Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On Unpaid Writing

Blogging does not pay the bills.  Even with ads, even with halfway decent traffic, the pay does not add up to minimum wage most of the time.  Here on my own little corner of the web, that's fine.  I started blogging as a means of having a family journal.  I frequently look back through my blog to remember exactly when a certain event happened or to reminisce about the kids when they were younger. 

Sometimes I write specifically for compensation though.  A book review here, a new food product there, whatever comes my way.  I limit these reviews to things I'm genuinely interested in, so I'm never looking for or expecting a large paycheck.  A free book and twenty bucks or some coupons for free Chinese food and I'm good.  Want me to review homeschool products?  Awesome!  We homeschool and we're open to trying out new things.

But here's the thing, you should not write for free.  Unless it's something you absolutely adore and are passionate about, it's a bad idea to give away your time and energy to a company.  Especially when that company is a blog that is running ads on THEIR site.  Obviously, it's easy to spot this scam if someone says, "Hey, write me an article for free".  Often though, it comes in the more sly form of "we'll provide this product to you if you write about it on our site".  Well, okay.  That might be worth it if you want the product.  If you're always keeping an eye out for effective teaching tools, you might be interested in reviewing products for free even if you have to return the product because at least you get a free trial period.

However, when emails start to arrive congratulating you for being picked to review items and the very first thing mentioned is "tell all your friends about our site using facebook, twitter and your blog!" That might be a red flag that someone is making or planning to make money off your sweat equity.  When the second thing mentioned is, "we don't have anything set up for you yet, but put our button on your blog!" that might be a red flag and a warning buzzer.  When you visit the page and true to their word, nothing is set up yet except their ads, that would be the big clue to stop, sit back and wait to see what happens. 

If they've claimed they're setting up a forum for reviewers and that never comes to fruition, but they set up a secret facebook group, which requires you to friend a complete stranger with your personal account, you might wonder why someone social media savvy wouldn't do a closed group instead.   Then, when a snotty email shows up in your inbox chastising you for not providing free advertising and friending strangers, you might just email back and let them know you don't put up ads for free, but you would've been happy to respond by email had that actually been requested. 

Of course, completely professional business women would never respond back with repeated insinuations that you are too stupid to understand the "simple instructions" that were easily followed by almost everyone else and that anyone who was part of the team and understood what it was all about would want to advertise.  I am certain that the people who know me in real life would laugh out loud at the insinuation that I am not intelligent.  My teachers, my continuing ed students, my clients, my friends, my family, even my enemies.  I have many faults, but ignorance is not one of them. I might even go out on a limb and say the willingness to friend a complete stranger with your personal facebook account is the opposite of intelligent.

All that team talk?  Another red flag.  It's a classic persuasion technique to get people to do what you want.  Convince people they're a team, or even friends, and they're more likely to get sucked into working "for the team" even if it's to their own detriment.  There's a reason MLMs use that tactic with their salespeople.

But at the end of the day, a lot of personal insults and complete lack of professionalism.  Totally signs of people you should do free work for, right?   But that stuff comes only when you question the mighty leader.  If you eagerly go along with the "advertise for us for free!" pitch from the beginning, you aren't privy to that side of the coin until a year down the line when you suddenly realize someone is making a fair bit of money and it isn't you.

Just a little behind the scenes occurrence in my blog life this week and a bloggy lesson for anyone just getting started out there.  I know I'm not the first person to feel this way and won't be the last.  Write for yourself.  Write things you enjoy writing.  Review products you really want to review (not every free bottle of shampoo thrown your way).  Press the delete button when things start to smell fishy in the ol' email inbox.

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