Why I Turned Down Money (and When You Should Too)


Recently I was offered an assignment with a company I've worked with before. Initially, it looked interesting, and the compensation was fair given the time requirements, but as I looked more into the project's details I realized I couldn't do it.

It wasn't exactly easy to turn down the money, because from now until fall is typically “slower” for me, but it WAS easy to say no to the project. From the beginning, I knew it was a slight stretch for me, and after learning more, I knew that doing it would be crossing a line that I wasn't willing to cross. You know, that line where you're doing it JUST for the money…

As I've mentioned before, and many others have as well, if you get into fashion blogging because you think it's your opportunity for quick fame and fortune, you're going to be disappointed. If you start blogging as a way to share your passion, then you will always find it fulfilling. And quite possibly, you'll make good money doing it. But you must draw that line in the sand that you will never cross, no matter how much money or fame you're offered.

Here are some things to think about when approached for a project or partnership:

Does it add value to your body of work?

Would you be proud using it as a reference? If yes, then of course, do it! But if not, or you feel just a little “embarrassed” or unsure about it, then it's the wrong opportunity for you.

Do you already write about this company?

Or feature them in editorials that you're NOT getting paid directly for? Would you buy something from them? If you said yes to these, then of course, it's a good opportunity. And EVEN if you said no, it MIGHT be a good opportunity, but only if you WOULD write about them if you weren't getting paid. Maybe you haven't yet because you didn't know about them. Or maybe they're giving you an opportunity to try something you wouldn't normally try, but it's still interesting to you, and you know it would resonate with your readers.

If this is the case, then it's worth going for it as long as it never feels like you're compromising on your line in the sand. I have definitely branched out a bit from what I normally feature and talk about for the sake of trying something new and bringing an opportunity to my readers if it was interesting.

Would you be able to credibly defend your decision to your readers if they react negatively to your sponsored post, or project?

This is sort of a hard one, but if you're not willing (or able) to defend your decision and stand behind what you wrote 100% upon publishing it, then do NOT do it. I don't believe you HAVE to defend yourself to your readers necessarily, but if there's a backlash, and it's based on valid concerns from your readers, then you need to be able to say why you took the project. If you feel comfortable telling your readers that you did it because you need the money, then that's fine too, just be able to stand behind it – don't cower or try to backpedal away from what you did.

Of course, if your contact is asking you NOT to disclose your relationship or that they sent you something for free, you should not do it. If they're asking you to do something you know to BE unethical, or if it feels unethical at all, don't do it. Once your post is out there, it's out there; you can't take it back. You may think you can delete it, but people can take screenshots, dig through archives, and go through all sorts of things to pull up old stuff to make a point. Think very carefully before you hit “Publish.”

If you set your expectations for working with brands and companies before you start monetizing, and know what you're willing to do and not do, it will be easy for you to know when to say no. Of course, looking at things on a case by case basis is sometimes warranted, especially if you're still trying to feel out your niche, but overall, having some guidelines in mind for what you WANT to do and what you'll say yes to will help a lot.

[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]

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9 Responses

  1. CynthiaCM

    I agree. I’m part of a blog network and am regularly pitched sponsored assignments (knowing very well that several other people will be pitched the exact same thing). I was recently approached to write about a fast food restaurant. Ummmm, REALLY? FOR MY SITE? Yes, I write about food, and yes, I’ve Instagramed/Tweeted pictures taken at some grab-and-go places, but I rarely write about fast food restaurants unless it’s coffee-related. Actually, I don’t even know if I have! I might sound like a snob, but it’s just not what the site IS. I’m sure I would receive decent money for the post, but I’d much rather write about sitdown places – especially ones that aren’t national or international chains, thank you very much!

  2. tianna

    yeah I’ve been pitched so many sponsored posts before and a lot of the time, I turn them down for the simple fact that they aren’t right for my blog even if they do offer money. There’s no sense in doing something fake because people will always see through it.

  3. Joelle

    As a relatively new blogger, I’m shocked by how many e-mails and inquiries I get from [small and relatively unknown] brands to write a sponsored post about their product. Most of them are completely outlandish, and do not fit with my blog whatsoever, so I just send a polite ‘no thank you’ e-mail back and go about my life.

    It can sometimes be difficult not to fall into the trap of sponsored posts of little value for a quick buck, but completely necessary if you want to build and maintain a solid group of readers.


    • CynthiaCM

      Just a question for you (and other bloggers): Have you received (semi) unsolicited packages? I have, including alternative health products that make no sense for my site. Seriously, all I got was an email that a package was on its way to me. No “do you want it?” or anything like that. I’ve sent an email to the PR agency to (nicely) complain, but I think I might have done a bit of damage, because I don’t hear much from them now. Oh well.

  4. Lyn

    I completely agree but it is good to be reminded of though! I mean, sometimes we get so excited (not only for the money) that we forget who we really are and if it fits ‘us’/our blog.
    This post came at the very perfect timing for me since I get more and more e-mails from companies to work together!
    Thanks a lot 🙂
    xo Lyn

  5. Pronto Lucia

    Learning to say no is the hardest part. But for me in blogging there is one and one rule only as I stam for blogging for fun – you should be always true to your own taste and opinions. You should never do something which is not reflecting your true-self.