From the outside looking in, the life of a travel blogger can seem quite glamorous – especially when perusing perfect photos posted on social media. But one of the biggest challenges I face is making money. It can be really hard to turn down unpaid work when it’s presented because you know if you say no, the brand will likely find someone else to do it and you will have missed out on creating fresh content and building a relationship with a new client. As the fourth post in my ‘For Brands‘ series, I thought I’d share a few of the reasons why brands should pay bloggers, influencers and creators.
I also want to say this – I recognise the work we do doesn’t even begin to compare to the work other people do, such as nurses, service men and women and first responders, and I’m cautious of this post coming across as a whinge. Instead, I just wanted to share some of my experiences and what I’ve learned since leaving my job. It’s taken a long time to feel like we deserve to be paid, especially because we love our jobs so much. I’m hoping this post shares some insight on what goes into the work we do and helps brands out there see why bloggers deserve to be paid.
If you haven’t already read them, you might like to catch up on the previous three guides in the series:
- This is why brands really need to work with bloggers,
- This is how to find + approach bloggers about working together, and
- 13 of the BEST ways brands can work with bloggers.
1. It covers the cost of our time
A lot of time goes into creating the content you see on LGB and in our YouTube videos. Let’s take a to-camera YouTube video, for example. We spend a half day setting up and filming, then around two days editing it and one whole day dedicated to preparing it for upload. It can take up to a couple of weeks to perfect an inspirational video (like this one), not to mention the time spent driving between locations, pre-planning the shoot, creating a teaser video for social media, working in with local businesses, buying food as we go and paying for fuel. When we’re on a job working unpaid, we’re taking away time that could be spent earning money or building our business and, what’s worse, we’re valuing ourselves at $0.
2. It covers the cost of equipment
In order to stay on top of the game and keep up with everyone, we have to invest a lot of money into equipment and, as we all know, camera gear ain’t cheap! We need a computer each for Matt and me to work from, fancy cameras of all shapes and sizes, a drone, additional batteries for them all and all the other essential kit. As you can imagine, ours isn’t a very high paying job so we don’t exactly have a big pit of money to dive into each week for a new camera. Without payment, we just couldn’t justify the money we have to spend to create content and each paid job helps us recoup the cost of the gear we use to do it.
3. You get access to our audience
If a brand wants to work with a creator, there’s a good reason behind it. Most likely, they want to build brand awareness, boost sales and gain access to their audience. If a brand went down the route of working with traditional marketing to do this, like a newspaper, television commercial etc, they would expect to pay for the exposure. Influencer marketing, in my opinion, should be viewed the same. A creator should be paid by a brand to get in front of their audience especially as it takes years and years of work to even build an audience.
4. You get what you do or don’t pay for
We’ve all heard the old saying, ‘You get what you pay for,’ and the same is true when it comes to creators. Of course, I can’t say with certainty that every creator you pay will exceed your every expectation but, if you’re paying them, they should work to your contract and meet every deliverable set out for them. When a brand is paying me, I’m really switched on and want to do the very best job possible for them. Personally, I feel you get the best out of a creator because they’re incentivised to go the extra mile for the best possible content. You can guarantee, they’ll be hoping to impress you so you’ll give them more business.
5. It gives the brand more control
When a brand pays a creator, it gives them the power to establish a contract. This means you have more control over what the creator is doing. You’re paying per deliverable so you can be really specific about the number of photographs they share on social media or the number of blog posts they create. I just want to stress, paying a creator isn’t about paying for positive promotion or an opinion, it’s about paying for the actual output and covering the costs that go into creating them. But, as I always say, a brand who is willing to invite a creator to experience their product must be pretty confident it’s a winner or they wouldn’t risk it.
6. We’re doing something you can’t
This is a great point I hadn’t really considered until Teagan at Scrunch mentioned it to me. If a brand was able to build brand awareness, boost sales or create the content themselves, they’d do it! Right?! If you’re engaging someone externally to create content for you, no matter what the reason, that person is doing something you were unable to do internally. It seems right, then, that they should be paid to do that job for you, just like an employee would be. When you pay that person, you’re paying for access to their knowledge, skills, experience and more to boost your brand.
7. It’s our business
Matt and I quit our jobs to focus on growing our business and it is now our full-time jobs. We offer our videography, photography and writing skills as freelancers but, other than that, Little Grey Box (LGB) is our only source of income. LGB isn’t a hobby, it’s a business and we treat it as such. If we didn’t get paid, we’d eventually run out of money and would need to stop working on LGB. Simply put, our business depends on being paid by brands.
When a brand approaches me, I always see them as a business. Businesses pay the people who work for them, right? If a brand wants to engage my services to create content about their brand, that’s me working for them. So, it makes sense I should be paid too.
Pro tip: Something is better than nothing!
Of course, brands come in all shapes and sizes and while, in a perfect world, every brand would have a generous budget to put into marketing, many simply don’t. From my perspective, something is always better than nothing. Being paid, even a smaller amount than I would quote a job for makes me feel like the brand values my time and that means a lot. There’s no guarantee a creator will say yes to the budget, but I’ve always found honesty goes a long way. If a brand says, “We’re a small business and we don’t have a big budget but we love what you do and could offer you $300 to do this,” I’m more likely do it than if they offer me an unpaid arrangement. I can completely identify with small budgets!
Two things I’ve learned about being paid as a creator…
The faux ‘glamour’ factor
One thing I battled with when I first left my office job was balancing the guilt I felt. I’d just come from a job I didn’t get any enjoyment from to being invited to spend two nights at a hotel and write about it. It felt to me like it wasn’t a real job, it was just a vacation! It also felt really unfair that I should get paid to go and do my dream job at a hotel instead of sitting in an office working. I felt guilty, I felt like a fraud and I didn’t think I deserved to be paid.
So, I would take jobs for free. But, I quickly started feeling really frustrated and angry because I wasn’t spending two days relaxing at a hotel, I was spending those two days, and many more days afterwards, working with nothing but a few blog posts to show for it. The reality of it is you have to work to get the content you need to fill your obligations to the client, no matter how glamorous it may seem at first.
The faux ‘free’ factor
I’ve often heard people talk about creators receiving things for ‘free’. In my experience, this isn’t the case. To me, free means you’re given something without anything expected in return. When a brand offers me the opportunity to stay at their hotel, for example, I can’t just show up, sleep in, laze by the pool all weekend then pack up, go home and not whisper a word of it to anyone but my cat. The expectation is I’ll create content and share it with my audience. When I’m there, I’m working and, like everyone else, really need to be paid to do my job.