Should you work for free?

Should you work for free?

I’ll be honest, the “should you work for free?” question is one I’ve long avoided. It’s been hotly debated on my Twitter feed many a time, but I’ve never really been able to articulate my thoughts on the matter. Especially not in 140 characters. Some bloggers categorically will not work for free. I respect this. It takes time and effort to write, photograph and promote a post, and if a brand wants you to do that for them then there’s no reason you should do it for free.

That said, I often do. Whilst I like to be paid for my time and will usually ask about budget, if the product is right and I’m getting something in return, I may take the opportunity even if it isn’t paid. This might not be the best thing to admit to so publically, but I think there’s a lot of confusion sometimes when it comes to who’s being paid for what, so in the interest of full disclosure I wanted to get that in early on.

I definitely don’t take working for free lightly, though. I know that in some respects I’m underselling myself by not valuing my time. That said, some campaigns take minimal effort on my part, so whilst I could ask for payment, I don’t feel it’s a necessity. I recently collaborated with a tea company which is a prime example of this. I made a cup of tea, took a few photos of it, then drank it. Realistically, am I fussy about being paid to drink tea? No. But I have another form of income and it took me 5 minutes to do. Had I really gone to town with my tea photo shoot and come out with 100+ photos of my (probably cold) tea, it might have been a different story – especially if I was relying on my blog as part of my income.

What I actually got out of that collaboration was some free tea (around £2) and some exposure on the brand’s hashtag. Not exactly anything groundbreaking, but not bad for 5 minutes’ work.

At the other end of the spectrum I once worked with a brand who gave me samples of their products, a whole host of other bits and bobs, and over £100 worth of Amazon vouchers just for including photos of their products in a blog post. Again, this wasn’t direct payment to my bank account but considering you can buy pretty much anything on Amazon, I was happy with the arrangement and loved the product.

My main considerations when working with brands are:

  • Is it relevant to my blog?
  • Am I going to benefit from trying something new?
  • Am I going to benefit from sharing it with you/are you going to benefit from seeing it?
  • Is it worth my time?
  • Is there a budget?

These considerations aren’t necessarily always made in that order, but they’re always the things I ask myself before sending off a reply. If no budget has been mentioned in the intitial email, I usually add a “is there a budget for this campaign?” to the bottom of my reply, and hope for a yes. If it’s a no, depending on the campaign I might refuse on the basis that it would be a lot of work for little return, or express that I can do x and x for free, but would need to be paid for x.

Some might argue that by working for free, I not only undervalue my own work, but also the work of others. I can certainly see the rationale with this but in all honestly I’m not sure it works like that. Brands who don’t want to pay simply will not pay. If I refuse to work for free, somebody else is going to snap up the opportunity who will work for free. You might argue than in an ideal world, we’d all be paid for our time. But with so many bloggers out there I don’t think this is going to happen anytime soon; especially because not all of us mind working for free. Sometimes, I’m happy with the opportunity and the experience it’s giving me.

My point being: there are always going to be newer bloggers who are just grateful for exposure, older bloggers who don’t care about the money, and those who are just a little bit clueless. Let’s not look down on people who accept unpaid opportunities, but equally not judge those who only accept paid ops. You do you, boo.

What’s your stance on working for free? Do you do it? Or are you all about getting paid?
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