Companies have basically cowed a large percentage of bloggers and YouTubers into being unpaid infomercial hosts. You really can’t trust what you read online anymore.
Look, I get it. It’s pretty awesome to get stuff for free. People send me free stuff all the time but I make it very clear that no amount of corporate cheese is going to get me to lie to my readers. I only take opportunities that I like and I only work with companies who are open to constructive feedback. I approach it like a collaboration. I look to how I can best help them while also translating their good work to my readers. If I don’t like something but it’s great for someone else, I translate to who would love it. I have no desire to put anyone on blast. That gets reserved for the rare times that someone truly goes above and beyond to screw me and others.
But yeah. Free stuff in exchange for your being an unpaid infomercial host.
It’s a trap, guys. First it starts out innocently. You get invited to parties or given free tickets. They don’t tell you what to say, but everyone there knows that if you don’t regurgitate the corporate PR materials you won’t get invited back to the great party with the free food and booze and celebrities. I’ve been to a few of these events for various companies and you can almost feel the desperation at some of them.
Quite often Mommy Bloggers are the best target. Why do I know this? Because I am actually a freelance Marketing Director during the day – soon to be Marketing VP. It’s how I get paid. One reason Marketers target Mommy Bloggers is because quite often they are stay at home Moms. They also have kids. Kids cost money. This means that they may be short on cash. Those free parties and toys and swag are ever so much harder to turn down when you are a single income household.
You see how it starts? They get into the cracks of good people. It’s completely innocent at first. Then you realize how insidious it is once you’ve seen it enough times. It started out as a cool thing for some very hard working Moms and others but it can become a desperate clique of people too afraid to say anything negative about whatever company they are working with.
BOOM. That company now has their infomercial hosts. They just have to pay them with the low level fear of losing what they have achieved.
I have been lucky. The companies I work with get me. They are on board with the fact that I will give them constructive criticism and they appreciate me for it because when I’m done they have a much better product. I only work with the best and the most ethical.
My advice for anyone coming up in blogging is to be careful of these traps. They seem great at first but they lead you to a plateau. You’ll become handcuffed by it. Your readers will smell it and no longer trust you to give them the Real Talk because they will be able to see through it.
Nobody trusts anyone who always thinks everything is perfect, guys. Perfect isn’t real life.
My Advice for Working with Companies:
When a company contacts you talk with them and make sure they are OK with constructive feedback. You don’t even have to post that online – if you are working directly with them you can give them the feedback one on one. This gives them a chance to fix whatever it is and then once they have quickly fixed it you can post about it. In many ways I view bloggers as beta testers. I really take my role seriously. Everything I say or do I like for it to be helpful to whomever I am working with. I write as if it were what I’d want to read critiquing my own work.
So where does that leave those of us who refuse to be unpaid slaves for The Man? With CASH MONEY on your own terms if you know how to play it right.
They way I play it is The Long Game. Do not expect to get to this point for at least 5-10 years. It’s not easy. Sorry. Nothing worthwhile is. But it is possible.
My blog is kind of like a combination resume and networking tool. Since starting this blog I’ve quadrupled my yearly income. I am also now debt free after paying off close to 6 figures of debt that was on 25% interest. Yep. That happened just this week. BAM.
How I Make My Money (for now):
Currently almost 100% of my income comes from freelance work (Marketing, Project Management) that I’ve gotten because I write here. “Art Sales / Internet Donations” also encapsulates paid artwork, image licensing payments, and guest speaking payments. I don’t have much time to do a lot of this stuff just now due to how lucrative my other freelance work has been.)
Having created Intervention and (Re)Generation Who from this blog is physical proof of how influential my work has been. I literally just did almost every desirable skill anyone in my field could want on my own with no outside help.
That answers all of the questions before they are even asked.
If your current day job isn’t giving you the opportunities you need to broaden yourself – make them yourself. Volunteer. Contribute to local events. Start your own event. Write a book. Take your future into your own hands. If I had waited for my company to walk me through all of this I’d still be a receptionist.
For example, in one interview I was asked if I could influence people. My reply was, “After 5 PM I have 120 unpaid volunteers standing by to work with me. How many do you have?”
There was no question. I got that contract immediately.
So I urge you to be yourself. You will lose opportunities over it, but you will lose the wrong opportunities over it. Eventually you’ll build something you love on your own terms.
I’m almost there. By 2017 I’ll have pulled out at least 2 or 3 more areas in which I’ll be making money and I’ll likely have more time to work on creative projects and do more speaking engagements. This pie chart will not stay this way for very long. It always changes as my schedule changes and I can devote more time to different things.
Remember one thing – I started working toward this in 2003. It’s 2015.
Stay the course. It’s worth it. And don’t be afraid to mess up or try things that don’t work. Be you. Your voice is the only thing that will cut through the chatter of bullshit online.
Use your voice. Anything else isn’t that special.
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- Comments are closed because I was tired of Marketing departments sending their employees to make fake comments on my site to sell their products. Email me or comment via social media.
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