Will Work for Food?

by Melanie Edwards on April 16, 2010 · 50 comments

in Blogging, Wahm

will work for food

Photo by Martin Abegglen

There’s been a lot of buzz recently regarding moms who blog and whether or not we should get paid for hosting giveaways. If you’ve ever hosted a giveaway on your blog before, you know there’s a lot of work involved. And if you don’t know just how much, let me break it down for you. On average, if you want your giveaway to be successful, then for each blog contest hosted, you usually have to:

  • Review the items/services.
  • Write a blog post, many times including personal images or even video you create.
  • Promote the contest via various social media outlets.
  • Promote the contest on other blogs and sweepstakes sites.
  • Draw a winner.
  • Contact the winner.
  • Contact the contest sponsor with winner’s information.
  • Follow-up with winner and/or sponsor if necessary.

With all the other millions of things that busy moms who blog have going on in their lives (blogging-related or not), that can take a lot of time out of your week.

As many have said, when you’re writing about any product or brand, you’re helping to promote them. It may not be equivalent to the promotion they’d receive on a larger website or on TV, etc., but it’s still promoting them. And, a blog giveaway is promoting them multiple ways. Think about it.

Not only are you writing about them on your blog (which lives forever via search engines), you’re also talking about them on social media. If you tweet about your contest 3 times a day for a week (standard length of a contest), you’re already at over 20 mentions for that one brand. So, for any given blog contest, you’ll probably be promoting that product or brand about 25 times.

Most bloggers do all of that promotion and work for free.

Now, I know that many bloggers do it to increase their page views, or to provide a good promotion to their readers. For many, that’s enough reward. Others feel that receiving the product in exchange for hosting the giveaway, is equivalent to payment. My opinion? In some cases, it might be enough. But, it depends. It depends on your personal situation, what you feel is worth your time, and what you feel is valuable to your readers.

However, if you’re doing all that work in exchange for a $20 product, which you’ll then have to claim on your taxes as income – is it really worth it?

Recently, I was approached about a new blogger program in which this brand was looking to partner with “five influential bloggers” for a giveaway. The program pitch requested that you post on your blog 6 consecutive days, with a total of seven blog posts to be written. This included not only your own giveaway, but also cross-promoting the other bloggers’ giveaways. SEVEN blog posts – one each weekday (two the day of your contest), plus an extra introductory post. That is a lot of blog posts for one particular brand and will dominate your blog.

Of course, I respectfully declined participation in the program and let them know that it was entirely too much to ask of any blogger without it being a compensated or sponsored program. I just could not see myself participating and doing all that work, to then have to claim $200 worth of products on next year’s taxes with no money in my pocket to show for it.

I share all this because I really want PR companies and brands to think about what you’re asking from bloggers before you pitch them. Are you going beyond creating a mutually benefiting relationship with that blogger and taking advantage of the free ad-space?

I also want my fellow bloggers to think about how much work you’re putting into each giveaway and really consider if it’s worth your time. I know I’ve agreed to host contests in the past that in the long-run were not truly beneficial to either my readers or to myself. I’m starting to learn from those mistakes, though. Plus, like I said – whether you host a giveaway and put in all that work for free is your decision and depends on your personal situation. It might be worth it. All I ask though is that you think about it first before responding to the pitch.

P.S. If you happen to know the brand/pitch I’m referring to in this post because you too received the pitch and/or are actually participating in the program, please don’t mention the name in the comments. My purpose is not to slander any given brand, but rather to share my experience so we can all learn from each other.

Extra reading: Show Me the Money by Audrey Binkowski

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindy Schultz April 16, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I totally agree. I have started being much pickier as to what products I hold giveaways for. They are very time consuming and lately PR companies seem to be getting more demanding in their terms…without any additional compensation. (If you consider an item you reviewed compensation at all).

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modernmami April 16, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Same here. Seems like I'm saying no way more often than yes.

