Are You Treating Your Business Like A Hobby? Don’t Expect To Get Paid



Don’t complain about not making money when you give away services for free.  Here’s a tidbit I want all women out there to know:  We work?  We get paid.  There is no such thing as a free service.  Nothing is free, it all comes at a price! 

Today’s rant is courtesy of Social Dialect:  Helping You Speak Our Language with the article:  Just Say NO to Blogging Contests (and other rules about compensation for blogging)

I will preface this by saying:

  1. This article mainly speaks to bloggers, however it applies to any business owner.
  2. I don’t like blogging contests, paid reviews or giveaways where I have to physically receive and mail stuff.  While I’ve received great stuff in the past, I really don’t see the inherent value in engaging in these contests.  My readers don’t need more stuff and I’ve never been a fan of them.  As such, regular readers here know that I’ve done a handful of them over the last 5 years.
  3. If I am engaging in a review of a product per request of the brand, I am being paid for it and it is noted as such in my disclosure.  I am a business, not a hobby.

Back to my rant.  While I think Fadra @ Social Dialect means well, I totally disagree with the statements:

“Don’t ask for compensation for a review”
“Be willing to work without compensation if it helps you build a relationship for future business.”

My response:

All around great advice but I disagree with :

“Don’t ask for compensation for a review”
“Be willing to work without compensation if it helps you build a relationship for future business.”

This is perhaps because I am a personal finance blogger (Girls Just Wanna Have Funds) and we NEVER advocate working for free in any capacity if we can help it.  The only exception is if we are reviewing the product/site/company on our own time.   We just had our conference over the weekend and one brand tried to recruit us to review their product without compensation and as a group we advised him that it was not cool to expect us to work without compensation.  Reviews bring value to the company soliciting them and they receive the benefit long after we’ve provided that free service.   As you mentioned, this is a business and most of us are building empires. Once we start treating it like a hobby, then others will too and devalue our work which helps their brand. 

Brands shouldn’t ask you to work for free. You should expect to be compensated for your time even if you are a new blogger. If you don’t have social proof then work out some other form of compensation. Why? The very fact that you’re being asked to review a product shows therein lies some inherent value. Don’t let anyone play Jedi mind tricks with you about the value of your work.

If you’re blog is more of a hobby, that’s cool. If you’re building a business, totally not cool.

If there’s a concern about objectivity then of course the FTC helps out with that by mandating that we add a disclaimer stating that you were paid for the review. That said, if your readers still don’t “believe” that you’re being objective then that is an issue with your ability to garner trust for your readers. Readers should know who you are and what you’re about enough that if you give a review then they know it’s genuine.

Here’s what I want you to understand.  When you treat your business like a hobby, then others will too. Whether you are a blogger, shop owner, or sell lemonade on a 100 degree day outside on the sidewalk.  There is no such thing as free.  Everything comes at a cost.  There is no shame in requiring that you be paid for the awesome service that you provide.  Men don’t do this so why do we?

What’s interesting to me is that when I talk to established male business owners/bloggers the concept of a free service is foreign to them.  Customer wants service?  They get paid.  This is understood.  But with women there seems to be this need to be liked and we become irresponsible with the power of our brand which inherently devalues our service.  Positioning yourself as desperate for the gig in order to be liked in hopes that the customer/brand returns puts you in a position to get low-balled or not paid at all. You’ll hate yourself for it when you see your first check.

What do you say to someone who asks that you work for free? Negotiate, don’t apologize and walk away if necessary.  Here’s what happened to me recently when a company wanted me to provide them content for $FREE.99 outside of a standard syndication agreement.

Freeloader:  I’m sorry but we don’t pay for XYZ service.  We believe the benefit you receive is the SEO blah blah blah….

GingerI’ll have to decline being unpaid for this service.  I do value my time and it is my hope that you’d value it as well.

Then you walk away.  Trust me, they will love you for it.

Guess who replied with a rate once I declined working for free?  They did.   I was content to skip my happy @$$ on to the next one whilst keeping my dignity and value intact.  Every legitimate company has a marketing budget because they understand how important it is to get the word out about their product.  They also decide who is worth being paid.  Working without compensation tells them you’re OK with being devalued while they reap the benefit.  How’s nice working out for ya?

Screw being nice.  Do you think the local prostitute gives free blow jobs because she wants to be liked?  No, she wants to be paid!  This is no different than any other bonafide business owner out there!  Yes, that was a crass example, but you understand my point!

Fadra gives the following rationale for working without compensation.  *face palm*  I can’t stress how much it pains me to see women give each other this ratchet advice.

Working without compensation:  if it helps you build a relationship for future business. Many big firms want to work with the same bloggers over and over again because they know they are honest and reliable and will do a good job.

Don’t ask for compensation for a review. It not only taints your view of the product in the eyes of your readers, but it probably taints your own opinion as well. While some bloggers charge an “administrative fee” for their time for a review or for giveaways, this is not a policy I subscribe to.

