Should Bloggers Accept Working for Free?

Now, no doubt some narrow minded  individuals will say that I am completely out of order for this post, as its completely fine and dandy for massive companies to take the massive piss  advantage of us bloggers. God knows why they’d think that, but I happen to hope that, once you, more sensible reader has a look at what I have to say, you’ll agree I make a valid point.

I feel I had to write the above as, sadly, the minute I express an opinion there are certain parties who are clearly bored and who think its fine to completely miss the point and side with a massive company just to stick the boot in to anything I say. They have their reasons, frankly I’m awaiting the nasty comments (not mentioning me by name but pretty obvious that’s who they are talking about, as I say to them directly, they really should grow up) via Twitter and anonymously via the comments. Very brave.

Not.

Anyway, the point I’m making is this: would you, reader, ever go into any situation where you work for free?

Imagine, if you will, that you go into your everyday job, whatever that may be, and your boss comes over and picks a tiny group of your fellow workers, and then takes the rest of you aside to have a chat. Now, imagine again that all the employees generally do the same job, but for whatever reason, your boss decides that, whilst the group you are in has to work as normal, the tiny minority group can say, chill out in the staff room all day, have parties and take whatever stock they fancy, whilst still getting their wages. You know, the wages you wont be getting anymore whilst you work hard?

You wouldn’t take that well, would you?

Seriously?

Yet, in blogging, this, this crappy, piss take behavior is fine and dandy.

It shouldn’t be, should it?

There have been many changes to blogging and linking up with brands since I first started building links between the two in 2009. Back then, it was a new thing, and terms were mutually made up as we all went along.

Now, with Google getting tough on some brands, no follow versus follow links, and a marked difference between what bloggers charge for posts and ad space, its a very different situation, and that’s where I feel, and I’m not the only one (I’m just not afraid to be open about it), that there is the opportunity for brands and firms to take advantage of us bloggers.

Some do it via mass emails to as many bloggers as they can find details for. That’s not exactly hard, we all have contact details on our blogs (back when I started we never did. If I wanted to contact a fellow blogger I’d leave a message on their My Space wall!). The emails these brand send out are pretty obvious. They will be generic, perhaps with a “I have been following your blog and love it!” or maybe a name of your blog copy and pasted (if you’re lucky), to draw you in that they know who you are and may actually like your blog. It’s doubtful they have even read it, or even know your real name. But some blogger’s are suckered in by this.

They’ll then ask if you host posts- either written by yourself or by them. And then they’ll ask if you do, how much do you currently charge.

After getting back their replies, they will obviously see who charges the least amount and go with them, whilst your inbox may feel like it has dust trundling across it.

Of course, different bloggers value their space and time more than others- I’ve long said we perhaps need a charter of how much we charge so we all charge the same, a flat rate- it’s what journalists do after all. 

Or, the newer way to get something for nothing from bloggers is the “network”.

This is what has caused me to be really unimpressed this week. 

I’ve been a part of networks which worked really well. Every person involved got the same out of it, the terms were clear, I have been happy to be part of it. Panasonic, is one which immediately springs to mind, and before that, Dettol.

Sadly, for every great network, there are those which are, for whatever reason, poorly managed and in the case of the one this week, an utter joke.

I was approached by this massive, no where near administration brand last year. Would I like to join? The terms were, and if they’ve changed since it’s the first I’ve heard about it, that in return for displaying a network badge, I would be able to contact said brand for products to review, as well as being the first to hear about new ranges either via their website or events.

I liked the company, so I agreed. To my mind the things promised in return for displaying the badge- a badge advert which I normally charge for- I would expect the types of things promised several times in the original email.

So, I sat and waited. The first month, I sent as email after receiving their network email, which said if we wanted to try out something from their new range to get in touch. I never received a reply.

In October, I was invited to an event in London. It said I would have to reply before 2pm to be placed on the guest list. I received the email at 10am, and replied at 10.05am. Well within the 2pm cut off.

I got an email saying see you at the event. I was quite excited to be going, as I love the brand and it was a nice evening event away from the daily grind.

Except that at 1pm on the day of the event, I got another email saying, actually, I could no longer come as there was too many guests.

So, I emailed to say this was completely unacceptable, and that I’d emailed well within the time frame and been told I was guest listed. I wanted an explanation, which is fair enough. I never got a response. 

The same old faces as had been at other events were all there though. They’d all been at the last two events I’d seen mentioned in the e-newsletter. I felt very short changed. I asked again between the non-event and December about reviews and again, no reply.

All the while, this free ad was sitting on my blog. And I was seeing the same people going to events, and getting products, whilst they displayed the same badge as me. So, I’m working for free, whilst they get the goodies.

I emailed to see what they had to say, saying I’d remove the badge as I felt that my membership was not worth the bother. It took a fortnight for them to reply, and I feel they only did so because I’d told them I was removing the badge.

They persuaded me to stay, apologised for being ignorant and said that the event I was uninvited to was a mistake and they’d emailed me by mistake, apparently. They then said it appeared I wasn’t on their list as a member by accident too (hard to believe considering the monthly newsletter). They never once said I didn’t need to display the badge though, in fact it felt like they really wanted me to keep it where it was.

Again, I got suckered in. Just like with the holiday company who two years in a row told me my application was a formality as I’d already been picked, only for me to be passed over and asked to display a free ad (the same one those involved and getting free holidays and camcorders displayed but with nothing in return).

This week, I saw a Facebook status from a Blogger who I like a lot, and she was getting nasty comments regards her questioning about a zoo event. From someone going. Obviously.

Yes, this brand had another London event, which again the same old faces where all at, and yet again the first I heard about it was from Facebook.

I stuck up for the blogger getting aggro, and took to a group to ask why this network behaved how they do, that I’d had enough and had started to feel it was nothing but a scam for the majority of us. Another blogger agreed, as did another who direct messaged me regards it.

Except, when those invited heard, a few had to get nasty- funnily enough one of those was one who’d got arsey with my being miffed at the aforementioned holiday company. Clearly, this blogger likes working for the idea of a dangled carrot, but I for one feel the rest of us deserve better.

Why should these massive companies treat us this way? If they have a massive network, that’s fair enough, it should be the case that they know how to run it so that every member gets the same opportunities as others. Sadly, with this brand, its simply not the case and the same select group get invited time and again, whether its a kids range launch or a homewares launch or adult clothing launch (as this was thrown that I may not have fitted the bill for the latest one, despite having two children). And what do we all have in common in this network- that’s right, the click through advert. Some get the goods, the majority get passed over, ignored and only gain a response when publicly questioning their practices in a social media setting.

I say, enough.

If you want to work for free, that’s up to you. But I for one feel bloggers new, old or in between deserve better treatment. Sadly, all the while I get shouted down, other’s are too afraid to stand up and agree, and the same old factions will use it as an excuse to batter anything I say.

Bloggers need to learn to love themselves more, the spaces we work hard on.

It seems brands are happy to walk all over us, after all…..

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