Accepting Money for Reviews- What are your thoughts?

I just sat through two conferences over the last week and have so much to sift through in my mind. Having the opportunity to talk to other bloggers and a variety of reps I got some insight that is truly priceless.  Like anything in the world we can respect each others opinions without always agreeing. A few times I found myself sitting in on panels and sessions where I did not agree. A time or two I may have even questioned why certain people were teaching bloggers or representing us to brands as I felt they were wrong and setting us up for disaster. But it was not my place to question this. 

There is a time and place for everything.

This is the time and since this is my blog, this is the place. 

This post is not directed to anyone but I want bloggers and brands to know the few do not speak for the many. 

I have always been a huge advocate for bloggers being paid fairly. Paid for their time. Paid for their reach, paid for their influence. This does not mean we are all paid equally though. I think there should be a variety of pays depending on a variety of factors. 

What you see in front of you when looking at a post is just a small portion of a promotion. Having a blog and a partnership with a brand takes time. We build up our social media followings. Constantly evolving and changing and growing. Keeping up with the latest trends as they change. 

We take pics of our items, edit and promote. Buy tools and memberships to help us with our editing and pay designers to create our blogs, avatars and buttons. We build our communities, invest in ourselves and put in endless hours of time and love to grow our blogs. Some take a long time to get where we want them. Others seem to be an overnight success. 

Having a blog is a labour of love. 

After all of this, why would you give your valuable time away for free? 

You have been contacted because you have something special. Companies know you can get the job done and your readers trust you. They relate to you. The company is contacting you because they want something from you..

Below are a few questions I was asked over the week and I want you to see my answers. I am the last person to tell YOU what to do on your blog. However YOU need to realize your actions may reflect on us others later on. 

Do you accept money for reviews?

YES! Not always offered but when it is there I do. It does not influence my opinion. What it will assure is that the extra time and promotion is there. I do like to post a neutral post and keep positive. If I come across a product that is just wrong I will email the contact to discuss. We look at this as an opportunity to address issues an have the problem fixed. Once you post a negative review, it is there for ever. Why not give them the chance to fix it? Being paid lets us know we are valued and appreciated. Some companies get this and realize our time is valuable. This is one reason I love working with a third party network like Mom Central or PTPA or others ( there are more and more every day) . They negotiate for us and make sure we get paid for our time. 

Do you work for coupons?

Well having four kids I look at compensation in many forms. If I do not need to go out and buy something I will accept the coupon. Full value coupons that meet my minimum requirement amount. NOT cents off.  I will not take coupons for a product I would not use. But ones I use often, yes. Just make sure you know your coupons. Make sure you can use the coupon in your area and the product is available in your stores. Visas and Gift cards too. I have no problem using them, but know many who do not like them. Coupons like samples can be confusing terms when negotiating, so be sure to be clear on what you expect and what is being sent.

Do you have a VA?

Yes. I wish I did from the beginning.  Having a VA for behind the scenes promotions and editing gives me more time to concentrate on what is important to me. The writing and connecting. A VA is a virtual assistant that is paid to help run my blog and social media smoothly. So if a giveaway needs an extra bit of attention, I will send it her way to promo. 

What do you do with the press releases sent to you?

I respond with my rates. If you are a PR rep and sending out press releases please please please tell us what you are looking for. Are you looking for a social media shout out? A post? Offering a review? Wanting an advertorial? When the relationship is there, communication is there as well. Online media is still media. We need to be compensated for our reach. Our reach we work hard to build and keep. When you treat your blog as your business people will treat you the same. When you are clear on what you are expecting and what you are offering there is no confusion. If you are new and know you should be getting paid, ask. Ask for anything. As for product ask for payment ask for something. Working for free may be building relationships but the relationships you will not want. There is a budget there. The person contacting you is being paid.  We do not need to prove ourselves to a company before getting payment. Brands who get it know our value. Many get this. When you have that relationship THEN you can do favours and give and take. When there is a mutual respect you can cross promote and know they have you on their contact list for great things. If a company pitches you and wants FREE , respond. Always respond (or they will keep emailing , asking if you got their email) But respond nicely. Educate, explain. Tell them you value your time and thank them for contacting you. Chances are if they can not budge on budget they will contact you when they can. Do not be afraid to say NO! They will not take it personally. saying no is being clear. Once you are clear on what you expect the companies will contact you for promotions that fit you. 

worth  

/wərTH/

 
Adjective
Equivalent in value to the sum or item specified.
 
