“This Project Will Give You SO Much Exposure,” & Other Red Flags I’ve Grown to Run the Other Way From.
I will preface this by saying — all of the brands that I end up working with on my blog, at this point in my career, are awesome, nice, super genuine + on brand people to work with. I am AS PICKY as it gets these days… and I reach out to a lot of the brands I work with currently because I try to keep things really tight and really synergistic with exactly what I know I want to put into the universe via the bloggy. 🙂
But, back in the day, it was a different story. And all day every day I get outreach from brands and have to weed through to see what may or may not be a good fit. (PS, I have a post coming soon ALL about that… all about how to deal with time management as a blogger who is dealing with way, way, way too many emails + brand opps.)
When my girl Lee Tilghman posted a PSA on Facebook the other day saying, “PSA: ‘Exposure’ doesn’t pay rent, nor does it cover my monthly ice-cream budget,” I was instantly throwing my hands in the air saying, “YAAAS, GIRL” because… every blogger who gets asked to do stuff for free (all of the time) has grown an aversion to this phrase, and many others.
Then I started reading through the comments on her post — most of them from other bloggers + Instagrammers + some of her friends from other industries.
There seemed to be an overwhelming agreement that yes, bloggers + creatives get walked all over. ALL of the time.
But what really stuck out to me here was that there are so many red flag phrases that we all agree on, but I’ve been spending so much time taking it personally & having mixed, negative impressions from SO many of the brands I have considered working with and used to admire.
You’ll see in my upcoming podcast episode with my previous interns Danika and Christina that we talk a lot about how so many brands treat bloggers with little respect, which to my surprise was what they both said was one of the MAIN takeaways they learned from working with me for so long.
This got me thinking: WTF?
If there are so many red flag phrases, why am I taking so many of these interactions so personally? Most of the emails I get that offer “exposure,” “brain picking,” and the “you’d be lucky to work with us at ALL with your numbers…” attitude with no compensation or respect for my time don’t deserve any response, but sometimes I end up responding anyway — which I usually regret doing.
I once had a big brand (I’ll just say it — “Flat Tummy Tea” — bleh, sorry, I had to) tell me that I was “living under a rock” when I told them my rates for an Instagram post package, that “they don’t even pay the Kardashians that much” and that I “really shouldn’t miss out on this opportunity to work with them and use their products for free.”
I was so boiling angry when I walked away from that email exchange, SO angry I couldn’t even respond. I never did respond, despite the mega amount of followup that same outreach person from their brand continued to do. To have the audacity to tell me that I wasn’t worth the rates I had been charging for months (my rates always increase as my following + readership increases), something that is carefully constructed due to the time, energy and passion I put into each post, was flat out ridiculous and beyond offensive.
They weren’t deserving of a response, but I still felt something nagging inside of me to want to respond and say, “Hey, just so you know, talking to innocent, passionate, caring bloggers that way will give you a terrible name in the industry. Talking to anyone that way and telling them they aren’t worth their rates is appalling and is such a mean, manipulative tactic. Have fun taking advantage of people.”
But, of course, I didn’t. It wasn’t worth my time, and I know that usually people who have the audacity to say things like that in the first place only lash back even stronger — which would REALLY set me off.
However… after reading the comments on Lee’s Facebook status about the “exposure dilemma,” I realized that SO many of us have been in that position… and while it’s annoying AF — it’s nothing to take as personally as I was, it’s just an unfortunate result of the way that brands often view bloggers.
These stories, tho…
When my best friend went to work for a company in the Bay Area that I had partnered with on my blog in the past, she told me that most of the time the people she worked with was spent complaining about how hard influencers are to work with, how entitled we are, how unreliable our time frames are, and how stuck up we are.
I was like… WHAT?! This same company that was super rude to me, had no respect for my editorial schedule, thought that a professional photo shoot with a professional photographer was something I could whip together in a matter of hours and then RE-TAKE the angles they didn’t like just as easy and for no extra money, etc. etc. thought that I was stuck up?
Similarly, one of my other friends works for an agency in New York that connects brands with bloggers — and after having worked with the company a few times, my friend wound up telling me that she had to stick up for me to one of her co-workers who said that “We had a LOT of issues working with Jordan” — which was because… A) the product was not sent to me on time, B) the product was not a natural brand (unbeknownst to me upon initial agreement) and I had trouble incorporating it organically into my social media, and C) there was an entire back-end system of “reporting templates” that I was not used to and did not really know how to use.
And realizing that so many brands that I was pouring my energy and creative passion into were talking behind my back and expecting totally unrealistic expectations and timeframes (for less than I know I deserve to get paid) really started to irk me.
Let me also take a second to say, before you think that perhaps I actually am a diva to work with, if there is one thing I pride myself on with the “business” side of my blogging, it’s that I make a huge point to be friendly, accommodating, responsive, and easy going with the brands that I work with. If I am going to have to push a deadline back, I let them know in advance, and I try to make my creative process super clear upfront by explaining how I work and requesting imagery inspiration from the brand BEFORE I create content in case we have creative differences down the road.
If I feel like I am being walked all over — I will stand up for myself. It’s something that I do not take lightly — as brands who walk all over bloggers are acting like total bullies… and bullying is just not okay in any way shape or form.
So THEN, I also came across this (from someone who posted about the story on Lee’s status):
And I basically had my hands raised in the air shouting “YES!!! I FEEL YOU,” because I was so inspired and humbled by this beautiful woman’s post.
She shared her story, named the company that disrespected her, and really began to shed some light on what goes on behind closed doors in the social media community of artists, writers, bloggers, photographers, illustrators, and everyone in between.
It got me thinking — I stopped putting up with this no payment BS a long time ago, but I never really did stop letting the accompanying RUDENESS get to me in the worst of ways. It has always bugged me terribly, it happens every day, and the “Flat Tummy Tea” email I got is something that rang in my head for months and months and months.
So my resolution with the whole thing is to just LET IT GO when a brand doesn’t get it, and remind myself that it is their loss — not mine.
Let. It. Go.
And I will continue to do things for “exposure” when it feels RIGHT to me — but it’s gotta feel right! If the vibe is off, it’s not happening. I don’t really think in terms of exposure… I think in terms of on brand or off brand. But my time is so valuable and so precious (that goes for ALL of our time) that I don’t really like to bother with doing things or going to events that are unpaid — I just have so many other things I want to be doing with my time!
Ya feel me?? As bloggers we have to take a stand against getting treated unfairly. It’s VERY awesome that so many brands now understand what we deserve and realize that our reach and our passion really means something.
But we can’t let brands (or anyone, for that matter) bully us just because we are small, often one person lil companies!
This year, 2017, has been SO AMAZING so far and I am so grateful for all of the opportunities — many of them SPONSORED with brands, and many of them just awesome, everyday life opportunities — and I am determined to keep on only working with brands who really feel amazing to me and help my blogging space feel as authentic as possible.
And to keep the year as positive + fun + inspiring as possible.
Yes, yes. That feels right. 🙂
Thoughts? Would love to hear. <3