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.

Hopefully, you caught the first post about how to develop your brand as a blogger, and I wanted to focus on a different part of that process: the blogger/brand relationship.

As someone who gets pitches both as a blogger and as a brand representative, it’s easy to tell when someone is taking themselves seriously, respecting your time and is reasonable as well as fair and balanced. These are the five key things that make a difference when you’re first starting to build that relationship – all are necessary, no matter which side of the fence you’re on!

Here are the tips!

1. Do your research. It helps to know who to email – there’s nothing more impersonal than an email that is addressed for “To Whom it May Concern.” I hate it when PR people send me impersonal messages, and it’s the same for getting emails from bloggers inquiring about our clients. If you know the brand, look for press releases with the marketing contact. Or go onto LinkedIn. Spend a little time and you’ll see the results. Research makes success.

2. Be honest and transparent. Share your stats. Ones you can back up with proof. Tell them from the first email what you’re hoping to do, whether you’re contacting to get on a mailing list or asking for product, because getting that out in the open empowers the representative or employee to take steps to give that to you. Introduce yourself and then share these following things:

  • Your site URL and how long it’s been active.
  • Where you live
  • How many visitors you have monthly (both UVM and Pageviews)
  • Facebook/Twitter followers (only IF you plan on sharing something through social channels. Otherwise, wait until they ask.)
  • Why you contacted them specifically. For example, what about that specific brand is right for you and your demographic?
  • What you want
  • What they’ll get

Which is the perfect transition into the next tip!

3. Give more than you take. I hate getting emails from a company that are all about their new Facebook giveaway, and telling (not asking) me to post about it on my site. And then there are the people who send the email again and again and again! And to think that they wonder how this style doesn’t work!

The same principles apply for bloggers who want to start a relationship, which implies two things: mutual benefit and continued support on both sides. It’s as simple as the last two bullet points; if you can provide value, they’ll want to work with you again and again. Show them just what you are willing to offer in advance, and don’t focus only on you/your site.

I often use this analogy: you’re at a bar with a handful of friends, each buying rounds as needed. The last person, right as their turn comes up, mysteriously has a phone call… leaving the first friend to pick up the tab. After a while, no one invites that person around anymore because it was a completely one-sided relationship.

4. Be calm. I know you feel like it’s been ages since you got a response. Like you, the person who found your message in their inbox may be swamped with work. Or maybe they’re going to bat for you and getting what you need.

But, maybe they just meant to respond and didn’t. You can and should absolutely follow-up, but I prefer to wait three weeks unless it’s very time-sensitive.

5. Spell Check doesn’t catch names. Make sure you do. This sounds so silly, I know. And for those of you with common or phonetic names, you’re probably confused. But nothing shows a disregard for the relationship itself like incorrectly spelling someone’s name (unless you call them something else altogether. THAT is bad, guys!) – so check, double check and then maybe do a quick Facebook stalking session just to be sure. It’s worth it.

What would you add to this list – either as a blogger sending out the first email or as a brand representative receiving it?


After yesterday’s presentation for the Social Online Conference, I was left feeling like I had opened a Pandora’s Box of unanswered questions for some of the viewers. So, instead of increasing the confusion, I wanted to kick off a series here about becoming a better blogger… and make it more focused on section by section improvement.

When I am reaching out to a blogger, there are a couple of things that I keep in mind to determine whether or not they’ll be a good fit for my client. Creating a brand is one facet – and one that I know from personal experience is both dauntingly terrifying and extremely rewarding to master on your own.

I’m not asking you to become a web developer here; there are still more things that I don’t know than those I do. But a couple of core ideas – as well as the tools to implement them yourself – will save you time, help you make more money and, above all, allow you to better connect with your readers and focus on content first.

What is so unique about your site? At the end of the day, there’s one big, HUGE selling point for your site: YOU. Is it easy for readers and PR companies alike to find out who you are? How does your site show that you’re not only a credible source, you’re also likeable and friendly? And – most importantly – how can we contact you? When you’re thinking about implementing a new design, you should never undervalue how important it is to be visible on your site. People cannot get to know you without you telling them who you are, and nothing is more frustrating than having to go on an expedition to try to find a single email address.

How does your site reflect your brand? Whether or not you think so, you and your blog are a brand. (You’re also a business if you make money… but that’s a different post.) Does your site reflect the future you want to have? Does it even reflect your present? Take the time to flesh out what your brand looks like, and you may find that there are some things you’ll need to change sooner rather than later

Are you a conductor or a corrector? Conductors lead the symphony, while correctors hang back and clean up the mess left behind by the chaos. You can be a conductor and lead your readers into sharing your content, staying on your site and even interacting more. Or, you can hang back and make sure that when things go wrong, you’ll be there to pick up the pieces. Conductors are in the forefront of the action, so you’re taking more of a risk. But, with more risk comes more reward – you want to let your readers and others around you know that you are able to provide them with what they need, when they need it (and in the way that they want to digest it, too).

Does your site pass the two-second test? That is to say, when a new visitor comes to your site, do they see what you want them to? Where is your eye drawn and directed to within the first two seconds of the visit? One of the simplest tools for directing the eye is contrast – things like pulling your sidebar color all the way up to the top of your page will direct the eye to the center and down.

I’ll touch next on SEO tips for bloggers, but I want to leave you with this thought: if your site were to disappear tomorrow, would the void be filled without missing a step? How do you want to make your mark on the world, on or offline?

Start the new year off with a marketing plan that makes sense strategically and financially – join us for a FREE webinar, “Creating Content for Conversions” and learn:

– What sells on your website
– How to keep fresh ideas flowing
– How to track conversions and improve your success rates
– Two easy tips you can implement WHILE attending the webinar that will increase sales and encourage repeat visitors!

Reserve the time now – this webinar is free to the first 50 who sign up!

Now available to the public is the Beyond the Blog Webinar from Debutante Media’s Jaime Palmucci and Angela Russell of The Coupon Project!

Our introductory release rate is at $20 for access to the full webinar – use code NewReleases through November 24th to get the password for your private access!

Attend the webinar that will change your outreach strategy for the better!