Noun
The value equivalent to that of someone or something under consideration; the level at which someone or something deserves to be valued…

 

You will never be valued for your time and your reach unless you see your worth and value yourself. 

Compensation comes in many forms. 

Posting for free hurts us all. 

When you receive product and payment for your time you feel you are valued. You give 110% and will go above an beyond. Chances are there will be a post and additional promotion from you and done so in a timely manner. The product will not get thrown in a drawer and forgotten. Often when a company is paying they do not even want a review. They want a story and an informative post. They want their information to be spread throughout your channels and they are happy to cross promote. They get it. They get that it takes time to use their product, take pics and promote. 

Accepting money does not taint a review. It does not change ones opinions. When it comes to pricing, ask questions and adjust as needed. If you do not know what to charge ask the company what their budget is and go from there. As your friends and colleagues for their opinions so you can be competitive. Trust your gut!

I feel I am always realistic and fair in my reviews and partnerships. I hope my readers can see this and know what I am trying to do. I am always happy to answer any questions anyone may have. 

What do you think? I know you are not all going to agree with me so I welcome your opinions. 

Comments

  1. Damnit. I wrote a long spiel. I have to fly off to Burlington, but I will write later.

  2. I am all about the minimum value and think that's one of the most important things to do as a blogger. But I also think bloggers need to be willing to negotiate. A minimum is important but beyond that I'm always glad to try to find a way to make something work for everybody. After all, that's what makes features like this so valuable is that they benefit everybody, company, reader and blogger alike! 🙂
    My recent post Celebrate Canada with the New ROYALE Inspire Us Facial Tissue Collection-Giveaway

  3. I think it is about 2 things for me:

    1) Disclosure. If you are being paid, disclose it. If you are not being paid, disclose it. The reader has a right to know and judge for themselves whether you are being unbiased in your review.

    2) Don't blow sunshine up a brand's ass. You lose validity in your blog when you do that.

    I have seen so many a blog reviewing products, and then the following week or month, they review a competitor's product, and both times, it was the best product ever invented. Don;t be afraid to offer your creative input or creative criticism. Don't just reiterate what is on the press release or info package you are sent. Example: "I think this thermal coffee mug is the absolute best thing ever invented." I would rather see "this thermal coffee mug is great, but it does not fit well in my car's cup holder. If only it was a little wider at the bottom, it would fit perfectly."

    Related to this, if you review another thermal coffee mug a month later and you claim it's the best product ever as well, you have lost me as a reader.

    Bottom line, be honest in your reviews. People will see through it if you are not. The brands and your readers will appreciate you for you honesty… not for something they can read in a press release or Google search.

  4. Posting for free hurts us all. Damn skippy. Great post Kim. Please keep sharing this message. you are a great advocate for bloggers.
    My recent post I Love Ford Flex

  5. Having worked on the brand side and being a blogger now, I am totally wth you. Bloggers work hard and being paid is part of the transaction. I think the challenge is that the value of the blogger is still not fully understood by the traditional marketing teams, they see at "free stuff in exchange for write up no money exchange" . Luckily this attitude is changing given that many bloggers are working hard and the results are showing for brands who are flexible. You're so right, having networks like PTPA and Mom Central are great because they do the negotiation for the little guys.

  6. Excellent points. It always boggles my mind when brands can wrap their heads around why bloggers should be paid different amounts on the same campaign. I want to ask, do you pay the administrative assistant and the CEO the same? A blogger with 10,000 pageviews a month and one with 300,000 pageviews a month bring a different level of value to the table.

  7. Kim, I enjoyed your blog post.

    1. I only promote products that I stand behind, and will not for others that I do not.
    2. Unless it is an item that I really want or could use, I do NOT accept product in lieu of payment.
    3. Cash payment is my preferred method of payment, and I never accept a lower rate than the one I've laid out.
    4. I do accept visa/mastercard gift cards loaded with cash as payment, although as they say "cash is king".
    5. I NEVER work for free, my time is valuable, I work hard and deliver quality work.
    6. I always send my rates, each and everytime. This has paid off for me, and I recommend that others do too.

