A pen company recently reached out to me about reviewing their products in one of my YouTube videos. They said they would send the pens for free, all I had to do was mention them and show them in a video.
First off, yay! Random acknowledgement for my YouTube channel! And second, they want to send me pens, which means they know about my planner! Faceless internet validation!
I said, sure, I’d love to try out their products. And they said great, we’ve sent your pens, now we only require you to add the name of our pens to the title of your video.
Whoa there horsey. Mentioning pens, and trying them out in a video is way different than mentioning the brand name in the title! I responded that if they wanted me to list the name of the brand in the title, they were going to have to compensate me for it. My brand means a lot to me, and I am not in the business of creating that much free advertising, in exchange for a few gel pens.
I mean, if it was Tombow, and they wanted to give me free brush pens for a mention, I’d be writing a very different blog post.
When Should you Work for Products
I know a lot of people who will not work in exchange for products. You can’t pay your bills with products. And I get that. This blogging gig is hard work, and YouTube is even harder. The content we create is something that a lot of us already give away for free, and when you do it for an advertiser you are not only giving them your content for free, you are giving them advertising for free. And if you are a content creator, you know that advertising is not cheap.
I am not someone who will never write for products, however there are stipulations.
- I have to actually want to try your product – I’m not going to try some random nonsense that I have no interest in just so you can boost your brand.
- Your product needs to fit my genre and brand – I’m not going to review random nonsense that will stick out like a sore thumb with the rest of my content, and make my readers/viewers think that I am writing some disingenuous shit just to potentially get extra exposure for myself.
- I am not going to create a ton of links, and use your pics, or your content in my post/video – remember what I said about advertising being expensive? I can’t afford to advertise for myself, and I’m not just going to be a platform for you to have free advertising. And I will never use someone else’s content, as an advertisement or otherwise.
- I am going to give an honest review, good or bad, so your stuff better be good – If your product is garbage, I’m not going to say it’s great for fear that you won’t want to work with me again. Because chances are, I’m not going to want to work with you again if I don’t like your product.
When Should you Charge For Content?
Again, some people will never not charge for content.
I’m still new, so I like the opportunity to get my blog out there, even if it’s just for products. With the caveats above, of course. That is not to say that I won’t draw the line though.
- When a company wants me to display their name in the title of my post or video – Adding the name of a company to a post/video title, is like putting a sign on your blog that you work with that company. I am not going to do that for free. My word means a lot, and if I’m vouching for you, I need compensation.
- When a brand wants more than one post – If you are looking for a series from me, you’re going to need to pay me. It takes a lot of work to put 300-1,000 words on the page, and I’m not just going to pull that out for you over and over again for product. I mean, unless that product is a car or a cruise.
- When a company asks for more in return than they are giving – As mentioned above, if you want me to write a five blog post series about the cruise you are going to send me on, you don’t have to pay me. If you want me to write a 500 page blog post about a set of pens that cost $4.95, it’s not going to happen. However, if you want me to try them and mention them, we’re good. If you want me to dedicate an entire video to your product, you’re going to have to pay me.
Don’t Get Me Wrong
I know this may come off as greedy, or selling out, but blogging has changed a lot over the years. When I was a younger blogger, I had no issue doing work for products. I would literally review anything that anyone wanted to send me. A book to help children learn Spanish? Yup. A set of baby bottles for my two month old? Heck yes. A wooden watch, that doesn’t hold up to water exposure, but looks amazing? You know it! I still have the pics from that one:
There was also another time, when I got to meet Jessica Alba when she was honored at the Mount Sinai Champion for Children Award Ceremony in Greenwich, CT in 2013. I didn’t get paid for it, and it was totally worth my time and effort.
The Bottom Line
As with everything else, do what is right for you. Some people work for products, because they love free things. Others won’t work for less than $500 a post. I used to work for an online parenting magazine, for $20 a post. And even though I knew I wasn’t getting paid enough for my content, I did it because I wanted to be a paid writer. That was enough for me.
I can’t tell you what’s right for you. I can say that if you are feeling stressed or unsure about your compensation, ask for more. The worst they can say is no. For example, the pen company that reached out to me, said no to my ask for compensation. And in return I will not mention their name in the title of my video. Believe me, it’s empowering to name a price for your content, even if it doesn’t get accepted. You are showing yourself, and others, that your word has monetary value, and it’s a great feeling!