10 Things That Don’t Equal Payment

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So someone has asked you to blog, act as consultant, or create some sort of social media campaign for them. That’s terrific! Hopefully you’re receiving fair compensation and you’re not offering your services for free. Hopefully the work you’re doing is equal to the payment you receive.

You see, there are tactics used by some agencies and individuals that sort of look like you’re receiving payment, but you’re actually not. Or what is offered as compensation doesn’t quite match the work you’re putting into gig.

Don’t fall for cheapskate tactics.

What follows are some things that folks are offering in return for a job, but kind of miss the mark:

  1. Links: Links are not payment. If a brand offers to link to your blog in exchange for your blogging, tweeting and promoting their product, ask yourself who is getting the better end of the deal. People don’t visit a major brand to follow links back to bloggers and those links don’t necessarily send traffic your way. They certainly don’t send any money your way, so why blog for a link?
  2. Gift cards: Three hours of work and you receive a gift card for a cup of coffee or some fast food? Something is kind of wrong with this picture, don’t you think? When it comes to payment, I like to look at it this way – if my bank will take it in exchange for the mortgage, it’s payment. Last I checked, my bank doesn’t take gift cards. Also, if someone is getting paid cash money for a campaign, good cash money, and that person is hiring you for a cheapo gift card, there’s something wrong there.
  3. Products: Products are cool for a product review, as one can’t do the other without, right?  And brand ambassadors should be able to speak about products with confidence, right? These are scenarios where it’s understandable you’ll receive some product if you’re to talk about it. However, your time is worth more than spaghetti. Your bank doesn’t take spaghetti. A box of spaghetti doesn’t equal several hours worth of work. Therefore, spaghetti isn’t a payment. Even beyond pasta, if you’re being promised high end products in exchange for your services, do a little math. Maybe you’re being offered a product that costs $1,000. However, if you’re spending a year working for a brand, you’re getting the crappy end of the stick. One year doesn’t equal $1,000. Be smart about what you accept for payment.
  4. Contest entries: Lordy, where do I start with this one?  So you write up a post, give a tweet, share on Facebook and get all your friends to do the same. Let’s say this is two hours worth of work, and the client wants to offer you as compensation entry into a contest – a contest you, in all probability, may not win. This makes no sense. It’s like me saying, “Please rake my leaves. When you’re done, I’ll put your name in a hat and if I pull it out, I’ll pay you.” Contests are contests, they’re not compensation.
  5. A mention: Someone will type your name on a random website somewhere? How exactly is this going to put food on your table? How is it going to drive traffic to you? How is this going to help you in any way? You get more exposure writing your own blog post – and it’s more rewarding.
  6. A tweet: See: “A mention” above.
  7. Promises: Does this sound familiar? “If you blog for us now, we’ll pay you when we have a budget.” I have news for you, if someone paid the party who is hiring you, they have a budget – they’re just not choosing to share it with you. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but most people who promise payment at a later date, won’t ever have that budget for you. Also, once you’re branded as someone who will work for little or nothing, it’ll be hard to receive decent payment.
  8. Good juju: Guest posts for fellow bloggers are one thing. They offer something of value. For example, links back and community awareness. You don’t get the same thing when you work out of the goodness of your heart for a client. Working for the vibe is an excellent way to give back to a charity or support a fellow blogger. However, brands can afford to pay bloggers. The only one feeling good is them.
  9. Lunch: “Hey, if you do this for me, I’ll buy you lunch at the next conference.” Um, no thanks.  I just asked my banker, and he said I can’t pay him in sammiches. Your time is worth way more than a McPayment.
  10. Exposure: You can get exposure by guest posting, tweeting, and hanging out at conferences. You’re not going to get it by pimping spaghetti. Brands won’t be publicly singing your praises after you Tweet for them.

Here’s a bonus tip: Giveaway products for your own contests aren’t compensation either. Giveaway traffic is short-lived, plus contests take a lot of time and effort to coordinate. The only ones receiving a benefit from contests are the brand and the winner.

I know there are cases where bloggers work in exchange for very little. For example, helping out friends. However, if you’re going to spend hours working as a consultant or to help a brand or client, you deserve a fair wage. You don’t deserve gift cards or contest entries. You deserve to be able to pay your mortgage.