Her comments speak exactly to my article on why women don’t ask for raises or the salary upfront in a job interview.  Women don’t ask to be paid or for raises because we are more concerned about being liked than we are about being paid fairly.

Men ask for what they want twice as often as women do and initiate negotiation four times more.  Men, socialized in a “scrappier paradigm,” learn to pursue and energize their goals at work and home. The two key elements are control and recognizing opportunity. – “Women Don’t Ask

Recognize your opportunity when it knocks on your door! 

The very fact that you are being asked to provide a service indicates inherent value.  Stop devaluing who you are and the service you provide because you hope the customer will come back.  If they got it for free the first time, why would they pay full price when they come back?  Everyone loves a deal.  Are you a coupon?  No?  Then stop giving discounts.

These are the only reasons why you’d not agree to receive greenbacks for your service:

  • In lieu of payment, you arrange for something tangible value to you.  This does not include a steep discount on their product or service
  • You give the service in exchange for feedback which helps to build your business while helping you gain insight into needed changes

Otherwise, you’re slaving away, giving away your stuff for free.  That is a hobby, not a business.  Don’t expect to be paid.

Tis all.

  • Barbara Friedberg

    I’m not finished :). So important to be firm in your convictions and aware of your value!

  • Barbara Friedberg

    Ginger, First off, I really enjoyed chatting with you for a moment at Fincon and listening to your comments in the sessions. This article is really impressive and important. Being firm in your

  • Ames

    A few weeks my husband went to a printer to have a few hundred dollars of flyers made. When he picked the print job up, the male business owner said it was free. We have a new printer- the man who gave us a freebie. I spend lots at the printer.
    I have made my largest amounts from clients I started out helping for free.
    I love my work and while it pays my bills, I enjoy it so money is not my primary purpose.
    Perhaps your advice is good for many but for many others, you gain more when you give. I don’t blog for money or merchandise so I really have no insight into that business.
    I do doubt/ignore reviews once I know the person got paid for it. I don’t think brands should pay for reviews. I am happy the law now requires bloggers to notify readers about the compensation.

    • Ginger-GirlsJustWannaHaveFunds

      Well I think if brands want exposure they should pay for it. However, if we choose to d reviews on our own then that’s fine in my eyes.

      In our industry, reviews take time and when requested, that takes time away from other things we should be doing to build our own brands and empires.
      Your example, is one that is indicative of great customer service. Not at all analogous to the examples I give here. Many of us give regular advertisers a break because we honor their business. This is the case in the example you provided.

      What i speak of is random brand A wanting an ad couched in a review but not paying for it. Marketers love the mom blogging community for this very reason. I think this is highway robbery and das a group we let them get away with it because we want to be liked in hopes that they come back. In business, women value who they are (want to be liked, want to be accepted etc) and men value what they bring to the table. I think it’s time that paradigm shifted.

      Again Im rambling LOL — in my own field as a therapist. We often speak of the fact that our field is dominated by women where there’s an issue with us accepting payments as low as $30 from an insurance company which I REFUSE to do. However, in the primary care/medical field we have mostly men who would choke at being offered $30 per hour for any service from an insurance company. A doctoral level therapist goes through 7-10 years of training comparable with a medical doctor yet they, typically women would be more apt to accept that $30/hour from the insurance company whereas a a medical doctor, typically male, would walk away.

      I just think it’s interesting that we allow ourselves to be sold on the possibility of being liked.

  • Kelly Whalen

    Love the fire you bring to your post. :) It’s refreshing.

    I happen to know Fadra fairly well, and she’s speaking about industry standard in the mom blogging community where products reviews are more common and many bloggers have worked there way from reviewing products to being spokesperson for a major national brand (with anywhere from 4-6 figures going to the bank). This model only works well if you are a product review blog IMO, but I do agree that unbiased reviews should be unpaid. It’s an industry standard for PR and marketing teams.

    However, it’s not for everyone, and won’t help all bloggers reach their goals (unless their goal is free stuff-which I see often). Most review bloggers use affiliates and ads to monetize-so the review itself isn’t monetized, but they still earn revenue (for artful review bloggers-they earn more than they would by accepting a flat fee).

    In most other spaces reviews can be done in a manner that fits the blog with affiliate links or ad revenue supporting the site. I’m thinking about credit card reviews and the like.

    The thing about blogging is there are so many business models and revenue models, but as you pointed out not everyone wants to earn money. Some people ARE in it for the perks.

    • Ginger-GirlsJustWannaHaveFunds

      Thanks Kelly :-)

      I hear you but my position on this surpasses our respective niches.

      If you think about it, this is a practice that is predominant in the mom blogging community which is 100% women. Here in the personal finance community which is a veritable sausage fest ie dominated by men, that almost never happens. As I mentioned in the post, one brand approached our table about doing reviews without any compensation and he was almost chased from the table. And, our table was the women and finance table :-)

      If you, Brand A approach me about reviewing your product then I see that as advertising ie a sponsored post because I probably wouldn’t have reviewed it otherwise. All of my other reviews are really on my own dime and time. I understand this is not the case in the mom blogging niche. Products are given in exchange for a review.

