponsored post with a certain number of anchor texts (text links, like above).  Having an idea of what rates you’d ask for things individually makes it easier to come up with a rate.

 

You could receive an email like:

Dear Sara Jane Sally Sue Blogger,
I really love your site and was hoping we could work together.  Our company, SUPER AWESOME FASHION WEAR!! would love for you to do a post about our company with a link to SUPER AWESOME FASHION WEAR!! that says “sexy club clothes.”   What do you think?

An easy response back to them could be something like,

Dear Martha Marketer at SUPER AWESOME FASHION WEAR,
Thanks so much for the kind words about my site! I’d be happy to discuss options of sponsored posts with you– my policy on those is that I get full editorial control, but give you the ability to share special sales and information about the company and incorporate anchor links in posts.  Sponsored posts begin at $100 and vary based on your own needs. I look forward to hearing from you!

Here, you’re putting compensation into their hands– you’re giving them the ability to come back and negotiate, but you’re letting them know that there IS a cost. At this point, they can chose to say, “Hey, $100 is not a problem!” or “Well, our budget isn’t that high, how about $50?” (hint: I rarely accept a lower negotiation) or they can just not email you back.

 

As for etiquette when broaching the topic of compensation:

  • Be nice and polite. Simple, but true.  While I like to think all text advertisers are cheap jerks, the fact is that they’re people doing a job (and one you may know more about than they do).
  • Be realistic. I’ve found that a lot of bloggers undervalue their ad space, and as a result, it’s harder to ask for more money (even if it’s what your site is worth).  Know what the going rates are on blogs comparable in size to you, in the same niche, so you can have numbers handy to share.  Asking for $500 when you have a site with 5,000 monthly visitors is probably going to be rejected.
  • Ask them for alternatives. If they can’t come up with the funds, don’t want to pay it, you can reasonably (and politely!) ask, “Well, what other means of compensation could you provide?”  Maybe they can’t give you cash, but can give you a gift certificate to a store, products, etc.  It may not be cash (which, if you’re a professional blogger, is what you need to pay your bills!), but it’s compensation nonetheless.
  • Remember business is business. They’re trying to do business and you, likewise, should treat the interaction like it’s a business deal.

 

Everyone else– join in,  share your own tips and tricks, what has worked and what hasn’t when asking for compensation!

 

Image by Tamaki.

Comments

  1. crosby says:

    I love “sexy club clothes!” I keep getting increasingly more desperate emails from “Hot Tanning Beds.”

    In any case, I have a hard time with text links and have yet to do one, because they just don’t seem to fit in with my site. However, it is tempting to make a cool c-note on simply putting “women’s bathrobes” on your site!

    On the PR side of things, I often get a bit confused about what bloggers are used to/expecting these days – so this was helpful! My idea has been basically, if you are pitching editorial coverage, ie “take a look at X thing and if you like it we’d love you to consider writing about it,” then that is just standard media relations and a cornerstone of how PR provides value to clients. I think sample products for review can be useful in getting a more accurate review/story, so when possible I am happy to send out the pretties! However, to me, it makes sense to start the compensation train if you are asking for a longer-term engagement or the opportunity to use that blogger in an ad campaign or content piece on a brand site.

    I’d love to hear from bloggers about examples of working with companies where both parties really felt they got something of value (money or not) out of the exchange.

    xo
    Crosby

  2. MJ says:

    Very well put! The IFB Fair Compensation Manifesto helped me out a lot when it came to asking for compensation for things like sponsored posts and just writing work period. Your space is valuable as well as your time!

    If a company wants me to cover something or do sponsored posts, I take into consideration how much time it’s going to take me to do as well as time away from normal schedule, as well as any restrictions they may put on these posts. If, for instance, they want certain posts up at a certain time, a certain number of tweets, etc. then we are getting into a higher pay bracket because it’s restricting my editorial freedom. It gets into the same territory as a freelance job/project and that’s how I look at it, making it easier to determine compensation.

