A few months ago, a well-known company that rhymes with “Jilliams Ponoma” contacted me, asking if I were interested in writing a blog post about wedding registry “do’s and don’t’s.”
I was pretty excited about this opportunity since Belle Brita is a fairly new blog. I’ve also wanted to write about wedding registries from a minimalistic and anti-consumerism perspective, so the topic was perfect. I emailed the representative back and asked for more information on this collaboration.
The reply immediately raised a few red flags for me. While I haven’t worked with brands (yet) on this blog, I do communicate daily with clients through my day job. I know when someone is trying to get me to work for free. Below is the main part of her response to my inquiry for more information.
Whether you choose to create a picture board, include a bulleted list, or even share a registry etiquette story – you have total creative freedom! With all the in’s and out’s of planning a wedding, many people tend to forget the basic guidelines of determining what they want versus what they need. Including any tips you’ve picked up, from either buying from a registry or putting one together, will do the trick!
Considering that we are only reaching out to a select group of bloggers, I would prefer if you didn’t disclose any of my personal information within your post as to not encourage others to contact me to participate. Our social team may feature some of their favorites on social, so let me know as soon as your post goes live on your blog. Be sure to qualify your post by mentioning Williams-Sonoma, and we also have a great wedding registry resource page that would be great to highlight in your post as well for those seeking inspiration for planning their own big day. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!
Like I said, I haven’t done any sponsored writing at Belle Brita yet. I reached out to some trustworthy and wise online friends for how to proceed. The best tip I received was to respond as though I DO have experience working with sponsors and to give my usual rates. I even low-balled her knowing what I earn with Enchanted Conversation and what Cynexis Media pays our freelance copywriters. I wrote back with this.
My normal rate for writing branded content is $20. This guarantees a minimum of 500 words, three no-follow links of your choice, and four keywords of your choice. I usually write much more than 500 words, at no additional charge. You can also choose the date of publication. All of December is available except for December 3.
My preferred method of payment is paypal, which is linked to this email address.
Let me know your preferred publication date and your links/keywords.
Guess how my contact at “Jilliams Ponoma” responded. I’ll give you a hint. She didn’t counter-offer with a lower rate.
Thank you for taking the time to get back to me. We are simply looking to spark the conversation and inspire a community that is seeking fun and useful information. For this initiative we are not currently looking to engage in sponsorship opportunities, but our social team is on the lookout for really great posts and may share a few of their favorites. If this is a deal breaker for you, I completely understand. If we have something in the future that aligns with what you are looking for, I will be sure to reach back out.
As a creative person who does creative work, I am all-too-familiar with the concept of people asking you to do work for free in exchange for “promotion.” While most of the time this is pretty unfair to the creative, sometimes it can be an advantageous arrangement.
However, I knew I couldn’t settle for the vague promise that their social team “may” share a “few” of their favorites. I had no idea how many bloggers they had contacted with this concept, nor how many posts they wanted to share via their social networks.
But as a reputable company with a considerable following on social media, I had to give it one last shot. Like I said, normally it’s not a great deal to do free work for promotion. But for just a few social media shares to my blog, from a company THAT popular, I would totally be willing to compromise.
I would be willing to waive my fee in exchange for a certain number of guaranteed social shares. However, I am not able to write branded content on the vague premise that your social team “may” share a “few” of their favorites. If you can offer some guaranteed social shares, spread out via Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, then I would still be interested in collaboration. Otherwise, this won’t work out. I don’t work for nothing.
I guess she saw the writing on the wall at this point, since she stopped emailing me.
While I was disappointed not to have a chance to collaborate with a well-known and established company, I did NOT lose an opportunity. I maintained my integrity and self-worth against a large company trying to get free advertising.
I have invested a fair amount of money into this blog for my domain name, my hosting, and advertisements on other blogs. I have invested even more time into this blog, not just writing posts regularly, but creating compelling graphics and images, networking with other bloggers, reading how-to articles, and promoting my blog.
I’m willing to do this because I love to write. Because I want to share the advice no one was giving when I was single. Because I have a talent for explaining complicated feminist concepts in easy-to-understand language. Because I have thoughts I want to share with the world.
For the moment, my only payment is page views, comments, and social media shares. For the moment, that’s all the payment I need, because it’s a positive response to my message to the world.
But I don’t work for free.
I will NOT share someone else’s message without just compensation. (Even then, that message must align with my own values).
And you shouldn’t either.
I don’t know how many bloggers “Jilliams Ponoma” managed to scam into writing free advertising, but I’m happy not to be one of them.
Bloggers, remember your worth.
Don’t work for nothing.
EDIT 02/06/2015: I’ve received a lot of feedback since writing this post, including information from other bloggers that this is a common practice for Williams Sonoma (y’all did figure out the company, good job!). I shared my post to their Facebook page and received this response through the contact form on my website.
Huh. “Increased transparency.” I guess that’s a start, since some bloggers were obviously lured in by the promises of social shares that may or may not have happened. But I was never confused about their intent. A representative from Williams Sonoma asked me to write branded content and to link to their website without offering me any compensation for my writing. That’s pretty transparent and blatantly disrespectful of writers.
I replied, but I never received a response to my inquiry.
To hear about another blogger’s experiences, check out Kelly’s post “Dozens of Recipes from Williams-Sonoma Smoothie Week.” Skip past the recipe section and you’ll find her correspondence with Williams Sonoma over the same issue.
I will be interested to see whether or not they offer future bloggers compensation. Stay tuned!