An Open Letter to Brands Who Ask Influencers to Work for Free… or ‘Exposure’

A few days ago on Twitter I shared an email response I gave to a brand that was offering exposure as a form of payment, no money, no product. I was expecting a like or two on the tweet, maybe a hand clapping emoji comment, but I wasn’t expecting the amount of likes and comments from people feeling so like-minded about it. 

You know when you have had an argument with someone, and within minutes you’re kicking yourself for things you wish you’d said, and in my case the missing words and angry typos I’d made having to justifying why exposure wasn’t a payment. So I thought I would put up my tweaked version of this now which I can point brands to in future, you can also share this link or use it as a starting template too should you wish (you can see my original tweet here if you’d like to see my reply of sleep deprived passion).

Most of the time I just ignored requests from brands when I could tell was a compensation free “collaboration” (although what the collab is when it’s so one sided I have no idea), but in this case they chased me for a response, and despite knowing what they we’re going to say, I played their game and enquired, and when they asked for feedback as to why exposure might not work for influencers I replied. In future I’ll be taking on a one woman mission (of course, you can join), to instead of ignoring I’ll now be trying to educate brands. As I said in my OG tweet, Stand up for yourself and know your worth.


Dear Brand,

Working for exposure is the type of collaboration simply doesn’t work for me. 

Exposure is not something that’s guaranteed to make any difference to me as a blog owner, and in my experience it’s highly unlikely to either. As an example I’ve had photos shared with Boots on their Instagram this year several times, and despite the thousands of likes they got within the first hour or so, can you guess how many new followers I got directly around times on those days as a result? 

Zero, Zilch, Not One.

A brand with over half a million followers provided exactly no uplift in terms of followers or even any noticeable change in likes on a post. There was no surge in page views as a result of their shares. Another example, Makeup Geek retweeted a blog post of mine which had impressions on over 16,000 people – 143 people looked at the image attached to the tweet and 9 people actually clicked on the post link – a brand with 250k twitter followers. 

I could go on with more examples, The Body Shop, Kiehl’s, Rimmel, Soap & Glory, Origins and Pureology are just some of the brands which have shared my content on Instagram and Twitter this year, all providing little to no impact. I’m not a fan of brands taking photos of mine and sharing with their followers, but in some circumstances I’ve trialled it as an experiment, all it’s proved is that my Intellectual Property is not worth me giving away for free. 

Without compensation or even product to work with influencers shouldn’t be expected to work for free, I have never considered this two months into blogging let alone close to four years. There are exceptional circumstances where it may be worth it, companies who could provide the power to make real changes to traffic/followers but said brands should also have a budget available. There are of course opportunities where something is mutually beneficial too like writing for a magazine or another online blog. I completely understand not every brand has budget available, and in those cases without even product ready to compensate with, it’s shouldn’t be worth wasting people’s time over, however big or small they may be. 

As someone who works in the industry with a better-than-most knowledge of SEO, and who in the past worked in marketing and PR in the past it’s something I 100% do not agree with professionally or personally. When I go to my day job, I don’t work for free in the hope that I will get a retweet at the end of the day thanking me for doing a good job, and I know without you confirming that you don’t either. The same expectations should extend to Influencers you contact for the hours of work they’ll put into creating a post filled with passion for you. 

An hour or so goes into the preparation of a post and then at least one to three writing it, another hour or two more will go into the setting up and taking photos and then editing. I’ve spent £1000 on a computer that can hack manage running all the programs required to do the job efficiently and well, £8 a month on photo editing software and over £800 on camera equipment to make all that happen which produces what I believe is good quality, insightful content.

Content that you’ve asked to be apart of. 

Of course not all of my content is sponsored, and yes – this is predominately a hobby for me and could always  be. But when promotion of a brand goes into it, even in terms of the backlink you’re hoping to get as a result can’t and shouldn’t be expected for free – whether that’s with product compensation or monetary. 

I can only hope that any Influencers who take you up on the offer will be considered by you in future for with them in a better capacity where they are fairly compensated for their time and past efforts. 

I hope that gives some more insight as to why this type of collaboration doesn’t work for me, and shouldn’t work for you as a company ethically either.


an-open-letter-to-brands-who-ask-influencers-to-work-for-free-exposure-1

Shout out to my friend Molly who had the same request to participate from the brand and posted her reply on Twitter a few days before me, despite us responding on the same day, they took a lot longer to reply to me initially then they did to her. Our replies to them were virtually identical pointing out where exposure hadn’t worked for either of us in the past and it was only when I re-read hers yesterday I realised just how bang-on she was too, that’s why she’s one of my besties though!