  3. YM Ousley says:

    Good post. From an SEO perspective, paid links that are easily identified as paid links can sometimes end up not being very effective in the long run anyway. As a publisher, it’s probably best practice to not take on too many (or any) paid, followed links because after a while not only can Google start to devalue that one link, but many of the other links on your site as well.

    Paid links which are nofollowed (rel=nofollow) or redirected so that they don’t pass link juice are generally seen as okay/non-manipulative.

  4. Freya says:

    Great post Ashe! I think setting specific cost goals is really important too. Most of my sponsors are actually for live events, and I have a one sheet that clearly states sponsorship levels, so then I can still negotiate, but companies know from the get go what my going rates are.

    I love the tone of your response emails. I definitely can have trouble coming up with the correct level of politeness and business speak sometimes!

  5. This is something I get asked by other bloggers a lot. I have advertising experience and know full well the costs of print ads and SEO etc so use this to price my blog by. I have a standard rates sheet which I email out to inquiring companies as you say they will either be serious and discuss things with you, or run a mile when they realise they cannot take advantage of your site for free! It is important that blogger put a value on their own websites, then the companies which would like to work with them will respect this.

  6. Daniel Dunt says:

    This post is fantastic; I have read many emails where it basically sounds like a company is trying to get something out of you for free; in such cases I simply state “No thank you!” or alternatively “currently I am not in a position where I can agree offering free promotion, despite the fact that I do admire your work. Alternatively, if you are in a position where you would be happy to begin discussing negotiations in the near future, I would be more than happy to negotiate a placement and price which is suitable for your company.” – This way you are welcoming the company/business to get back to you in the future and I have to say, just recently two companies from months back recontacted me and began banging on about compensation and what they would like from a post of advertisement, etc. My advice? simply ensure that you are polite to all of the companies/businesses which reach out to you, as you have to appreciate that often the business is new and can simply not afford to splash out £100 on a sponsored post or advertisement; I’ve always found everything works out well in the end! – Daniel Dunt

  7. Laura says:

    Thankyou! This helped a lot, nice to know that you’re all paying attention to our comments :)

  8. 3QC says:

    Thank you for the informative post – it’s very helpful.

    Can you also talk about the legal and logistical aspects of getting compensated? For example, in what format can I ask for payment, tax implications, does the blog need a business license in order to ask for compensation or can I accept payment as an individual etc.

  9. Joy says:

    Thanks so much, Ashe.
    I love reading your wise posts and have always referred them to other non-IFB bloggers as well.
    Joy x

  10. Rebecca says:

    This is great information. Thanks so much for sharing!

  11. Thank you for these tips!

    I’ve only been approached with 1 brand that wanted a review post (which I did for $25) and I brand that wanted to host a giveaway (which I didn’t receive compensation for) Do you think that bloggers should receive compensation for hosting giveaways?

  12. Dane says:

    I love the content and learn lots from it since I am new in this business. Great information for the starter like me :) Will keep on reading with other related posts :)

  13. Neahle Ize says:

    This is great advice for a hobby blogger. I have yet to receive a request for free advertising. As a professional marketer it saddens me that there are companies out there that would so blatantly attempt to take advantage of bloggers. In a day and age when consumers are supremely aware of when they’re being advertised to, it’s important to build relationships with people who will advocate for your brand and this is not the way to do it. It just might create a movement against you thanks to forums like IFB.

  14. Joey says:

    Thank you so much for this great article! This has helped me a lot as I always wonder if my way of bringing up compensation was okay

  15. JaclynK says:

    This is a really helpful article. I have just started getting approached by advertisers and at first I think I had the mentality that any sort of advertising would be good, but now I’m taking a more business-like approach to it. Just because someone emails me saying they like my site and think my readers would enjoy their product doesn’t mean I need to work with them if they don’t really offer anything that is something I would promote. Thanks for the great tips, I would be so lost without helpful posts like this!

  16. Charles says:

    I’ve banned all designer advertising on modacycle.com. If we cover it, we don’t take money to promote it. There is so little journalistic integrity in the fashion press right now, it’s just insane.

What do you think?