March 2012

I deserve to be paid!” seems to be the battle cry of the blogger these days.

As a blogger who likes to be paid, I certainly understand this feeling. I’ve worked hard to cultivate an engaged online following, poured many late nights into developing content, and navigated the world of social media. All these things certainly have value for prospective brands.

So what happens when a brand offers you an opportunity that doesn’t involve compensation? My advice, don’t write them off just yet. Here are some questions you should ask yourself.

  1. Is this a brand I would like to work with more? Money aside, is this a brand I’ve written about in the past? Do I use their products? Support their mission? I’ve been able to build some fantastic relationships with brands I care about because I didn’t say “no” when there was no money upfront.
  2. Is there value they can offer me besides a check? One brand I’ve worked with has made it clear that they cannot pay me. What they did do is put me on the home page of their website as well as give me regular Facebook promotion. When I began to dig into my Google Analytics, I realized that they were sending me quality, low bounce-rate traffic. If I consider what I would’ve had to pay for such an ad space, this barter relationship begins to make a lot of sense to me.
  3. Is there potential for this relationship to become profitable later? I recently was approached by a large brand about an offline promotional event. At first, I balked at what they were offering to pay me. It was low. But I began to consider how much I would love to work with this brand in the future, the value of the high-level contacts I could make through this opportunity, and ultimately decided to accept their offer. I did counter for more money, but when none was offered, I decided it wasn’t worth losing the relationship over $100.
  4. Is there a way I can leverage this opportunity in a different way? So that brand won’t/can’t pay you. That doesn’t mean the opportunity can’t pay off in the end! A couple of years ago, I was asked to speak for free at an event. I turned it down, because I felt I should be paid. Another blogger took the opportunity, where she proceeded to promote a perfectly tied-in affiliate offer (with the approval of the event host). She ended up making a very pretty penny. Much more than the meager speaking fee I’d asked for. If you feel an opportunity is mostly a good fit (minus the compensation), consider other ways you could use it to your advantage.
  5. Do I like this opportunity? When you take money out of the equation, are you left with a good opportunity? Last year, I was offered a trip to meet with a brand. I saw it as a very generous gesture. It was a lovely chance to get away, meet some key contacts in the company, and chat about future promotions. I’ve also accepted reviews that paid nothing other than a fabulous product that, after a trial run, I was able to keep. The goal for me is always this: using these opportunities to build content and grow my site. If the opportunity does this for you, don’t turn it down.

Given this, you’d think I say yes to all the pitches I receive in my inbox. On the contrary! I say “no” far more than I say “yes.” But don’t become so jaded by all the bad “work for free” pitches that you miss the ones that might actual benefit you in the long run.

 Angela Russell is the founder of The Coupon Project, a Seattle/Tacoma-based blog featuring smart shopping advice and out-of-the-box commentary on frugality.

Visit her online at www.TheCouponProject.com and www.AngelaRussellWrites.com.

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