I don’t work for free.
I don’t work for free.
This may seem like a ridiculous thing to say. “Of course you don’t work for free,” you might say. But people ask me, and many other creative people to do just that.
It’s easy to think that you should say yes to working for free. It starts fairly innocently. When I first felt like I had made it as a blogger, the requests for sponsorship started to roll in. A brand would send me a product to review, and I would. Then they would send me an email asking for the raw picture files, or for me to cut apart my videos and send them only 0:27–1:41. But they would never offer payment. They wouldn’t even think of reimbursing me for the cost of my time. They also wouldn’t offer me any kind of trade. No attribution attached to video clips of my own face, and I was once sent a very snarky email when I asked for a redirect to my own website in return for all of the work I was doing. One link was all I asked for. The PR representative’s reasoning? “It’s hard to drive traffic to our website as it is! We can’t send it away,” as if I didn’t know how difficult it is to generate traffic. They said no, so I said no.
And it’s hard to say no. The first few “sponsors” who offered me a deal like this were incredibly hard to say no to. Would they ever work with me again? Was I burning bridges? Sometimes it seemed like the answer was yes. A few of those early brands did choose not to work with me again after I gave them a firm but polite no. I assume they moved on to find some up-and-coming blogger who would say yes.
But you shouldn’t say yes. You should value your time. Even Taco Bell will pay you $10+ an hour in many states. I think of the investments that I have made in my blog, well before sponsors came knocking, well before I had what I would even consider to be an audience. The cameras, domain hosting, web design…these things don’t come cheap, and that’s not even mentioning my time. Because my time is what they are asking me to give freely here.
So you, new bloggers, mid-size bloggers, graphic designers, creative students…they’re going to come for you too. It will seem flattering, maybe even fair, but it’s not. As so many people have said before me, you can’t pay the rent with exposure.
State your terms. Be clear. Stick to your price. If they say no, you say no. Your skills are valuable, but only if you treat them like they are.