There have a been a flurry of articles in the mom blogging space over the past year about mom bloggers who work for free and how you should never, ever do it. I wrote one myself for Mom Blog Magazine. You’ve heard it before: You cheapen everybody’s work; you make it harder for anyone to be taken seriously and get paid; you are a chump building someone else’s business without getting anything in return. And, all of that is true – sometimes. One of the things that bothers me about this dogmatic approach to the topic of being paid is that often it is hurled by people I know have worked – and continue to work – for free in some instances. The other thing is, it’s not so clear-cut. I’ve written previously about why you shouldn’t work for free – but taking stock of my year and really my last four years since I started blogging – I think it’s important to talk about when it’s okay to accept work that doesn’t come with cash compensation.
- YOU ARE NEW TO BLOGGING – It’s a big, wide blogosphere out there and building readership and traffic is daunting. Joining a blog community where you are posting with a group of other women can give you an automatic group of colleagues and support. You will not drive a ton of traffic from these sites – no matter what they say to the contrary – but you will start to feel like you belong, meet other bloggers and build links back to your site. I started out writing for Silicon Valley Mom’s NYC Mom Blog site and then for the Yahoo! Motherboard and those two communities gave me the connections and friendships that are far and away the most valuable I have today – both personally and professionally. I don’t regret writing for them for free for a moment.
- YOU WANT TO BUILD YOUR EXPERT REPUTATION: There are sites that can provide a much bigger soapbox for your views than your blog. Again, they will not throw you tons of traffic, so don’t fall for that, but they can give you a platform and a legitimacy that your blog alone will not. When the Washington Post asked to re-post an education piece I had written I did not hesitate to say yes. It enhanced my standing as an education writer and advocate and gave me a great byline to point to when applying to paying gigs in the field. As long as you own your content and you are seeing the benefit then you should consider it.
- YOU WILL GET EXCLUSIVE ACCESS TO EVENTS OR INTERVIEWS: Let’s face it, you are just one of many bloggers trying to get press passes, invites and other access to brands and events. If you don’t have the clout (or Klout) to obtain those on your own then having the byline and credentials from a much larger site can help. I have attended many conferences, expos and events thanks to my affiliation with Yahoo! Motherboard. It’s a name those outside of the blogging world understand. To me, that was valuable.
Like I said in the beginning, nothing is black and white. You have to go with your gut and you have to feel like what you are contributing is being respected and acknowledged accordingly – cash or otherwise. You also have to be realistic about your worth. Only you know what is right for you. What do you think? Would you or do you work for free?