Newbies and social media grandmas alike are often asked to do things for free. We’re asked if friends can “pick our brains” and get requests to contribute guest posts. What’s more, we’re often asked to write for local news outlets. In social media, whether we’re just starting out or have been working in the field since 1996, we’re always ahead of the average googler. It’s so easy to say “yes! I’d be happy to spend two hours of my time teaching you how to tweet!” or “Sure! Let’s have coffee so that I can map out a social media strategy for your company to execute!” or “why not? I’d love to give you copy for your new book!” It’s all about getting your name out, right? I beg you, my social media guru friends, evaluate your worth before saying “yes.”
I’m not telling you to never do something for free. Afterall, you likely wouldn’t have gotten as far as you have without having done some things for free. Think about what you’ll gain for doing something for free. Think about the links you get back, the credit you’ll be given, the resume and portfolio entries. All of these are worth something to you. But if someone asks you to do something that will take hours and brain power that you could easily use somewhere else, think of your worth before you say “yes.”
Previously, I was invited to attend a meeting for a local newspaper’s blogging group. Held at their headquarters, I got all dolled up, hired a new sitter and went to learn how we could work together. I’ll tell you what, I was excited. I anxiously waited to learn just how they wanted to connect my site to their town-hall-style collective. This paper embraced bloggers. They understood that the world of the media is changing and rather than fight it and sarcastically put down new media, they wanted to collaborate and work together. We went around the room introducing ourselves, and I learned that I’ve been blogging the longest of all the people gathered. Even more surprising was how quickly I found that their knowledge in social media, as a whole, was limited. After just a little while of social media discussion (which turned into a panel starring yours truly) I started getting the feeling I was acting like a know-it-all, so I grabbed a piece of pizza and listened. When I listened, I realized what the paper was really doing: they were creating blogs for these people that were owned by the paper. The writers were expected to write on their expert area on the blog that’s managed by the online editor. (One blogger writes about lunching at restaurants in the county and what she’s wearing, while another writes leftist politics. There’s a new blog written by a sexologist and another proposed blog to be written by a police officer. Really, its a very eclectic, very diverse collective.) Great exposure, excellent writing opportunities and fantastic, well, press were lining this up to be a great opportunity. I was pretty excited to hook-up on this site as their “token Mommy Blogger.” (No, they didn’t call me that, but the minute I introduced myself I knew that was why I was there. Which is fine. Because everyone needs a Mommy Blogger.) All excited about the glitz that came with the new job, I directly asked the next question:
So, what are your expectations for your bloggers and the blogs we write?
I was expecting to hear that about engaging readers, keeping my topics hyper local and responding to parenting in the area. Instead, he told me
We expect bloggers to write a minimum of 3 blogs a week. We can see in our stats the difference that’s made the more you post. So, the more you post the better your numbers, the stronger the blog.
I slowly nodded, taking this in, weighing with my other obligations. I mean, if the money is right, its worth it. I could, potentially, just transfer my Julieverse blog to their collective site and blog from there daily. Looking around the room at all the smiling faces of people who were totally fine living their normal lives and writing 3 posts a week on a paper-owned blog, I thought about how exciting this would be. Finally! Someone was going to pay me to blog full time!
And that’s when it hit me. No one in this room was a blogger. No one was blogging to make a living blogging. No one there even had their own blog, active social media network or followers. They all had other jobs, and they saw this as a totally normal expectation. The editor continued,
…but, because we don’t pay our bloggers, we’re okay if every now and again you only write twice. Or, say, something happens and you miss a week.
Because life happens, I replied.
Well, yeah. But we see a lot of value in blogging as often as possible. So we aim for a steady flow: Monday, Thursday, Friday, or something. He said.
Wait! Whoa. No pay? I’m at a newspaper? One where editors are former writers and all know what it’s like to have your writing published for pay. One that pays for freelancers on a regular basis?! I thought back to a part of a conversation earlier that evening, where a blogger asked if any of the blog posts had made it to print.
No, not yet, replied the editor. I mean, its always a possibility. I’d like to possibly pick some up and print them in the editorial area.
No discussion. No payment. Nothing. Now, I recognized that most of the people in the room aren’t aware of the the media trash-talk and strains for respect that the Bloggers are reaching for. I opened my mouth and quickly stuffed a bite of pizza inside, rather than calling the editors out. Then I grabbed my iPad and pulled up the collective website, which, I confirmed, copyrights all writing on their page. I’m not sure how many of the people in that room have taken Media Law classes. I’m not sure how many of them studied media at all. But here’s something I’m certain of: I’m not writing 3 days a week to give up rights to my writing. I have more respect for myself than that. Shame on the paper, who claimed to embrace all areas of media, for not respecting its writers enough. It was about that moment that I started jiggling my keys.
That paper didn’t respect me or my writing. They wanted my expertise that their staff couldn’t offer and were happy to take take take from me. They’d already done it for about two hours that night, and I wasn’t willing to offer it further. It happens all the time, friends call me asking for guidance, for contacts, to help them reach out.
As a blogger in a competitive, busy world, working to create your own brand, I beg of you, consider your time and what it’s worth to you. Consider your education, your experience, your expertise and put a value on it, Never be afraid to say “yes” when the offer is right, but don’t be afraid to reply “Sure I can help you! How about we set up a call and we’ll go over my rate plan and see how we can work together on this?”
Eternal optimist, Julie Meyers Pron has been called a “Momcyclopedia” and a “real life Google.” A mom to three, wife, educator, marketer, cheerleader, budding organizer, and me-time enthusiast, Julie shares her knowledge, lifestyle tips, business-savvy suggestions and real life stories helping you to parent confidently while remaining your stylish self. Julie is the founder and editor of Vlogmom.com, the lead-everything at Julieverse.com, social media consultant and child development specialist at PlayWOW toys and a columnist at Rusty & Rosy. She lives with her family in suburban Philadelphia driving to various sporting events, volunteering for PTO and, when she can, working out and writing.