Can you pay your mortgage?

Photo copyright Katia Gelman

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Avatar of Deb NgAbout the author: Deb Ng (1 Posts)

Deb Ng is a professional blogger, social media enthusiast and Conference Director for BlogWorld Expo. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @debng or catch her blog at Kommein.com.

 

Comments

  1. Miss Britt

    December 20, 2010

    The worst I’ve seen – the CHANCE to win a gift card.

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    • Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

      December 20, 2010

      I SO agree. It makes me cringe every time.

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    • 24 7 Victoria

      January 6, 2011

      When I see “a chance to win a gift card” after posting a video or tweeting or writing a blog post, I hit delete.

      The more of us who hit delete will make them rethink their outreach plan if they get no response. And their client will want them to get a response so they will have to think about what WILL give them results they want.

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    • Lisa from Life with Lisa

      January 10, 2011

      I generally do not do these….time consuming and I never win anything.

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  2. Karen

    December 20, 2010

    I love this post, and the information in it. I want to be paid, I want to be paid I want to be paid,.

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  3. Gayla

    December 20, 2010

    If I had only $5 for every hour invested in product giveaways or links, I’d be a very wealthy woman now. I’m over the working for nothing – companies enjoyed it while lit lasted, but bloggers are getting much smarter now. :)
    Great post Deb!

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  4. Char

    December 20, 2010

    Deb, as usual you hit this one right on the head! One way I have been able to deal with companies asking for reviews or wanting to sponsor giveaways is by requiring them to purchase ad space on my site first. Once they are an official sponsor of the site, then doing a review or a giveaway is a benefit for them. I have also found that by becoming a site sponsor the relationship has been a more long term one.

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    • Avatar of Deb Ng

      Deb Ng

      December 20, 2010

      Char, I don’t understand why more companies just don’t pay bloggers for advertising if that’s what they’re after?

      I also don’t understand why more bloggers don’t say, “well sure, I’ll do that for you. Here is my media kit including advertising rates. Let me know what size ad you want.”

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      • Char

        December 20, 2010

        You will not believe this one. I got an email from a company today for another one of my sites. They are holding “tryouts” to be one of their 10 brand ambassadors and the tryout consists of writing a blog post on your own blog. Seriously? The compensation? Product from the brand. Yep that’s it. But they said more details would be available after you are picked for the “team”. Yeah, right. I’d like to know all the details before I waste my time writing an article for them.

        For grins, I sent a message back asking “how much time I would need to budget for the project and what my return on time investment would be?”

        Their response “If you tryout and are selected as a member of xxxxxx, you will receive apparel multiple times a year. When you receive the apparel we would like you to deliver honest reviews of the product and help generate awareness of the xxxxx brand to your readers. Throughout the year we may have online webcasts and Twitter parties. We would like our Team to participate in those online events. Some of the other benefits of being on the team may include: discount codes for your readers, giveaways and xxxxx tips.”

        Wow! Sounds like a lot of work for the blogger for no monetary compensation and a lot of free exposure for the brand.

        I will send them my media kit with my ad rates. If they are interested in my audience, they can buy ad space.

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  5. Kim - Mommycosm

    December 20, 2010

    This is GREAT. It pretty much sums up my take-away from Type-A Mom this year. It changed my perspective and empowered me to outline my payment structure.

    I know some new bloggers see some of these as opportunities to showcase their abilities – like a job interview. THAT can only be justified for a very short amount of time. IMHO, once you have a “portfolio” you should be finding ways to receive cash for payment. If can’t communicate your worth, how will companies/brands know you are worthy?

    Also…I like the offer to review slippers that went around recently. You only get ONE to review. That’s my favorite so far.

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  6. Avatar of Deb Ng

    Deb Ng

    December 20, 2010

    Agreed! Why would anyone put out time and effort at the chance of receiving something that isn’t even proper pay?

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  7. Lisa

    December 20, 2010

    I think in this economy, bartering is what is keeping many people afloat. Just make sure you agree to something that feels fair. Nothing wrong with it. Be proactive in your business and think it through – get it in writing and follow through. Make sure that you follow up on it. The key is to look at it like a business transaction b/c that is what it is. If your going to barter for gift cards make sure you need something and can use it – that way you don’t feel cheated. You can’t barter for too many projects or you’ll be out of business.