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Mocha Dad April 16, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Yo make some excellent points. Bloggers and brands have to start attaching some monetary value to their work. Each side must benefit from the arrangement.

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modernmami April 16, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Exactly. I understand they need to benefit too, but not at the expense of our time and work.

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Jennifer Patterson April 16, 2010 at 8:21 pm

You make great points. For me, having to report products as income has changed what I am willing to do because it really does assign a solar value to your time.

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modernmami April 16, 2010 at 8:40 pm

It's almost like it ends up costing *you* money since you're taxed on it later with no money in your pocket to show for it.

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Marcela April 16, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Such good points and so much to learn from you!

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modernmami April 17, 2010 at 8:03 am

Marcela, I'm glad that you find this useful. That was my intent in sharing – so others can learn along with me. ;)

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Tito Ramos April 17, 2010 at 2:19 pm

I totally agree with you. I've worked with bloggers in the past and have come to the conclusion that if the blogger receives their due compensation they will go the extra mile. I didn't know how much work went into blogging until about 3 years ago when I had a blogger do some work for me for a project I had started. Blogging is I think one of the best venues to promote a brand and get some great exposure, so why not take care of the blogger. If the blogger is influential, professional and flexible let us give them their just reward. Some bloggers I wouldn't even visit their homepage again but there are bloggers out there worth their weight in gold. Blog On And Make Some Money!!!

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modernmami April 18, 2010 at 11:01 am

I'm glad to hear a bit from the “other side”. And, I agree that bloggers need to be professional as well.

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Susan Payton April 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm

It's frustrating. How can you charge for a giveaway/review when others are happy w/ product? On GiveDaddy, we're trying something. We'll do a bundle of prizes together for free, or they can get an exclusive giveaway with advertising extras for $100. I'm trying to offer extra value so they see it as advertising and not “just another” review. A few nibbles so far, so we'll see.

It's important to let brands know that our time is valuable and that this is advertising, whether or not it's a review. People get touchy about getting paid when that might bias the review, but I just won't do a review if the product is crap.

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modernmami April 18, 2010 at 11:08 am

I agree it's frustrating. But, I think that in time brands/companies will begin to realize that everyone has a different “rate” and that some will charge more than just the product.

I like your idea of bundle vs featured giveaway w/ extras. I think a packaged campaign is a good idea.

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angelica perez April 17, 2010 at 10:56 pm

These large companies seem to perceive mom bloggers as a grass root group, instead of a growing, powerful media platform. The more we give in to their demands and insulting incentives, the more we take away from the value of our time and our readership. Melanie, this is a great post — I appreciate you blowing the whistle and helping us learn about this.

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modernmami April 18, 2010 at 11:31 am

Thanks, Angelica. I'm glad my post has been well received so far.

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barb April 18, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I would like the opportunity to get some products myself! I wouldn't have a problem reporting it as income. It seems good to me. How can I get some sponsors for this type of thing? I need help for my blog.

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modernmami April 21, 2010 at 6:21 am

There are many sites out there that will connect bloggers with brands who are looking for product reviews. You can also simply state it somewhere on your blog – many bloggers have a PR Friendly page explaining what type of products they're willing to review.

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Michelle April 19, 2010 at 9:47 am

YES! We just wrote about this the other day. Brands are NOT buying our opinion on a review, they are buying our time to write the review. (Or host the giveaway etc…)

http://www.everythingmom.com/our-blog/paid-revi

Time + Talent = Money.

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modernmami April 21, 2010 at 6:22 am

It's funny that everyone seems to be talking about this now. I know everyone has a different opinion, but I think as long as you're clear about your policy, some brands will work with you.

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Anne-Marie Nichols April 19, 2010 at 10:38 am

I'm so glad you provided feedback to the PR people. I don't think they're trying to rip us off as much as they are clueless on how much work they are asking of us for so little in return. As far as what you're willing to do for “free” or for being compensated in product, traffic or goodwill (with both readers and PR people) trust your gut. If you feel it's too much for you to do, it IS too much. If you're not comfortable doing something, don't do it.

