Probably Polka Dots Why I don't accept unpaid partnerships (and why you shouldn't either!) | Probably Polka Dots

18 May 2015

Why I don't accept unpaid partnerships (and why you shouldn't either!)

Today I would like to discuss a new trend that is happening in the blogging world: the expectation from companies that bloggers (freelancers, writers, etc.) will produce content (and link to said company's site) without compensation. Of course, the brand promises that you've been "selected" from a "premiere group" to participate in a wonderful opportunity that will possibly result in them possibly selecting you to possibly feature on their social media sites. Just say no. 

There are several things that are infuriating about this. For one, I like to think that my blog is an on-going portfolio of some of my best work. The key word there is work. I spend countless hours after my 9-5 job writing, editing, snapping pictures, editing images, attending events, sending emails, and publishing content to social media. In other words, I work. And in the working world, when you work, you are compensated.

For another, as my friend Laura says, I don't expect my dry-cleaner to accept my word-of-mouth praise of their services as compensation. Because frankly, nice words don't pay the bills for the dry-cleaner. As a service, they expect money for cleaning my clothes. As such, I expect money for advertising for your brand. 

Because let's be honest: as bloggers, we are advertising for our brand partnerships. I can say without a doubt that I have enjoyed every single one of my brand partnerships over the years. They force me to think creatively about my writing as it relates to their product, and they expose me to things in the world that I didn't even know existed! Often times I spend hours on a partner's website learning about the brand and becoming part of the brand so that I can advertise for them in the best way I know how. In many ways, I am a brand ambassador for my partnerships, and I love that. The best part is that I feel like I establish relationships with these people and get to pass their site onto my friends, family, and coworkers, and I am happy to do so! In most cases, I have tried the product, or at the very least gotten to know the website in and out, and because I've spent that time, the brands learn to trust me and my readers learn to trust the brand. It's a win-win for everyone: brand, blogger, and reader. 

Over the course of a week, I receive anywhere from one to five requests to produce free content for brands. Content that is not compensated with product OR money. The problem isn't that the brands think this is acceptable behavior. The problem is that my fellow bloggers do because if they didn't, these brands wouldn't think it's okay. Bloggers, we make the rules in this field. We get to decide what we accept as compensation and what we do not. It's our world.   

So bloggers, listen up: the next time a brand tells you that they don't have money in their budget to compensate you, know that they are saying one thing and one thing only: they don't have money in their budget to compensate YOU. There is an advertising budget, but you are not part of it...and that is okay. Politely decline their offer. Please, for the love of all freelancers, do not accept uncompensated posts. Ever. Period. I don't care if it's Kate Spade herself knocking on your blogging door. 

Kate Spade doesn't pay your bills; you do. 



  1. I do some unpaid gigs if the brand aligns with my vision. Not everyone company has a huge budget, and I've learned this from working at smaller companies myself. But I agree that you should know your worth and if they are asking a ton from you, you should be fairly compensated!

    1. Totally agree! I work with small businesses, too, and I know their budgets are thin. Being able to swap product or even swap social media mentions is good enough for me!

  2. I applaud this. I don't want to put in 2 hours of work to "possibly" get some exposure. It's annoying and very unprofessional from brands but too many people say yes to these gigs that companies just run right over you with ridiculous requests. Love this post!

    1. YES! It's all about the work behind the post. Just like there is a ton of work that goes in on the brand's side to contact bloggers, there's a ton of work on our end to produce the content. Ultimately, I'd just like everyone to see that we are in this together, so let's agree to help each other out in fair and reasonable ways.

  3. On the other hand, as the creator of a beauty product that's just getting off the ground, I can't tell you how many requests I get from bloggers for free products. It goes both ways. I think having a new beauty product (in a tiny category, really; it's not a cosmetic but a new tool) gives bloggers content for their readers that they can't get anywhere else.

    1. Hi Molly! Thank you so much for your comments. I agree that swapping products for posts is definitely payment in and of itself. That makes the partnership mutually beneficial and helpful to both the brand and the blogger: the blogger gets content and the brand gets shoutouts, SEO improvements, and brand recognition. I mention that product swaps are absolutely considered forms of payment. I work with small businesses to manage their social media, so I know that often times their budgets are already pulled in 20 directions. My frustrations are with big brands - brands that are carried in every grocery, pharmacy, and big box retailer around the world who say that they will not compensate (or give product) in exchange for reviews, posts, etc. Especially when I see them partnering in sponsored posts on other blogs. Thanks again for your comments! I love a good dialogue :)


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