Ridiculous Requests

Feel free to share with me some of the requests you’ve been sent with be in comments or in the email, I’ll be adding them below.

The worst experience I’ve had with being “offered” exposure came from a small indie company who wanted me to publish a post on my site with a backlink, in exchange for sharing that post with “all of their audience” on Twitter. I didn’t even flirt with the idea, but I did take a look at their Twitter profile, out of curiosity; they had less than 20 followers. As I had just under 5,000 at the time, it was actually comical that they would consider this suitable compensation for my time in writing the post…16 Bit Dad Blog


I think it’s important to remember, no matter what your blog’s views or following to never be suckered in with a complimentary email, the one I had that caused me to respond could have suckered me in easily, lovely writing style, high quality, embodies what we are as an award winning brand. If all a brand has to offer you is compliments, or something feels unfair, you have every reason to politely decline, your time is worth something. If you love an idea and want to participate, you go ahead, do you, or completely nick their often antediluvian idea and run.

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Helpless Whilst Drying

Email: helplesswhilstdrying@gmail.com

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49 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Brands Who Ask Influencers to Work for Free… or ‘Exposure’

  1. Go you! I’m curious as to what they thought of your response. I can’t talk because I’m a small time blogger who doesn’t really dip her toes into brands and PR (because I don’t know enough about it) but the messages and emails I have had, the majority haven’t had a personal feel and the words seem generic. I don’t think some collaborations would work living where I do so I’ve politely declined. As you say never sell yourself short and work for what you believe in xx

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  2. I believe it stems from not knowing how much time goes in the production of a blog post. I’ve recently started blogging and only met two to three people in the past few months who have acknowledged the hours invested in writing, photography and editing.

    Loved the clarity in your open letter!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a very small blogger and literally have earned no money for it in 2 years, which hasn’t bothered me at all – it’s really just a hobby. I have had a few companies offer me exposure in lieu of payment for posts which in some cases I have accepted because they’re brands I wanted to work with and I genuinely don’t feel I can justify charging for my time. The most annoying thing with all those instances is, I still didn’t hear anything back after accepting the collaboration. You can’t win with these companies!
    But that aside, I completely agree with your open letter. You’re one of the most hard-working bloggers with consistent quality content I follow and you should never be expected to work for free. Good on you for trying to educate them without being rude xxx

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    1. It’s not very often I do charge for my time, but I need something to work with, just in terms of creating a post what are you meant to write with nothing to start with?
      Thank you so much Rhi, that’s really kind and IMO you definitely can ask for something in exchange your time, if they want to be apart of your content there’s a reason for it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Blimey, you have written and explained the whole process so well. Great post! I have also experienced similar situations, creating content actually takes a lot of hard work, time and effort (not forgetting hours of preparation), brands asking to do it for free or exposure just aren’t being considerate enough.. I hope this creates an awareness in the collab world. Well done you! 🙌🏼

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      1. Ahh yes I totally agree hun, I’m so glad we’re able to talk about it through your post and prepare ourselves better so we don’t get the raw end of the deal. Thanks so much again 😘 xx

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  5. Love your post and talking about this problem, which might be hidden from many blog readers.

    As beauty reader, I realise how much money you actually spend on products that you review for us – readers. And when we decide to buy the product, the money doesn’t go to you (technically you at that point are a far and small branch of PR for them), not even a couple of pennies. It goes to the company, which wasn’t even doing the marketing.

    So giving a free product is the least they can do. All support! And although from the comments (their answer) it seems that they will not learn, I hope that other brands will hear this shout and change the way they treat their bloggers.

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    1. That’s why I always shop through affiliate links on blogs sites who’ve interested me in a product, at least they get some kind of commission for the introduction in the end!
      Exactly, what it actually costs for a brand to send something is so minuscule for the time that often goes in to creating content, that’s all I ask is that a sample is considered!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post, put way better than I could and will definitely be sharing it. I have once done a post for a company that was free, not long after I started blogging, and it’s actually a brand I could spend ages looking on their website but it’s one of the worst performing posts I’ve done. Since then I’ve been contacted by a few but tend to ignore them, in the future I’ll try and come up with an email reply that sounds ok as to why I won’t. It does feel flattering to get these emails when no companies seem interested in actually paying or sending anything but it isn’t worth it.

