How I Stopped Working For Free

Repeat after me. Stop. Working. For. Free. Your. Time. Is. Worth. Paying. For.

It’s been a while since I wrote this post, Dear PR Person, Exposure Doesn’t Pay The Bills, However, it’s not like this isn’t a constant issue that still grinds my gears. Perhaps it’s because I been blogging for so long, but the amount of “collab” emails I get on a daily bases or asks for reviews has gotten out of control. Recently, a request for “thoughts” on current marketing campaigns has been the recent way to get free work and reviews. No, no, no, no. I’m not sure why, but for some reason bloggers and other creatives seem to be plagued with requests for free work like somehow exposure and shares pay our electric bills. I’m on the quest to get us all to stop working for free.

How to stop working for free |

Dress: C/O ModCloth (wearing a large)
Photos by Madison Photography

Here’s how I’ve been able to stop working for free. Plus some unsolicited advice because naturally I’ve got an opinion on everything.

Be Upfront

I’m never rude, but I straight-up tell them they are going to have to pay for my efforts. If it’s something that I’m interested in, I explain the amount of time that it takes me to write a single post from shooting to publication. After a while, you get really good at feeling out genuine collaboration vs free advertising.  A recently shaving company contacted me, asked me for my thoughts, I told them up front my terms, they continued to ask me for my thoughts an finally, I just cut it off.

It was literally 10 emails back and forth. 10 emails. I am still mad at myself for not just cutting it off when I knew we were not on the same page. I’ve been dealing with spammy and free-work emails from PR people for years, but for some reason, this one really annoyed me. Although not as bad as FTD Flowers who wanted me to write a blog post about flowers, NOT EVEN SEND ME FLOWERS and talk about their product. When I said I required payment, they said they didn’t have budget.

I read that email as I watched a commercial for them on the TV at the exact same time.

Your Integrity is Invaluable

There are certain companies who reach out to every blogger possible to send free products. I’m not knocking it, but think about this, what does that say to your audience? They target newer bloggers who are looking for exposure and hope that this gets them to the next level. I haven’t ever blogged about something that makes me question my integrity looking back, but there are definite eh, moments. However, if I said yes to every outreach or talked about all the things PR people send to me, how am I ever going to have a genuine audience who trusts me?

Sure, some brands aren’t always a perfect fit for everyone in your audience, but at the end of the day, you need to do what only you can say is right for you. I work with some brands that don’t fit with everyone, but I genuinely use them and they help me enjoy my life.

Value Your Time

I work 50+ hours a week during my normal job, freelance and blog. My blog is not my job. I refuse to make it a job for the sake of money. What I work on has to have genuine value to not only me, but my audience who has trusted me to be genuine about what I talk about

I once added up how much time I spent from shooting, editing photos, writing, editing and scheduling social posts. If I wrote light and fluffy posts I would probably be able to spend less time on it, but I refuse to. A post, even a short one from me, can take up to six hours. that’s an entire evening that I have to dedicate to just one post, assuming I can do it in one sitting! So no, my “quick thoughts” on something is not valueless and not worth being compensated for. If they were value-less, you wouldn’t be asking for my thoughts.

You Don’t Go From Free to Paid

I think one of the biggest lies people believe is if you do something for free they will see your value and pay you next time. You’ve already set the expectation that you will work for nothing, why would they want to change, even if they love your work? They just got great, high-quality free work! You can’t leverage past work into current pay 9 times out of 10.

I think that one of the scariest things about when I was able to stop working for free, I sometimes had “no” said to me. I took that initially much harder than I should have. If they weren’t willing to pay for what they were happily going to get for free, that should be a warning sign. Yes, it’s hard to get a no, but once you start realizing you are worth more, you simply archive the email and move on.