Last night I noticed something that bothered me.
A potential client had posted in a popular bloggers’ Facebook group; they were researching a travel project that included accommodation and expenses, and could the blogger’s give them an idea of the day rate they’d expect?
So far, so promising…
Not surprisingly the post got a great response from people, offering a range of rates. But there were also quite a few who offered to complete the week-long commission for free (ie: just their expenses repaid).
Here’s why it bugged me: firstly, the client has quite clearly stated they’re prepared to pay the blogger for their time and expertise, so why on earth are people essentially responding with: ‘No, that’s OK – you keep your (tax-deductible) money and give it to someone else instead, as my time has no worth.’?
Secondly: even if the idea of a ‘free’ week away sounds like payment enough, it’s not. Blogging is no longer a cute little hobby – it’s a hugely growing business that is rapidly overtaking the traditional magazine and journalism industry (read more here about why I believe travel writers should be paid). If your dream is to eventually turn your blogging into a genuine money-making career that you can fit in around your family, you need to stop working for free, NOW.
Not only does it undermine your own worth, it erodes that of the entire industry. It might sound dramatic, but it’s true – if people can get away with paying someone else £20 for a job, they’re never going to pay you (or anyone else) £200.
Thirdly, if you start off underselling yourself, it’s really, really hard to ever get your rates up to a reasonable level. Start as you mean to go on – even if it means turning work down until you get the price you want. Believe in yourself, and your value – if you don’t, no one else is going to.
Finally, so much of blogging is already unpaid (opinion pieces, social media promotion, time spent engaging on other blogs) – so why would you turn down payment for the small percentage of work that is paid?
There’s been a lot of backlash recently about being asked to work for exposure (you’ve probably seen the story about LAURA’S LITTLE BAKERY). Don’t get me wrong – there are definitely situations where it’s worth giving up a bit of time for a good quality backlink (which will boost your Google ranking and, in turn, enable you to ask for higher rates), or a charity you want to support.
But I’m talking a parenting quote, or an anecdote for a fellow blogger, or a ‘passion project’ post for a non-profit cause you feel strongly about. When people have a budget and are clearly prepared to pay, why on earth would you offer to do it for nothing?
Would you go for an interview, get the job, then tell them to forget about the salary – all you want in return is a bus pass to get to work, and maybe a few extra quid for lunch?
Would your plumber waive his fee, just because you recommended him to your friends? Would Starbucks refund the cost of your coffee, just because you Instagrammed a flat lay of your morning java? Not likely.
So just stop it! Stop selling yourself short and telling people your time is worthless, and stop undermining an industry that – if we all stick together – is both willing AND able to provide flexible careers and financial freedom for parents who’d otherwise be prevented from working due to the childcare juggle (speaking of which, you should read more about how to get the PR jobs you really want).
You might think you’re helping yourself, but in fact you’re spoiling it for everyone.
• still not convinced your time is money? Try reading ‘This Photo is Not for Free‘, The Arts Don’t Work For Free, and Why Women Need to Stop Working for Free or join the Stop Working for Free Facebook group.
• photo ‘Piggy Bank’ courtesy of Shutterstock