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Bloggers, It’s Okay to Work for Free

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Bloggers, it's okay to work for free, as long as there is some benefit to you.

Today I’m going to talk about a controversial topic – money. When you’re a new blogger, you’re going to constantly hear you shouldn’t work for free. That if you work for free, you’re ruining it for all bloggers who want to get paid. And if you work for free, you’re selling yourself short. Well, I’m here to tell you that sometimes it’s okay to work for free. But when you work for “free,” you need to ask yourself, “What’s in this for me?” Being rewarded for your work doesn’t always mean monetary. As long as you realize your time and talent has value and understand any partnership you enter into must be mutually beneficial, then you shouldn’t feel bad about doing something for “free.”

In my opinion (and remember this is only MY opinion), you need to receive one of three things in exchange for your work and time: money, experience, or exposure. As I detail these three items, I want you to constantly remind yourself of this: My time has value and my talent has worth. Whenever you work, whether it’s for someone else or just your own personal writing, your time always has value and your talent always has worth.


Traditional thought dictates work should always be rewarded with monetary compensation. But there is nothing “traditional” about being a blogger, or being a self employed entrepreneur for that matter. So always strive to make money but if an opportunity comes your way that doesn’t involve money, don’t be quick to dismiss it. Always value your worth and ask yourself if the opportunity can benefit you in some way. When you’re first starting out, product reviews are a great way to gain experience working with brands, thinking outside the box, and creating sponsored content. I have done a number of “sponsored” posts in exchange for product reviews, ranging from $5 items all the way up to $300 items. Last year I received a free bottle of Filippo Berio olive oil through BzzAgent and decided to write a sauteed potatoes recipe. I treated it like a sponsored post (it was, it was a product review) and the post went wild on Pinterest. Now I include the link to that post as an example of sponsored content I can create whenever I’m pitching to brands. To me, it was beneficial to create that post around a $5 bottle of olive oil in order to show brands what I can do, in order to get better opportunities in the future.


Internships fall into this category. Some people will say “intern” is another way of describing “free labor.” And I’m not going to tell you those people are wrong. It’s all in how you look at it, and I want to tell you about a couple of intern success stories.

The first is my husband. My husband knew in high school he wanted to be a TV comedy writer. But how does a kid from a small town in Rhode Island learn to rub elbows with big players in Hollywood? You start small. Towards the end of high school he got an internship at the local TV news station, just to learn how the TV is made. Then when he went on to college in Boston he did summer internships at NBC in New York City. This experience led to an NBC Page job out of college and the rest is history. Basically every job he has had has been a direct result of his internships.

The second is my story. When I started blogging I was anxious to soak up all the knowledge and information I could. I was ready and willing to learn from anyone who would take a leap of faith on me. I applied to several wedding blogger internships and finally Khris from DIY Bride saw something in me and gave me a chance. My intern job was to help clean up broken images and wonky formatting. I was stoked! Yep, I was working and not earning money, but I was getting a crash course in what it takes to run and maintain a major wedding blog. Soon I climbed the ranks, from general intern, to Real Weddings intern, to running their advertising. After just over a year with DIY Bride (with half that time being a paid contractor), I felt ready to part ways and spend more time working on my own sites. The experience from working with the staff of DIY was invaluable – things I could have never learned without that internship.


Ah, exposure. Exposure is a tricky one and something you can’t quite control. For example, as part of my DIY Bride internship I was given the option of creating DIY projects for them. I was given a stipend for craft supplies but otherwise I was not paid for my time. However, by having my name and website on a huge blog, I was given exposure. This didn’t translate into immediate overnight success, but my name got around to other wedding bloggers. It didn’t translate into astronomic page views but thousands of readers saw my name and my blog’s name. This is cool. BUT. I didn’t do it for the “exposure.” I did it for the experience (see above) and because I was again able to use these posts as examples of content creation when I applied for PAID gigs on other sites. The exposure was a nice benefit.

HOWEVER, there is a dark side to exposure. As your blog grows, PR agencies will start to take notice and you will get emails giving you an INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY: please talk about our product in a blog post … we don’t have a budget but we will share your link in a tweet, giving you EXPOSURE to our thousands of followers! First of all, this is a lie. PR firms and brands have money, they just want to see if anyone will do the work for free. (Don’t get me wrong, I love working with PR firms but the way SOME agencies prey on bloggers is unsettling and unethical.) Second, I’m actually going to tell you it’s OKAY to this IF you can answer yes to these questions: 1) “Will the content be relevant to my audience?” In other words, will my readers care about this post. 2) “Can I do something creative with this content?” Copied and pasted press releases are the worst (not to mention bad for Google). Can you present the content and product in a clever way so that the brand will take notice of you? and 3) “If the exposure falls short, will I still be happy with my post?” The PR firm might not hold up their end of the bargain. Or they might share your content and you might not see any boost in traffic, any new followers, etc. Will you still feel good about your content? Will you still want that content on your site? If you can’t answer YES to all three of these questions, then pass. My advice after being a part of this industry for nearly three years is to never do something in exchange ONLY for the promise of exposure. There has to be something else in it for you (and your readers).


I hope this advice helps you on your blogging journey. While you can read a million different blogging advice posts like this one, the truth is only you can decide what’s best for you. Only you can determine how much value to apply to your time, and how much worth to apply to your talent. But I can tell you this – it’s more than you think. Don’t sell yourself short. If you work hard, if you’re creative, readers and brands will notice. Don’t jump all over the first opportunities that come along without giving it some deep thought about how it can help (or hurt) your brand.

{Stock Photo from Unsplash}

About Mindy

Mindy Marzec is a life-long Disney fan who grew up in Los Angeles. She started This Fairy Tale Life to share Disneyland travel tips for adults. When not at Disneyland, you can find Mindy at home snuggling with her cats and re-watching Thor: Ragnarok for the billionth time.