I have been talking a lot about the topic of money and pay for mom bloggers lately. There are a few things that have been aggravating me about the mom blogging scene, but one major one is the perception that mom bloggers work for free (or should).

Many mom bloggers I know are brilliant. They know the ins and outs of social media, Twitter, Facebook and blogging far better than many other so-called gurus do. They are connected, and they are influential. They have a following of loyal and devoted readers, subscribers and social network friends.

Yet they get asked to work for free. They are free spokesbloggers. They get asked to promote companies without pay, or for products or for coupons or for trips.

It’s insulting.

Look, here’s the deal. Mom bloggers do not need companies to not make money. We can do that all on our own. Really. If you are approaching a blogger, asking her to promote your company for free is wrong. It’s as simple as that. If you can say with a straight face that your paycheck is paid in your company’s or client’s products, then please. Call me on this.

We get asked constantly if people can “pick our brains.” No! Our brains are our commodity. They ARE our service. That is called consulting. And moms, if you find you are on the end of this, figure out your hourly rate. Figure out what it is worth to take time away from your work, your blogging, your children and your husband.

When you get asked to have your brain picked, quote your hourly rate for that service.

Now I do understand that many times it is tempting. You see an opportunity to work with a major brand. You think working for free will lead to more work. I do understand that. But it is a slippery slope. Why should someone pay you (or anyone for that matter) for work you are doing for free?

Accepting an item to do a review (if you really want to do that review and it serves your readers) is fine. I would just recommend having a policy of including both pros and cons in all reviews. A review should serve readers first and foremost. Any company that doesn’t understand that? Well, I wouldn’t work with that company. Believe me. They are not insisting traditional journalists do positive reviews. Mom bloggers can and should write reviews that show both the negative and positive about products.

And ladies, I am here to say something else. We have to behave like professionals. If we want to be treated as small business women, which is what we are, we should act like entrepreneurs. No more attacks and back-stabbing. We are adults here.

That includes not judging and condemning fellow mom bloggers. Yes, even those who accept products and trips. They are not bad people. Let’s stop jumping down their throats about it. Because the bottom line is surely every mom blogger would work for pay if there were ethical ways to do it, it did not compromise their readers and they actually wanted to do the work involved. But first, companies have to offer it as a standard mode of doing business with mom bloggers.

How can companies ethically pay mom bloggers? Here are some simple options:

  • Pay them for content on your site, not theirs. In response to this issue, I recently launched Momtent. It is geared at connecting companies with mom bloggers. I am not a fan of paid posts (although with full disclosure, it is a personal choice and I don’t like people telling moms the right way to blog). Momtent’s model is for companies to pay bloggers to write on the company blog. But with or without Momtent, why not hire a mom to write for your blog? Or build it for you? Or tell you how you’re blogging wrong?
  • Advertise. Quit looking at blog advertising the same way you look at traditional advertising. It isn’t the 1990s. They aren’t the same, and never will be. Besides, all those metrics that make you feel all warm and fuzzy about traditional media? They are a smoke screen. Traditional advertising metrics like viewers and circulation mean nothing. Who is seeing your ad? Who cares about it when they see it? Who ACTS on it? And treat blogs with some degree of respect. For traditional media, companies pursue two prongs: they hope to get PR coverage but know it’s a toss-up, and they do media buys. On blogs, they just want free coverage. Watch for a future post about the less tangible benefits of advertising on blogs.
  • Hire her as a spokesblogger. This certainly isn’t a new concept. Celebrities have been doing this for years. Hire a mom blogger to promote your company with transparency, and to clearly state she is a spokesblogger. Pay her as you would any spokesperson. The same rules apply for moms here as celebrities: don’t endorse something (even for pay) that you don’t already love.
  • Hire her as a social media consultant. Mom bloggers know so much more than the average person (or company) about the social web. Hire a mom to walk you through the ins and outs, to have conference calls with your staff, to do training, to run your social media campaigns, to develop your social media strategy. Believe me, doing it wrong can have dreadful repercussions.

I have become increasingly concerned about all of these issues. So many mom bloggers are influence-rich but cash-poor. That is a disturbing disparity. It’s also one destined to blow up as moms get increasingly frustrated while getting increasingly influential.

Let’s all do the right thing here. Companies (and the agencies that represent them), if you want to show your support of the mom blogosphere and engage those of us who control the purse strings, put your money where your mouth is. Bloggers, if you want to be taken seriously act like a business person. And the next time you get a pitch and you are agonizing over whether it even interests your readers, send them your ad rates.

Image of Rosie the Blogger, © Michael Licht

I really would welcome your thoughts on this topic. What do you think? If you have worked for a company without pay, why? Was it because you thought it would lead to paid work down the road?  Did it? Have you had any luck responding to companies with an invitation to advertise when they pitch you? Companies and agencies, have you been paying bloggers and have some good examples of projects?