October 19, 2010

Will Blog For Anything But Money

by

This past weekend I attended Blog World in Las Vegas. There was a lot of discussion about monetization. How, as a blogger, do you make money from your website.  It’s a common source of dialogue between and among ‘mommy bloggers’. How does the mommy blogger make money?

Well, here’s the deal. Very few jobs in this world pay with product. Utilities and credit cards can not be paid with stuff. But, for some reason, it became the norm to offer payment to women in the form of products or sometimes just a pat on the back with the hope of getting something in the future.

I went to law school. At no time was there ever a discussion about how I would be paid. When I went to business school I was never taken aside and told that instead of being paid in dollars I would be getting whatever product my employer sold. I’ve worked for myself and have never issued an invoice for anything other than cold hard cash.

So when I started to blog and learned about monetization, I was somewhat surprised to learn that the mommy blogger is often paid in stuff. Random randomness. Whatever the business sells, it gives to the mommy blogger as payment for a blog post. Some of this random randomness is pretty sweet. Who wouldn’t want to be a Frigidaire Mom? I’d like these cool appliances, I’m not going to lie. But FTC disclosures would require you, the reader, to be told if they received compensation. Did you notice there was none of that. No mention of compensation other than use of the product. Even then it appears that the products were not given to the blogger but rather only loaned for a 3-month test period.

This is more the norm. I’m cool that these women are testing these products and sharing their real in-home experiences. Knowing how products or services really work can be exceptionally helpful. But why is it the norm that mommy bloggers are not paid with cold hard cash? Why is money so taboo?

Talking about income and salary is often taboo and I respect the need for confidentiality. But I also respect the desire of women to earn an income. But, its a model we as mommy bloggers have established. Several years ago we were afraid to ask for money. It seemed easier to say, ‘Oh, just give me one of those cool widgets.’ instead of ‘That will be [insert appropriate dollar amount].’ I’m not sure why, though.

I don’t know why we, as women, felt that our time, knowledge and influence was not worthy of cold hard cash. I don’t know why we, as mommy bloggers, became the equivalent of the internet’s country doctor, taking payment in everything from chickens to cinnamon rolls and hard cider.

The problem is, now we’re trying to right the Titanic. We’ve decided now that we don’t like this ‘pay me with stuff instead of money’ model. Except that the brands and PR folks have become used to our demands for stuff. We’ve told them that we’d be happy with an invite and reception and maybe a gift bag, or a product or two. And we want to not only change the rules but also the entire game.

It’s not easy. And it’s more challenging when we’re not all in this together. As long as women are willing to operate their business of blogging as the equivalent of the country doctor, we’re not going to make the strides necessary to begin receiving payment in the form of cash.

This past weekend I met Lisa McKenzie, one of the founders of Social Media Academy For Women.  We spent quite some time talking about this topic because it’s something her organization is working to change. She is brilliant and has worked with brands and women, yet still feels the frustration in trying to get them to buy in to their worth. But she’s on a mission to change the current model.

There is more to monetization than being paid to do posts and reviews. But those are a big part of how women communicate to other women. Our opinions are valuable but we don’t see that.

We shouldn’t be afraid to ask that we get paid a fair wage. Women should not feel that they are unworthy of being treated equitably. But so long as we continue to say it’s OK, then brands and PR agencies will continue with the current paradigm. It’s no different than what happened in the workplace in the 1970s an 80s. This time, though, it shouldn’t take us a decade to effect change. If we all get on the same page it will be easy.

Will we band together for progress? I’m not sure. I would hope so, but women are not always supportive of one another. There is a lot of competition and, well, if you’re still willing to work for random randomness the brands will never accept the change to a new system.

As women we deserve to be compensated for our time. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask for what we are worth. Most of us have worked outside the home and have been paid in legal tender. We weren’t asked to barter. Sure, there are times we’re willing to barter. But keep in mind, you can’t pay for your child to go to college with a pantry full of cereal or a really nice fridge.

Are you ready to change how business is done?

Sara

{ 14 comments }

Kate @ Songs Kate Sang October 19, 2010 at 10:45 am

Amazing. Thank you, Sara for opening our eyes and educating us on this issue. I sincerely look forward to understanding this issue more!

Shelly @ Coupon Teacher October 19, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Amen! I have started charging for just about everything. I get paid to teach my students. If I am going to teach couponing and do hours of matchups, I should get paid too.

Amy (Saving with Amy) October 19, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I LOVE this! What a concept huh? Its like duh, when are people going to figure this out?! Way to go!

Honey October 19, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Hi Sara,

This is an issue that I have seen come up on several different blogs recently. I am not really sure how I feel about the issue. I have sort of seen it like a ladder. I always thought that when you are a new blogger you do free reviews and then you grow your blog and discover those paid opportunities. Well, I don’t think I am a new blogger anymore (Hey, where are those paid opportunities?). I would love to be able to start making some $$ to justify the HOURS (way too many) that I put into my blogs.

