Friday, 16 March 2012

Dear Blogger: You have value. Please work for us for free.

I predict this year to be huge for Australian bloggers. Bigger readerships, wider reach, more recognition in the public consciousness .... it's all fun and games until somebody asks to get paid.

Sometimes, the whole weird thing of blogging seems like we're trapped in the story of the Emperors New Clothes. Who's going to be the first to point out when something is clearly not right?

Today, the part of the small boy in the crowd will be played by ... me!

I will only be talking in generalisations here - do not want to hurt people's feelings, or burn any bridges. But for gods sake, if you want a blogger to do something for you, then offer them a fair deal. It's ridiculous ... the past month alone, I have been pitched almost twenty times. By digital agencies in the UK, big brands in Australia, a "mom" advertising blogging network in America, two big media companies. As well as the usual PR pitches and blanket press releases. Total value of pitches - $0.

Here's my deal - I mostly have no idea what I am doing and I'm floundering through. Despite my ballsy tough attitude, I have a low self-esteem. I'm not business-y, and cringe when I have to talk to "bigwigs." The past few months I have been really focused on my blog .. to see if I can earn money as a blogger. The minefields! The frustration! The entitlement! Last year I asked a big company - let's call them, Schmoogle ... if I  ran ads on my site, how much could I expect to receive? I sent them my stats and everything.

They got back to me with a magic number - $150 per day. I read the email and may have cried, walked to my husbands office and said, "Hon, I have arrived!" And we hugged and celebrated. For that one, shiny night ... I had MADE IT as a blogger. When I put my son to bed, the word "Disneyland" was mentioned.

It all came to an abrupt halt when I received another email the next day admitting an error .... Schmoogle meant $150 per MONTH, not day. I was not worth $1050 a week anymore. I was worth $37.50 a week. SUCK IT UP, SWEETHEART. Joke was on me!

Anyway, I digress. What I learnt most about Schmooglegate was to stop trying to earn money ON my site, and to try earn money BECAUSE of my site. This means contributing to places ... I can string sentences together. I have creative ideas. When my life isn't swallowing me whole, I can be QUITE the social media-maven-guru-expert-ask-me-how. What I see happening this year though ... is brands and companies who clearly see the value of what bloggers can do for them, but not offering any renumeration. Just the glory of being ... included? I call foul.

In a recent piece on Forbes called "People Don't Respect Free Work, So Charge Them for It." Selena Rezvani explains,

"If you are asked to pitch in your research, skills, or accumulated experience without some type of compensation now or in the future, I hope you will consider the request very carefully, with a bent toward saying “no.” Better yet, why not use the opportunity as a chance to negotiate better, more favorable terms?"

Why buy the cow if you're getting the milk for free?

I don't think I'm entitled, and I hope that's not how I'm coming across. I'm learning as I go here, and am very aware that sometimes as a new blogger, it is flattering and exciting to be asked to do anything. But every time you put an ad on your site, or do a sponsored post, it comes at a cost. And you need to work extra hard at your content to make up for it. Who wants to read a blog littered with infomercials and crap? Not me.

I've watched the blogging scene unfold over in America for years - the bitchfights, the monetisation, the cloaked secrecy. It's a much bigger market over there, with more money to be made, more slices of pie. (AMERICA, Y U ALWAYS BIGGER BETTER?) That doesn't mean there's not money to be made down here in Australia.

Right? *looks around awkwardly*

Last week I was email-bombed, again and again. By some dude called Lupe. He works for an international ad agency, could I please tell him how much for a text ad on my site for a year so he could send through the contract for me to sign and the money would be in my account in 48 hours! Finally I replied.

"Sure, sounds great! My price is $15,000 for the year. Look forward to receiving the contract!"

He emailed me back, mocking me with a big "Good LUCK." I almost replied, "Dude, your name is Lupe? Good LUCK!"

My free, unasked for advice .. is to bounce ideas off people you trust. See what deals are around, be brave enough to say no. Bloggers and PRs talk to each other. We find out what the other has been offered. It's a small community. I wish there was some kind of Bloggers Alliance, but there's not and never will be. Blogging is a strange beast. I love it. I hate it. I want fairness .... I don't want to be in competition with other bloggers, by companies who throw us a few scraps and expect us to fight over them.

We're worth more than that, surely.

(Insert Leslie Neilson quote here.)

PS I still firmly believe that Schmoogle owes my son a trip to Disneyland.


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