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modernmami April 21, 2010 at 6:23 am

I think you might be right. They don't always know how much work it takes on the back end.

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Debbie Lattuga April 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Good for you Melanie. Bloggers have to start valuing their time and expertise. I think as retail business start to grasp their new advertising platform, you will see better compensation.

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modernmami April 21, 2010 at 6:35 pm

I hope you're right! Hopefully advertisers start to realize they need to put
money into the PR blogger outreach budgets.

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Eren Mckay April 21, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I completely agree that we need to weigh the amount of time something takes us to really see if it's worth it in the end. Of course if I ever did this I would have to simply love the product. I agree with you that moms need to analyze each one.
Thanks for bringing this discussion up – great topic!
All the best,
Eren

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modernmami April 21, 2010 at 6:42 pm

It's something that's easy to forget when approached to review so many
products, but I've realized it's good to take a look to see if it's worth it
before agreeing.

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Cherrie Bautista April 21, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Totally with you on that. There's so much effort and time that goes into hosting a giveaway that doing it for free is not even worth it anymore. I have turned down a lot of offers because I just don't have the time to do it anymore. What I do now is to write a single post lists my giveaways for the month – each of them with just a paragraph. I don't do reviews, I just list their product information, that's it. Yes, I still promote them on social media because I am doing the giveaways to increase sign-ups to my community.

Anyways, it's time for bloggers to unite and agree on some form of compensation for these kinds of work. Because as long as there are bloggers who would do this for free, companies will just go to those who will promote them for free.

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modernmami April 21, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Now, that's an interesting approach. So, do you hold the contest for the
entire month or is it still for about a week?

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allison April 22, 2010 at 2:14 pm

I'm a few days late but you make some great points. As a blogger, I get pitched to review products every once in awhile, but not nearly in the capacity you do.

I might have missed this part, but are you still going to do reviews/giveaways? It sounds like you will but just weigh the value and determine if it's enough for you.

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modernmami April 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Exactly. I'm still open to hosting contests, etc., but I'll be turning down
a lot more if they're not valuable and worth it to me or my readers in one
way or another. I'll just be more picky from now on, I guess.

How does that work for you, anyway? Being pitched as a blogger, but also
pitching as a PR person? I bet you have great feedback since you're on both
sides!

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allison April 22, 2010 at 2:36 pm

I don't get pitched as nearly often as you do, but I find myself on a few boutique agency lists that keep trying to pitch me about bra books, random sex toys and events that are nowhere near Cleveland. From what I can tell, I'm on the same distribution list as magazines and have asked to be taken off.

Let's just say, I've been on the receiving end of many news releases and “dear living with the boyfriend” instead of my name, which is located to the right on my blog. I completely understand many of your frustrations with PR people.

I've also been pitched by many bloggers, too, which I don't mind at all because I can add more to my reader. It really helps introduce me to new bloggers or even a blogger I may know may make a recommendation. Maybe nothing works now, but you never know when an opportunity might fit. With that said, I can also clearly see through bloggers who are only interested in receiving product.

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modernmami April 22, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Gotcha. Thanks for the feedback. It's good to know our frustrations are not
entirely made-up. ;)

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MoneywiseMoms May 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I think it's unusual for bloggers to actually respond to these PR pitches with any constructive feedback–because that, too, takes time. I've tried to stop hitting Delete so fast and at least shoot back a “Thanks for your email, but…” I hope it's being heard a bit.

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modernmami May 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm

You're right that anything beyond hitting delete does take time and effort. I normally try to just say “thanks, but not at this time” if it's a company I'm interested in keeping a relationship with. But, I have hit delete many times as well.

