Making money from blogging #fairpayforbloggers

Spotted this post on Not Dressed as Lamb about whether brands should pay bloggers for reviews that has been shared on Google+ and thought I’d share my two penneth’s worth (invoice in the post). I initially tried to post the comment on the ‘Lamb blog but apparently my comment is i) too long (the comments are capped at 4,096 characters) and ii) HTML/links are banned from the comments. I can’t comment on the G+ article without joining the community either. I’ve back linked to the post however and put the hashtag in the title so maybe Catherine will notice this but I think generally the issue of the monetisation of blogs is an interesting one regardless.

I’ve heard tell of bloggers in the area I’m active in (parenting) earning up to £30k a year from their blogging. Whether this is true or apocryphal I don’t know but there do seem to be a large number of sealed/unused items that have been “reviewed” on ebay from some people, as well as disclosed and undisclosed advertorial that’s charged at anything up to several hundred pounds a pop, so who knows? Multiple it by several different blogs and it soon becomes apparent that with (a lot of) effort, it is possible to earn a substantial amount from blogging.

Way back in 2010, an acquaintance of mine wrote a piece on getting paid that is still relevant today, it’s now hosted on my parenting blog as his is defunct but it’s here if you’re interested: http://www.daddacool.co.uk/2013/11/get-paid-dealing-with-creative-schmuck.html

The most pertinent bit is where it says:

“There are people out here who make their money from their creative efforts, anybody who’s dumb enough to work for free is taking food out of their mouths. This is real life. If you’re serious about being in any creative industry, lesson number one is GET PAID. If someone says they want your work, make them pay for it. If they won’t, they don’t want your work, they just want a schmuck. If your work is good enough they want to use it, it’s good enough for them to pay for.”

I think this relates directly to the point Cathering made about reward for endeavour. The issue of course is whether recompense for writing a review equates to a review being “bought”, and all the negative connotations that go with that.

It is, as many have pointed out, slightly different for a film blogger to ask to be paid to attend a screening of a film, to Mark Kermode being paid to review films for a living. He isn’t being directly paid to review THAT film, he’s being paid to be a film reviewer. Even then it gets difficult, especially for websites, who may be offered exclusives and incentives to make a review perhaps better than it should be.

Further, some would say the simple fact of being given something to review for free is enough of an incentive to make the review less than objective. Personally, I have a lot of reviews on my blog (there are over 1,100 posts, and I’ve had 5 years to build up the numbers) and most of them are positive. I blog in my spare time and I always research a product I’m offered to review because I simply don’t have the time to review stuff that’s either rubbish or not suitable to my interests. Lots of people will review any old tat though and eventually that becomes apparent when items you know are old toss get glowing endorsements.

I can remember sitting in on a workshop run by the excellent Natalie Lue of Baggage Reclaim a couple of years ago. Her advice to monetising your blog was basically don’t. She was of the opinion that you could make a bit of money from a blog but in order to make proper money your should use your blog as a springboard or a showcase to move on to something else- this is an approach I have seen in action from people like Claire Mackintosh. Her parent blog acted as a stepping stone to writing columns in magazines, having books published and organising literary festivals. She packed up her day job as a member of the police force a few years ago. My wife, one of the first wave of UK parent bloggers, has done freelance work for a PR agencies and written a column for a popular UK brand on their site for a couple of years. Blogging and the skillset involved therein, does open up a lot of doors.

Now Natalie’s talk was a few years ago now and the scene has changed quite a lot, as there is considerably more money sloshing around in PRs pockets aimed at bloggers than ever there used to be but even so, if the UK average wage is £26k, that’s a lot of work to bring home over two grand in blog related income a month, either through adverts, adsense, paid for content or whatnot. Probably more effort than going to work for the same amount in a lot of instances. Spare time though?

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  • Sam

    Interesting. I wrote about the idea a little while ago – http://www.alittlebitofwisdom.org/2014/04/the-fine-art-of-criticism.html – a slightly different approach, given that my area is writing about cars, but bloggers have really started to change the landscape there. It’s a self-taught craft for most of them, and they don’t all know/play by the rules that professional critics would.

  • Alex

    Cheers Sam, that makes a lot of sense. Although I think PRs are gradually beginning to treat some publications like they would the enthusiastic amateur- the number of press releases I see passed off as editorial now is mind boggling (and I only spot them because I’ve often received the same press release). Agencies are even writing releases in the style of articles now.

    On an entirely unrelated note, I’m sure no News International publication has every given an unwarranted generous review to a 20th Century Fox film or similar.

  • Alex I’m so glad I’ve finally seen this post (thanks to the link in John Adams’ BritMums article) – I’m sorry you had problems with the comments on Blogger! (BTW you can leave links, but if you want to make them clickable them you need to add in HTML coding.) It’s a shame you didn’t tweet me or similar to let me know you’d written something at the time.

    Anyway, I’m here now…!

    I’ve been amazed at the response and the debate that it’s created – it seems it’s either something that’s been mulling around the heads of many bloggers for a while, or else they’ve had this pointed out to them and they’ve realised that they put in a HUGE amount of work for a brand with links, etc… and for not very much at all. The conclusion that I came to (and this is with the backing of the founder of http://www.heartifb.com, the network for fashion bloggers) is that if the brand/PR puts any demands on you for links, anchor text, posting within a time frame or indeed even a guarantee of posting about the product at all, then you have the right to ask for a fee. Otherwise it is purely up to you whether to decide to feature the product should they send you something to review.

    With this in mind I wrote a Product Gifting Policy http://bit.ly/notlamb-gifting-policy which gives the brand clear details of the two choices. When I receive an offer of a gifted item I first direct them to this page and find out if they wish to pay a fee… and would you know, I reckon more than 50% have been more than happy to pay the fee! So it goes to show that they often DO have the budget to pay for a review, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

    I make it clear that the review will be honest, but what they’re paying for is links, anchor text, the administration time and all the social media shares. So I’ve found out there ARE more ways to make money from blogging apart from affiliate links and banner ads – we shall see in six months’ time I guess whether it has been worth my while 🙂

    Thanks so much for writing such a great post and for mentioning mine… I’d like to give a link to yours in my #fairpayforbloggers links round up I’m publishing this week if that’s okay with you?

    All the best
    Catherine

  • Alex

    If you’ve seen this Catherine, that’s fine to use. Will tweet you if I remember 🙂

  • Hi Alex, I published my post yesterday with links to the posts as I mentioned… but I can’t find any social media icons to be able to tweet you or tag you on Facebook, etc.? Anyway here’s the link: http://bit.ly/ndal-19-sep-14 – I hope you enjoying reading my (continuing) conclusions and what everyone else has been saying!
    Catherine

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