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    • Avatar of Deb Ng

      Deb Ng

      December 20, 2010

      Hi Lisa,

      I think bartering is fine within reason and that it’s a fair, equal exchange. Two hours of work in exchange for a contest entry doesn’t quite add up.

      Also, it’s been my experience as a freelance writer, that once you’re branded as someone who will work in exchange for stuff or for free or very little, it’ll be hard to request serious pay in the future. If you want to start out low, that’s one thing, but be sure to request higher levels of pay as you gain more experience.

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  8. Jeanne Grunter

    December 20, 2010

    Yes, I love this one too – “When we have a budget (or start making money), we will pay you.” Um, no. Is that how things work with your doctor, lawyer, or accountant? Or how about walking into Macy’s, grabbing that leather jacket you want, and as you walk out yell back, “Hey! I’ll come back and pay you when I have the budget, okay?”

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  9. Mary@Everyday Baby Steps

    December 20, 2010

    Amen, Deb. I am getting smarter about what I will accept in exchange for mention on my site. However, if it’s something that’s meaningful to me, I will still take product or gift card in exchange for mention. I weight the value of the item vs. time spent. I’m not going to spend the amount of time on a post for product or gift card as I would for decent pay though. I don’t think the brand/PR can expect as much. You get what you pay for.

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  10. Kelly

    December 20, 2010

    I love the point you are making-if you’re in it for a business none of these things will help.

    I will say occasionally there are campaigns I get asked to do that pay in gift cards (not cheap ones-but equivalent to my rates), and I kind of scratch my head at that. I’ve asked before for cash money instead and they always come back saying they are sorry but they have to make the payment in the form of a gift card.

    There are two reasons I don’t get this:
    1) there is always a fee involved on the buying end (typically $3-6 per card)
    and
    2) it’s an insult. It makes me feel like they think I’m in blogging for a shopping budget, or “pin money” not real money.

    I do think there is a certain level of not understanding these basics when you are new to blogging. Newbies need to be encouraged to work for free by guest posting or building their platform versus working for free for brands.

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    • Avatar of Deb Ng

      Deb Ng

      December 20, 2010

      Kelly,

      I think a couple of the reasons folks pay via gift cards and not money might have to do with taxes. Corporate gifts are often tax deductible and if they don’t consider it “payment” requiring your tax info, etc. They don’t have to go through all the hassle of reporting it and dealing with it come tax time.

      This is how one potential client explained it to me. However, my accountant tells me they are mistaken. Anything considered payment, whether it’s a box of spaghetti or a gift card, is taxable.

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  11. pickel

    December 20, 2010

    I’ve had to turn down some writing gigs lately (from very good friends) because of promises and I hate it. I just can’t work for free because I don’t have time. I would love to bc I honor and respect them and I just wish I could.

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  12. Amy @ Taste Like Crazy

    December 20, 2010

    The evolution this debate/discussion has taken since I started blogging is a pretty amazing thing to watch.

    A long time ago, in an interwebs far, far away, the idea a blogger would expect actual payment in addition to a product was almost sacrilege. “That will influence your opinion!!! No one will ever trust you!!! Think of your readers!!!”

    Lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued.

    It makes me very, very happy that bloggers seem to be appreciative of not only their worth but of their time’s worth.

    Well done, Deb.

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  13. Cathy

    December 20, 2010

    Love, love, love!!!

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  14. barb g

    December 20, 2010

    I love this post I’m glad someone finally wrote it bringing all of this up!
    I hate the “chance” to get a gift card for blogging the most. Also when they
    say blog for us & we’ll pay you once we can they might as well be saying once we make a million dollars we’ll give you a share.

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  15. Mary Jo

    December 20, 2010

    I allocate a given number of hours of work each year for “pro bono” (free)efforts. Part of that is “paying back” all the people who were kind and generous with time helping me when I was a newbie; part of it is “paying it forward” because I believe in karma.

