When you're starting your business as a blogger, one of the toughest questions you'll face is knowing when to charge and when something should be done for free. It's a delicate process as you want to make sure your work is being compensated for, but if you ask for money for something that is not standard within the industry to be compensated for, then you run the risk of appearing unprofessional.
Many people say the lines are not clear, but in my mind the lines are pretty clear as to what to charge for and what not to charge for. I say “pretty clear,” as things always change. A good general rule of thumb is, if you are asked to do a series of tasks within a certain time-frame on behalf of a brand, then yes, you should charge as it's promotional work. If you are presented with information about a product or an event it's not something you can charge for if you choose to post about it, as it's editorial work. Also, if it's for a charity, don't be a creep and demand a fee (that's why they call it “charity”). The lines can get blurry, so we'll explain in more detail.
When to Charge: If you have a history of getting hundreds, if not thousands of entries for a giveaway an can provide this as a case study. You can package this service as a sponsored post with promotion on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, and you can charge more provided you have a history of success with these channels. Selling in a shared email sign up or getting the brand more Twitter and Facebook sign ups is also a way to make a package more appealing.
When to do it for Free: If you are just beginning your blog, or your testing out to see if your readers like giveaways, this would be an excellent time to start collecting data on how your giveaways do. You can also use a giveaway to promote growth for your own Twitter, Facebook or Newsletter sign-ups in which case you would be promoting yourself. This should also be done at no cost (minus product) for the brand.
When to Charge: If a brand approaches you and wants you do to a “post” on your blog on a specific date, using specific links (usually tracked) in addition to Tweeting, Facebooking, Pinning using specific hastags this is clearly to benefit the brand and should fall under “sponsored post.” Here is where you can utilize data from your previous posts to justify how to charge for a brand. You can also package in other services ie, a Twitter chat or running ads to promote the series on your blog to increase your rate. The more information you have about how much traffic, comments and sharing your posts generally receive can help your case.
Extra Tip: Be sure to work with the brand to determine the topic of the post, and be sure to write the post with your authentic voice, and always, always, always disclose if a post is paid for. A good place to disclose is at the top of the post (where you can work with the brand to make sure you have proper messaging, it gives them a bit more visibility while staying transparent with your readers.)
When to do it for Free: If a brand is sending you information for a new product, or an actual new product, but is not asking for a post to go with it (specifically). While they are contacting you with the hopes of getting a post, they are not requiring it. This is a PR pitch, and is for the purpose of getting a press placement. Asking for a fee is not standard for this type of post. If you like the product, great, you got a scoop! If you don't like the product, just delete the email.
When to Charge: This phenomenon has been around for a while, when a brand sends bloggers the same item and wants them to style it differently for a specific campaign, this absolutely should be for a fee. Since most of the time, the blogger is asked to do this in a specific time frame, post it on their blog and promote it on social media channels, it falls under the category of Sponsored Post (see above).
When to do it for Free: If this is for a good cause, a charity, a startup, as small label you really love, and/or the person who asked you is your friend, it might be good to be a good player and do something nice for them. This pretty much goes for any of the services.
Modeling, Photography, Writing, Designing:
When to charge: Modeling, writing, designing and photography are all industries where people charge for. Because you are a blogger that does not mean you are not really part of that industry. If a brand asks you to to do any of these things and especially if they ask you to blog about it, you need to work out a fee. You could structure it in any number of ways. You can charge for the work, and separately charge for the sponsored post, and perhaps work out a package for them. However, some bloggers they use their blogs as a portfolio for their work so keep this in mind when structuring your package, you'll still want to have data on the performance of your posts.
When not to charge: If you're inexperienced, building up your portfolio and the project could be good for your portfolio. You can always work your way into charging when you're doing a second project. If you're working with a friend on a project that is not paid so you both benefit, this is also a good time not to charge.
Appearances or Event Hosting:
When to Charge: If you are asked to organize an event, invite your contacts and readers, and promote the event on your blog. You absolutely need to charge for this. Events are expensive, they are labor intensive and also, if you have great examples of successful events you have put together, then you can really sell in a great opportunity for the brand. If you're asked to host and the brand is doing all the labor but they still want you to promote the event on your blog as part of their proposal to you, then you should charge them for a sponsored post. This would be a great opportunity to sell in other services to provide a more robust package.
When to do it for free: If a brand invites you to attend their event. They're just inviting you. Don't ask for money. Just don't go if you don't want to go.
When to Charge: If a brand asks you to write for their branded blog on a regular basis. By all means, charge money for this. Going rates for guest posting are not as high as sponsored posts. You might want to ask around for what a post usually goes for. You could use this as an opportunity to sell in your influence to help promote the blog by building a robust package that includes promotion on your own blog which then you can charge at sponsored post rates.
When to do it for Free: If guest posting is a traffic and exposure building strategy you are using for your own blog, and you are pitching your posts to various publications, then you really should be doing this for free as you are promoting yourself.
Rule of thumb:
Check around other industries and research what constitutes payment and what should be done for free. Check with publications, look at their media kits to see what they charge for. Most of all, listen to yourself and see what you are comfortable charging money for and what makes you feel creepy. But don't shy away from asking because you are afraid of asking, you never know what doors might open for you.