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Katie Kimball May 5, 2010 at 11:39 pm

There are some (many?) bloggers who are only accepting paid giveaways, usually a flat fee. A blog network that I am considering run pay-per-click giveaways, where the sponsor pays a certain amount of money for each entry in the giveaway (it's mandatory then that the reader click over to the sponsor's site). The sponsors are happy b/c they can see all the traffic they're getting, and the bloggers can make a good deal of money, too!

I suppose as more and more bloggers get on board, paid giveaways will become the norm. Power in numbers!
:) Katie

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modernmami May 6, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I've never heard of pay-per-click giveaways! That is interesting.

I think that soon enough it will be the norm…if enough bloggers charge.

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sheila May 6, 2010 at 12:11 am

Blogging is a hobby for me. I love it and enjoy having giveaways but they are time comsuming.Thanks for the post!

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modernmami May 6, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Yes, they are. That's why I think sometimes you have to weigh if the time is worth it.

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Catalina June 2, 2010 at 11:25 pm

I've been timid about hosting giveaways on my blogs. The last contest I did taught me a lesson on blogger responsibility. With short notice I had little time to promote the contest/event for my readers. The PR company had a link in which my readers could enter the contest. After the contest was over, I asked for the stats on entrants that came from my blog- none available. Then I asked for a link to send my readers to view the list of winners- again, none available. That is the last time I say yes to them.

For me, it's a legality issue too. I need for my readers to know that any contest hosted on my blogs have actual winners. Coming from the land of sue happy people (LA), I don't want to be slapped with a lawsuit for misrepresentation or worse for conspiring to promote fraudulent activities. In other words, I don't want to become an indirect assailant.

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modernmami June 3, 2010 at 8:35 am

Those are very good concerns. The legality is definitely something to think about. It sounds like you're talking about contests that are not hosted on your blog, but that you just let your readers know about. If you host the contest yourself, at least you know you're picking the winner(s).

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unknownmami June 3, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Very good, thought-provoking post. In many industries people are happy to take your work for free. Work is work, there is no reason why you shouldn't get paid for it or why you should get taxed when you are getting no monetary compensation.

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modernmami June 17, 2010 at 3:48 pm

It's amazing, isn't it? The tax thing really amazes me.

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unknownmami June 3, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Have you done a post on taxing issues with items received as a blogger? If you have, can I have the link. If not, I think you should consider doing one. I know I would love to read it.

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modernmami June 17, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I haven't done a post specifically on tax issues. Could you clarify a bit, though? I'm by no means a tax expert and don't know all the tax laws and how they apply to bloggers. I just know that I'm being more careful about having to pay for a “free” item I received to promote someone else. Email me, though and let me know what you mean, so I can maybe do a post in the future. :)

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modernmami June 17, 2010 at 2:48 pm

It's amazing, isn't it? The tax thing really amazes me.

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modernmami June 17, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I haven't done a post specifically on tax issues. Could you clarify a bit, though? I'm by no means a tax expert and don't know all the tax laws and how they apply to bloggers. I just know that I'm being more careful about having to pay for a “free” item I received to promote someone else. Email me, though and let me know what you mean, so I can maybe do a post in the future. :)

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Anonymous September 24, 2010 at 11:27 am

These are just a few of the reasons I debate monetizing my blog. Taxes are a pain without a blog business.

Thanks for a thoughtful post.

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camille September 24, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Giveaways are annoying anyway. If I want to be pitched too, I’ll watch television. In fact, I always think a little less of bloggers that host giveaways for selling out.

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modernmami September 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Interesting. What if the giveaway is relevant to the standard content posted
on the blog or relevant to the blog’s audience?

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Maria Guido March 4, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with someone getting paid for their work.  For some reason, when you add the term “mom” to blogger, people don’t respect it as much.  I guess these are the same people that think being a stay at home mom isn’t a job.  Ridiculous!

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modernmami March 5, 2012 at 11:07 am

It’s more about defining what is actual work vs. what is editorial content. So many are used to the traditional format of newspaper reporters reporting news and information, but they are paid by their publications. We are our own publications, with no one paying us.

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