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    1. Thank you! I think they know how to get you with their compliments, they have nothing else to try and sway you – but I know someone else who got the same copied and pasted email and compliments so it’s easier to bring yourself back to reality once you know that!
      That’s incredibly annoying that it performed so badly, I’d rather write/read something that you’ve spent your own free unpaid time on rather than a curated post by a brand! x

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Agreed!

    I’ve been blogging for about 3.5 years now and I’ve not made a single dime out of it. Even though this is more of a hobby for me, I’d love to make a little extra pocket money from it if possible. I’ve gotten free product sent to me as compensation, which I won’t complain about as I’ve discovered some amazing brands through it. But the ones who send you a generic “Hello (insert blog name here)! We found your blog recently and just love it! How about doing a post and if we like it we’ll give it exposure!” email infuriates me. Or those who claim they’ve read my blog but what they want me to write about has absolutely NOTHING to do with what my blog is about and doesn’t fit the general theme of my blog. The indoor landscaping company who offered to send me plants comes to mind. WTAF?! I’m still laughing because it was so ridiculous.

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    1. I agree a bit of pocket money is nice to offset all the costs it does take to review new products frequently and keep it a blog that people want to read. If that’s offset with product instead at this point I’m more than happy to work that way around instead at this point, I don’t necessarily want money, but I do want something for my time and it’s not unreasonable to ask for that.
      My favourite opportunity so far was winter tyres, and they offered me a huge amount of money (for me at least it was £200!) and I said no, because honestly how the hell was it going to fit!

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  8. I can totally relate to this post. Although my blog is relatively new, I have received email from brands who wants to do a “collaboration” with me with no compensation whatsoever and I find this insulting because it’ll take me hours to complete the post but I am not getting anything in return. Thankfully, I declined all of those offers because I am just going to waste my time. I also experienced to be offered a $12.00 compensation in exchange for a full blogpost regarding a shoe company who sells every item for more than $100.00 and I also have to decline it because $12.00 is not worth it! I really hope brands will realize how much time and effort every blogger invest in their blog’s content before offering such crazy collaboration.

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    1. Good on you! Exactly with the low amounts, I think I had one before that was $8 – that’s honestly going to make no difference to my life and I’d rather do something else instead. I had recently the opportunity to pick $25 dollars of stuff from a shop and there was no way with that amount of money to shop with I could have curated a good post about that store, it’s just about evaluating every opportunity I think!

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  9. I’m so curious which company you’re referencing because it sounds so similar to an emailing experience I just had… When I said no they even offered to write something for me that I could post on my blog. NO.

    This was their response to my decline, “I had another thought as well, I hope you don’t mind me running this by you. But, I would be more than happy to put together a summary of our article that you can edit into your own words for a post on your blog. Let me know if that’s something you’d be open to and I can start working on something right away! I could include any information you would like which would save you the time of writing the piece. I know the team here would be more than happy if there was a possibility to have our work mentioned on your site.”

    Definitely an insulting and dishonest way to get exposure on their part imo.

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    1. It was an online custom hair dye service, but I haven’t been short of these requests in the past six weeks or so, it seems to have hit a never ending wave of it at the moment though. Very rude of them to be like oh well we can write it for you, in that case they should be paying for advertising space!

      Rachael

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I get offers to give exposures to brands all the time. It’s comical because it’s obvious they haven’t taken the time to really look and understand my audience to see that their collaboration wouldn’t be a good fit.

    Everyone that I work with, at VERY minimum, I tell them they must at least get product to promote a brand. I’m so happy you took the time to educate this brand rep and I hope by you sharing your story (& pointed email) that others will value the work they put into creating content more than internet stardom via retweet/repost.

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  11. “Exposure” isn’t enticing to me at all. I just IGNORE them. Waste of my attention – they don’t warrant a response or acknowledgement.
    But rest assured, for every blog who’s turned them down, there’s another newbie blog who is eager to capitalize on this. It’s a numbers game for the brands.
    Good to get the word out there!

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    1. I tried to ignore them but they just kept chasing which is what caused me to give them a passionate reply!
      It is definitely a numbers game, but they supposedly want to capitalise on a certain age of a blog to get the results with the better DAs/more chance of being seen and those are the people who are more likely to say no, it’s the people who are smaller/newer/younger I feel more sorry for who maybe don’t see the BS behind the email!

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