So, what advice do you have Sara?

Blessings
Honey

Becca - Our Crazy Boys October 19, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Wow. I love that every time I come here, I get to read a very well written article with a lot of thought behind it.

I think that we deserve to be paid with money, as well. But I think that new bloggers will always accept product, and more established bloggers will want cash. There is nothing wrong with that, but until the companies we work with see the hierarchy (that’s the best word I can think of, and I apologize if I offend anyone with it) of blogs, I feel that we will always have to go the extra mile and ask for cash.

And can I say…

Offer to loan me a fridge for 3 months… and I will laugh. at. you.

Sara October 19, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Becca & Honey, you’re both right that there is a ladder or hierarchy to some extent. But really how is it determined? There are so many different metrics/stats that it’s difficult to know what to try and build so that a brand will look at you and say ‘you get cash’. As with most jobs, you don’t start at the top. There is a progression from entry level to top executive.

The problem is that in blogging, there are ‘top executives’ who are still willing to work for free or little more than ‘stuff’. And as long as those who are supposed to be setting the bar are willing to keep it low then there is no chance for others to raise it.

Sara

Amy @MommyMentor October 19, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Fantastic post, Sara! Beautifully written…

Sugar Jones October 19, 2010 at 8:47 pm

I tend to agree with Becca and Honey. I always stop cold when a blogger who is new to the space demands to be paid, especially when those of us that have been at this a few years had to start with product.

When you went to law school, you knew that you would be paid in legal tender for the work you were to do as an attorney… but nobody ever promised you the corner office right out of law school, I bet.

Sara October 19, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Sugar, thank you for visiting my blog and sharing your insight.

You’re right that no one promised me the corner office right out of law school. However, all the women who came before me blazed the trail so that I could aspire for that. There were women who were fighting not only for themselves but for the women who will come up the ranks later. And in doing that they continued to raise not only the bar but also the ceiling.

With blogging it’s difficult to know what the progression is. Is it time? Is it followers or subscribers? Hits, bounce rate, click thru? It’s a moving target and varies from person to person. The bar for women bloggers doesn’t seem to be rising. I understand that it’s like a rite of passage doing unpaid work. And, well, some people would rather get stuff than money. So long as those who are considered experienced bloggers (and I’m not sure how that is defined) continue to agree to compensation in the form of stuff rather than money, there is no way the paradigm shift will happen.

Someone needs to blaze the trail! Each of us has the ability to ask. If we don’t ask, we’ll never get the conversation started.

Sara

Sugar Jones October 23, 2010 at 10:31 pm

There are so many blogging women that definitely blazed a trail before so many of us even showed up. They blogged for stuff, too. Then they grew in audience, engagement, and network. Some women, Dooce for example, make six figures. They all accepted stuff for posts and links. We all start at the bottom. How we move up to being paid what we’re worth depends greatly on the work that is done and the personal progress that blogger makes. That’s what I meant about the corner office. Nobody walks out of law school and into the corner office. Nobody.

Daria October 19, 2010 at 9:06 pm

As a new blogger, I have assumed along the lines of Honey and Becca – start willing to do anything and be thrilled to get something out of it. I am currently blogging for comments and readers! 🙂 Cash? Wow, that would be wonderful! Tickets to Cavalia would be wonderful too though.

Hmm, so I guess my question is “How do we determine what a fair wage is for our time?” Clearly, my time as a newbie with only 100 followers is going to be significantly smaller than a bloggers’ with 1,000’s.

Sara October 20, 2010 at 12:17 am

Hello Daria! Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting.

Determining a fair wage is difficult because there are so many variables. However, you have to know your value. I don’t think it’s just about numbers. There are plenty of people with significant followings who may have the same conversion rate as someone with fewer followers. If you can convert 45% of your readers to take action, you may be just as valuable as someone with 10 times the followers who can only convert 5% of their followers. There are many factors to consider.

Take Cavalia, for example. If you were asked to write about the show (which, by the way, is amazing!), of course you’d expect to get complimentary tickets. Would that be enough compensation to write a post? Some may say yes, others likely will say no. I’m not sure if there is a right answer though, because we all have different needs and priorities.

Sara

Mara ~ Kosher on a Budget October 19, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Really great post, Sara. Thank you for raising the bar with this one. (My favorite was your last sentence!)

Rachel @ Busy Mommy Media November 1, 2010 at 12:16 pm

You hit it right on the head. There are far too many companies who think social media is free. It’s not simply a matter of connecting with bloggers and convincing them to write about your product. If you want someone to represent your product in the marketing world, you pay for their time. Blogging is a new medium and I get that everyone is still learning how it works but it is effective advertising and deserves compensation.

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