    Jenna Em
    My recent post When Infant Bathtime Becomes Playtime! (Johnson's® Natural® Baby Products)

  8. I'm always a little bit shocked when I hear some bloggers speak for the rest of us regarding a willingness to work for free in the hopes of building a relationship. Working for free is never OK and will never build a worthwhile relationship.
    My recent post Save with CAA Rewards & New eStore!

  9. I'm not gonna lie, when I first started my blog, it was a "hobby"and any $$ was a 'bonus" but that quickly went away as I felt the passion from other blogging mentors & friends about their livelihood! My blog is a part of my livelihood now too! My time is very very very valuable to me, I write with purpose and this is my business – the brands and PR folks who respect that, are the brands and PR folks I will work with. Oh, and the only time I will speak for the rest of my blogging crew is when i'm talking about how freakin awesome we are!
    My recent post Reduce Your Risk of #Breast #Cancer By Doing #OneNewThing

  10. christinemcn says

    Great post, Kim! I'm totally sharing this post. Curious to see what others think! 🙂 Personally, I think that of course bloggers should be paid for the work they do. I only promote products and brands I support and stand behind. There was a time when I was first starting out that I was excited to write about anything and everything. I wouldn't say that it was that I didn't know better, but that I was still learning. This whole blogging world has been a learning experience. Back when I started my blog, it wasn't for the purpose of monetizing. It was for the purpose of keeping loved ones up to date with my new life on the island and it was also used as a creative outlet.

    I have since learned A LOT and now that I'm working in social media and know the value of my time and what is involved in the work we do, I am really selective about what I choose to post.

    Like all our fellow bloggers, I work really hard and cannot afford to work for free. I send my rates and am pretty firm, however there are times and different circumstances where I may concessions. I know everyone is adamant about NEVER working for free. I wouldn't say I've worked for free, but if it's a small business that I believe in, or a charity I support, I am willing to help them out. I'm a huge promoter of local small businesses and encourage people to support mompreneurs and shop locally. Every business has to start somewhere. If I give a local business a little shout out on my blog, because I want others to know about them, I don't think there's anything wrong in that. I like sharing cool finds and new businesses with my readers. If I do it under my own volition, it's because it's something I genuinely want to do. Not every single post on my blog is sponsored.

    IF, however, a brand approaches me to work for them and asks me to come on board for a certain program or opp, you can bet I will be asking to be compensated for my time. I'm sure like everyone who has commented here, we all get tons of emails and pitches every day. Many of them go unanswered or unread now if I see that I'm being asked to do a lot of work for barely anything. I try to answer as many emails as I can, to even say I'm sorry I can't fit something into my editorial calendar. Sometimes there just isn't enough time in the day though.

    I agree with everyone's perspectives here – We all work hard for our money. It's our livelihood, so of course we don't work for free, but I don't think things are as black and white all the time.
    My recent post Love Pinterest? Join the Lunchbox Love Holiday Pin Party! #LBLmoms

    • I completely agree and each situation is unique. I love to promote local and small business too. There is a difference in doing it because we want to share the love and them expecting it and that is where people need to make the choice on what to do.

  11. As a new blogger, its hard to get any attention from brands. Your post is eye opening and I feel I have a lot to learn from those whom have perfected their craft (or pretty darn close!)
    The comments above are fantastic. I wish bloggers like you and this post would open up more often about the whole blogging world so us less experience can learn and not devalue the art of blogging!
    thank you!
    My recent post 31 Fun Pumpkins #Halloween

  12. thiswestcoastmommy says

    I just did this, yes, in hopes of building a relationship. I hadn't really thought about it that way before. Thanks for the food for thought! I wish there were some kind of mentorship program for new bloggers like me. Is the Canadian blogger FB group still running?

  13. Like several bloggers here I started as a hobby and any money that came in was fun money. After a few conferences and talking to seasoned bloggers I quickly learned that it isn't just about the writing. It's taking photos, sharing with your community on all your social media networks etc.

    There is a lot of work involved behind the scenes that many people (including myself last year) don't see and often don't talk about. I do stick to my minimum and know what my time away from my family and friends is worth.

    Thanks for this post, Kim!
    My recent post Monster High 13 Wishes Scareful What You Wish For Giveaway

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