Blogging is a tough business. There are no real clear business models out there to make money (yet) and we're all experimenting trying to figure out what works. What worked a few years ago, like banner ads and affiliate marketing are on their way out. Many bloggers (myself included) struggle with trying to find out what works, and spend a lot of time developing our own blogs, and most of us don't get paid for it.
We've really developed a culture of free on the internet, and in many cases that's the best part. People treat their content differently if it's a labor of love than if it were their job. Besides, doing guest posts are great ways to develop community. Introducing people to each other is a beautiful way to build relationships. Sharing images helps get your work noticed. It's the spirit of the web right now, and giving makes the web a nice place.
But what happens with a company decides to start their own corporate blog, to get in on the blogosphere and use independent bloggers hoping to get ‘exposure' to generate free content. I'm not just talking startups (which also do this) but established companies that you and I have heard about and see in stores. Recently, a company approached me to write for their blog, with ‘exposure' for compensation (even though their blog gets less traffic than mine), and it's always a tossup, because, as an independent blogger, I feel like I want to build a relationship, at the same time, time is limited, and I would rather spend my time building IFB or my own blog, than help a company who can pay a blogger, and chooses not to.
I'm sure you've all run into this, whether it be to write for someone else's blog, or to submit images to a book, or someone asks for your contacts for free. All stuff that sounds nice, it makes you feel like you are important, for a minute. But then the questions start coming, like ‘how much is my time worth?' And the fear sets in after that, ‘If I say no, then they'll just ask someone else who will do it for free.'
This fear is what makes it possible for companies to take advantage of bloggers. I've experienced it many times, and have heard similar stories from other bloggers, it seems any time we all meet, there tends to be a point where there's a group therapy session on our collective experience. Online, it's hard to pinpoint when you should charge, and when you shouldn't. Whether it's a labor intensive giveaway contest, or someone pumping you for contacts, using your hard-earned influence to add value to their brand or corporate blog, these things have value to companies, my opinion, is if they can afford to place an ad in a magazine, hire a PR company, and have a snazzy website, they can afford to compensate a blogger.
How do you decide who gets your time for free, and who has to pay? Here are my guidelines which are always in a state of evolution:
I'll do it for free…
• If it's a friend who needs help
• If it's a non-profit cause I believe in
• If I am interested in developing a relationship and community with this entity
• If it's not too labor intensive
• If they are flexible with the results
• If it's clearly an exchange ie. substantial traffic and exposure
• If I feel they would pay me if they could
• If I feel that they truly respect what I do
• If I truly respect and admire what they do
I will ask for compensation….
• If it is a company who should be able to fairly compensate
• If it is *too* labor intensive
• If they want specific results
• If they didn't say ‘thank you' for the last favor I did them
• If this isn't the first or second time they asked for labor intensive help
• If it's clearly a benefit to them and they do not respect what I do
• If I don't see any clear benefit to me or my community
• If if their causes are strictly monetary
What are your parameters for deciding on how you should be compensated?