We hear that selling out is a bad thing. But, as a freelance writer, sometimes it's more about selling out on your own terms.
No one likes a sell out. We hear about selling out as if its the end of the world. One of my blogging friends was accused of selling out when he started accepting money from credit card affiliate programs and adding credit card reviews to his site.
It's harder for me to sell out since my job is to write for money, but it's still possible, especially when it comes to my own blogs. What kinds of things am I willing to write about? And am I willing to accept free content, in the form of guest posts, on my sites?
I've been thinking about this a bit lately, especially after mulling some of the truths that Shannyn at Frugal Beautiful pointed out in a recent blog post. I feel her pain. I receive emails regularly from banks, brands, and others who want me to review their services, write about their products, or accept sub-par canned content. I was so disappointed in a recent guest post from a major bank that it pushed me over the edge and prompted me to change the guest post policy on my personal finance blog.
They want you to do this stuff for exposure. I've written in the past about working for exposure. I think it's a terrible idea. Shannyn points out that:
I can tell you that if you’re trying to pay your bills or heck, even simply grow your blog, I can tell you that the PROMISE OF “social media exposure” is not sufficient payment for your hard work.
And I've started lumping guest posts in there as well. Many brands think that providing you with their own content is sufficient payment. They get a back link and a little exposure. The problem with just running someone else's content on your blog is that it might not be of a very high quality. I know. I've written this stuff. I used to churn out stuff that others would then place on blogs as guest posts. It was never my best stuff. Just general information with a little SEO tweaking. It's easy work, and it's a paycheck. But I wouldn't want it on my blogs.
Freelance Writer: Sell Out Your Own Way
I participated in a couple of blog campaigns recently that really hit home the idea of selling out on your own terms. First of all, these campaigns offered me a lot of money to write a post with a link to specific brand. Next, since they were paying me to write the content, there was a disclosure on the post, in compliance with FCC regulations. I felt better about these campaigns for the following reasons:
- I wrote the post, so I could control the quality and the message.
- The disclosure made the whole thing transparent.
- I wasn't hemmed about by restrictions, which, interestingly, I sometimes am when I just put up someone's free content.
The interesting thing about posting some brand's “free content” (and they'll totally promote it through their social media channels on top of everything) is that it sometimes comes with more restrictions. They aren't paying you for anything — the links, the exposure, your time — but they want to dictate everything. With the paid brand campaigns, they tell me where they want to link, ask me to publish a disclosure, and they ask me to post my own post on social media (which I would do anyway, since it's my post). That's it. No anchor text requirements. No “use this keyword X amount of times.” It's much easier, and I get paid to pretty much do what I would anyway.
As a freelance writer, selling out doesn't get much better than that.
If you're going to put your name on something, or let others use your site for something, it makes sense to get a fair return for that value. It's one thing to let your friends, who you know will offer you a true guest post of value to your readers contribute something. It's something else altogether for a PR person to try to get you to work for free.
From now on, when a brand wants to offer me “free content — and we'll promote it!” I'm going to point them to my new policy. They can pay me to write the content, or find some other freelance writer who's willing to sell out for much less.