    But I also need to pay a mortgage, eat, and afford to travel. So when I get these free/trade type of requests, I weigh the return of the effort against my bank of pro bono hours. I usually break it down on a monthly basis, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. This allows me to help out worthy causes, return favors, and mentor without letting it get in the way of making a living.

    I used to barter for business services (i.e., set up a website in return for design work). My accountant said to stop. She said to always pay for business expenses as they are deductible, and to barter for personal services and goods (i.e., I’m going to manage my landscaper’s website in exchange for weekly service).

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  16. ABDPBT

    December 20, 2010

    What about being allowed to post AdSense code in your post? Does that equal payment?

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    • Avatar of Deb Ng

      Deb Ng

      December 20, 2010

      It depends. I’m assuming you mean blogging for someone else to receive Adsense payment as compensation? If it’s for someone who gets no traffic or clicks, it’s not really worth it. However, if it’s for a highly traffic blog and converts well, it could work. Before agreeing to work for Adsense, do a little research to make sure the other party has the traffic and community.

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  17. Chele

    December 20, 2010

    Okay I love this! It will help me! Thank you! The End! LOL. I have been paid for one ad in the past year, I have yet to make money to help feed my family. I’m not in it for the fun of it and this post is a life savor! Thanks again Deb!! :)

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  18. April

    December 20, 2010

    Wow Deb! What an excellent post!

    As a clutter coach providing a service to my clients ~ I understand all these points. With the transition into social media though, I saw so many struggling with these gray areas.

    After wrapping up a contract for a client organizing contributor outreach {guest posting} I realized there are so many talented writers in our community that deserve a paycheck.

    I was inspired to begin creating a way to advocate for the “rights of bloggers / writers”, kind of like a talent agent. This post has given me a great start to guidelines for potential contracts. I plan to reference it when a brand / agency replies with any of the above!

    Thank you!

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  19. lisa @thebeadgirl

    December 21, 2010

    wow…great post. THANK YOU for sharing!

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  20. Sarah Cook @RaisingCEOKids

    December 21, 2010

    This is EXCELLENT Deb and all the comments have been fabulous as well! I wish I had read your article a year ago when I started blogging. I would have set up systems right away. On my To Do list is putting media kid/systems in place! Thank you!

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  21. CarolinaMama

    December 21, 2010

    Great job Kelby! I have to say Rayovac Batteries is great with compensating their Rayovac Power Bloggers and the bloggers that we (power blogger team) work with – for the first time, I was able to help a new MomBlogger get her first social media paid and product! project! Everyone won and everyone was happy!

    More companies can follow their model. And yes, I needed to hear this reminder. I had a big company this week tell me how great I am, they want to work with me, and they can only pay my expenses to promote their product… Great reminder. I remember the day I realized this is a business! One I am thrilled to own.

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  22. Saidah @ AProverbsWife.com

    January 5, 2011

    I think bloggers have to stop being afraid to get a “NO!”

    If a company says they don’ have a budget…okay fine. What are you losing if you say you can’t do a gig for FREE.

    It’s not the end of the world. I always remember that I started out blogging for a hobby. It was a company that courted me out of the blue. It didn’t validate my worth. My value is in the content I share and if companies want to promote using my platform they will pay.

    I have a pre-written response for companies that approach me about a gig. If it’s a good fit I tell them three things in my reply.

    1- I’d be interested in working with them.

    2- I’m reasonably priced.

    3- I can provide my rate sheet and media kit upon request.

    No fears. I’ve wrote about how I approach PR companies looking to promote on my blog. You can read it here: http://aproverbswife.com/2010/12/a-public-relations-firm-contacted-you-now-what.html

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  23. Avatar of Melanie Nelson

    Melanie Nelson

    January 8, 2011

    I so agree with your bonus tip. I used to run a successful giveaway site and I did not accept product as payment, I accepted cold, hard cash. I didn’t want the product because I wasn’t reviewing it (and didn’t need more stuff) and I recognized that a giveaway is really advertising more than anything else. The work that goes into coordinating a large-scale (and even smaller) giveaways is phenomenal. You definitely need to consider that.

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  24. Avatar of Melanie Nelson

    Melanie Nelson

    January 8, 2011

    Also? I love the word sammiches.

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