      The core issue I am highlighting an issue that goes beyond our niches as I said earlier. This is about women as a whole working without compensation in a niche that is dominated by our gender. Yet in the personal finance niche, where men dominate, the standard is to charge this as advertising via their respective rate sheets. So while it may be standard in the mom blogging community, in the personal finance community, this isn’t the case. The only exception might be for products that I’d review anyway like Turbo Tax because I already use it and planned on reviewing their new product launches anyway.

      Just saying, as women, we should be charging for these services and not accept the “norm” because we want to be liked by the big brand in hopes of becoming a spokeswoman. Until then, I charge greenbacks, pay me :-) This may rub some the wrong way but this isn’t about our feelings. We’re constantly talking about how women get the short end of the stick (we have babies, off ramp, take care of ailing/elderly parents etc) and here we have Fadra’s post further encouraging that issue we talk about constantly in women and personal finance: “stop accepting less than you are worth because you want to be liked”. How many mom bloggers ACTUALLY move on to a spokeswoman position while others just keep doing free reviews while the big brands get evergreen posts in Google? Im sure and well I know there are several successful mom bloggers, but there are even more women blogging these reviews with products from the brands without compensation. I think that’s sad. And I am really just speaking out loud what we all feel but don’t have the courage to demand. We should be paid if the brand approaches us to do it. It’s up to everyone to do what makes them happy. I just think that advice and standard sets bad precedents for women as a whole.

      I rambling now but if you think about it….. within the PF community we call those random guest post emails —–>>>>> freeloaders. They want a perpetual space on our blogs without compensation. The vast majority of us ignore them and send canned messages ecause we’d rather be compensated. Why is it different for brands? They want the same thing yet we give it away in hopes that they will make us a spokes person?

  • Nicole McLean

    My heart hurts for reading this 2 weeks too late. Grrr. Was approached by third party marketing branding firm representing hu-normous mega-large global corporation. Agreed to participate in a certain activity (hasn’t happened yet so don’t want to give away too much). In talks with 3rd party it was mentioned that no compensation was being offered and it wasn’t until that moment that I realized that I was the only person in the entire equation who wasn’t getting paid. Deep sigh. I have forged a good rapport with 3rd party and have opted to work with them on future projects but this was a great reminder that working for free leaves a girl with no deposits in her account. And that ain’t good. At all.

    I was so excited to be approached at all, so happy to be “chosen” that I forgot for a second that this entire situation was a business transaction. Not a hangout with my girlfriends. Will keep in mind for future exchanges. As I have another pending situation with another huge mega-conglomerate global company… there is still time to negotiate some rates/perks. Blogging is a business and I have really not been on top of mine lately. :/ #lessonlearned

    Great reminder.

    • Ginger-GirlsJustWannaHaveFunds

      *shakes Nic by the shoulders*

      No more of that missy! Repeat after me: We do NOT work without compensation. Times are rough and momma needs to be paid! Please and thank you!

      • Nicole McLean

        Shake furiously and often. I need to be whipped. For real. Ugh. I reached out to the 3rd party and expressed my concerns about the future. He was understanding but we’ll see what happens the next time he needs someone to work with. *smh*

  • Jessi

    Awesome, tough love post! Something I definitely need reminders for, as I struggle from I-want-to-be-liked-itis. I took notes and will be referring to them regularly!

    • Ginger-GirlsJustWannaHaveFunds

      Yea I struggle with it too. But when I realized that they already know who they feel isn’t worthy of payment – yah – I’ll pass. If an interviewer told you straight up that you wont be paid for your work but you have bills today – uhmm how are they getting paid?

  • Kelly Kinkaid

    I absolutely 100% do not work for free. I cannot tell you how many times I have argued with my fellow bloggers about whoring themselves out for free and setting up a poor industry standard.

    However, I also refuse product reviews on my personal blog as I think paid product reviews are biased and readers who come directly to my site trust me to give them unbiased opinions. What I am more inclined to do when I do receive offers is to offer them a paid review that goes up on the retailers site itself. For example if Chase wanted me to talk about Chase on the Chase blog? I would absolutely do that for compensation. In my mind I would then be an employee of Chase, and it would be natural for the readers who come there to assume that I have the company agenda in mind. However, when I write for my personal blog I am writing for that company, myself, and unbiased opinions are what I try to do there.

    I think it’s a tough ethical line when you are working as a reviewer of products. But I think the most important part of the process is to provide your readers with honest opinions and if you are being paid, discloser should be required.

    • Ginger-GirlsJustWannaHaveFunds

      *”I cannot tell you how many times I have argued with my fellow bloggers about whoring themselves out for free and setting up a poor industry standard.”*

      This actually happened at FINCON12 and a brand tried to recruit us at the table to work uncompensated. We all told him in no uncertain terms would we work for free and ti was insulting for him to think unrestricted access with discounts to our readers would be sufficient compensation. Last I checked, my electric bill didn’t take discounts.