I’m Writing This Post for Free! (Instead of $400)

Last week an advertising firm approached me and asked me to write a sponsored post for their client (who shall not be named). They offered to pay me more than my asking price, a lot more. They offered me $400 to be exact. Sweet!

You may have noticed that I do occasionally sell sponsored posts on here, but in fact I have very strict guidelines to prevent my site from being over-run with spammy crap. My demands go something like this: You give me a lot of money, I write a post (usually something I was going to write anyways), you get a link in the post, and I disclose at the end that you pay for it. Everybody wins. Surprisingly this doesn’t go over well with too many advertisers…

The disclosure at the end is key. I always insist on that for a couple of reasons, but mostly because I think bloggers are made and broken on their integrity. You guys read this site either because for some reason you see value in what I have to say (thanks for that, BTW). If I’m going to link to something that I don’t have experience with or can’t endorse myself, I want you guys to know that.

George is Keeping an Eye On You!
photo credit: peasap

Anyways, these corporate guys want to pay me $400 to write a post- on a topic I’d probably write about anyways, just to include one link to their company. $400! That’s a hell of a lot more than I usually make per post ($0). It was pretty tempting I admit, and you’d probably be reading that post right now if it weren’t for one thing: they insisted I leave off the disclosure at the end.

Now, I really wanted that $400. It’s kind of a lot of money for me. It’s almost twice the cost of my plane ticket to Colombia! I wrote back, are you sure we can’t squeeze in a disclosure? Just a tiny one? Pleeease?

They were insisitant that this collaboration be hush hush so in the end, I had to say no. I’ll admit it wasn’t the easiest decision, but it sits right with me.

So why am I telling you my sob story? It’s not so I can brag about the purity of my blog or my moral superiority or any bullshit like that. I rarely ever talk about behind the scenes blog writing stuff on here. I don’t care much what other blogs do, I just have to do what seems right to me.

The reason I wanted to tell you guys this is actually kind of the opposite: I know you guys see the ads on my site, the sponsored trips I’ve been lucky enough to go on and yes, the occasional sponsored article. I do these things because I need to make money to you know, live, and keep doing this website. I’m sure you guys understand my desire to like, eat and stuff. So I will continue to sell ads and do things for money: but I will always try to be clear with you guys about what is sponsored and what isn’t, because this site is about nothing, if not honesty.

70 thoughts on “I’m Writing This Post for Free! (Instead of $400)”

  1. Good for you, Steph. I’m not sure why advertisers think they need to hide what’s going on. We’re not idiots! Our society is so saturated with advertising that I’m almost immune. A little disclosure at the end of a post wouldn’t hurt anyone.

  2. Even if I didn’t agree with your decisions (I do) I would still be following your blog because of your honesty. You stick to what you believe in and you’re honest about what you do. More people need to realise that this is how real bonds are built online; lying and deceit only cause backlash. Good for you for sticking to your morals.

  3. Same thing just happened to me. Would love to be buying some computer accessories or a plane ticket right now, but I’ve also got to be able to sleep at night and be proud of my blog. Good for you for making the ethical choice!

    1. Did we? I was there, but I can’t tell from your picture! Probably- I was the jetlagged chick who was complaining a lot.

  4. Excellent. Thanks for your honesty. It is all a blogger has got, for me. Thanks a lot. There’s nothing wrong with advertisement as well (you’ve got to eat, as well as your advertisers 🙂 ), but a line in the sand needs to be drawn.

  5. Christine Peets

    Good for you. It’s hard to walk away from money, but there was a lot more at stake here.

    Being upfront with your readers, the advertisers, and the clients is important–and necessary.

    Well done. You may have lost this one, but who knows what you’ll gain because of your stand?

  6. You go, girl. I would have made the same decision (although it would have been painful to turn that $400 down!!). I got a similar offer recently (though not for quite as much money), and I, too, had to say no because I ALWAYS disclose things. Even if it’s only a free ticket I got worth $15, I’m going to tell my readers about it. It just feels better that way.

  7. Wow. That company is CRAZY. What they are doing is against FTC recommendations (okay, it’s not a law) and if they are found out, they’re the ones who will be fined, not the blogger. The responsibility/accountability falls to the marketer when it comes to this disclosing situation.

  8. I think the advertiser made the wrong call, particularly if it is for a product or service that would be of interest to your readers. I think your loyal readers would be MORE interested in their company and product knowing that they sponsored you and helped support this blog, not less.

  9. santafetraveler

    Good for you, Steph. I applaud you for sticking to your guns. Integrity is mega-important It’s okay to make money-we all need it, but disclosure is important. My understanding is if it’s your blog, article or whatever, it’s your responsibility to disclose and that it ‘s required by the FTC and not optional. I was disclosing before they asked us to. There’s a perception that we’ll sell our reputations for a night in a hotel. I ‘t have a blanket disclosure on my blog and try to put one on every post where it’s applicable- as a woman way past 20 something- sometimes I forget. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. You are right about the FTC (although they are more concerned with advertisers than bloggers). These guys weren’t americans though so I guess they didn’t care.

  10. I have a nice blue dialog box with curved edges that I use to announce that my trips, posts, etc. were sponsored. I’ve never had one to ask that I hide that fact and can’t imagine what choice words I would use if they did. I do know that I wouldn’t accept their terms. I think you did the right thing and while you may be short $400 right now, I think you will see that and much more by following your own dictates and honoring your own moral standards. My feeling is people who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. Congrats on kicking these ‘winners’ to the curb.

  11. I suspect that it might actually be against the law to NOT declare if you are paid for an opinion. There was a recent judgement that said that if you provide a testimonial, and you were paid to do so, you must declare that you have an affiliation with the company. I forget what law/jurisdiction it falls under though.

  12. Kudos for doing what felt right, even though it was kind of painful. I also wanted to say you did an amazing job of blending in that text link in your sponsored post. Not easy to do, it seems.

  13. Good decision Steph. I hope you get to make the $400 up again soon so you can ‘eat and stuff’ which is fair do’s. I’m sure you will. I don’t get why they wouldn’t let you include a disclaimer though. Seems a bit strange. Probably for the best if they were trying to act so clandestine.

  14. Great decision, and the advertiser could get in BIG trouble with the FTC for asking you to leave out the disclosure. The FTC put those guidelines in place a few years ago to avoid situations like this. Luckily you’re savvy enough to not fall victim to these shenanigans. Keep it up!

  15. That must have been really hard to do! I commend you for taking that route! I have been approached for items like that, and if they say “no” to the typical disclosure statement, I always try to see if we can finesse it so readers know what it is they are reading, that it is, in fact, a sponsored post, even if I don’t use that exact wording. I find it very shady that these companies won’t admit to paying to play in our sandbox. There are rules and regulations we should adhere to, and the fact that they wave lots of money in our faces to go against these is frustrating and annoying. Good on you, babe!! 🙂

    1. Yeah, I offered them a couple options but they weren’t taking anything less than zero disclosure. Which is just way shady to me.

  16. Steph- Wow. I respect your decision and really appreciate the fact that you wrote about it here. It’s a compliment to your blog that you get such a well-priced offer, and then a compliment to you for the decision you made. I applaud you. Cheers!

  17. Looks like you made a good decision. It’s more important that you are satisfied with the decision you made. It’s tough to balance making a living with keeping your integrity sometime. I would have respected you either way. A good blogger is a good blogger.

  18. Woot! Good for you! I never understand the whole “pssst, don’t tell anyone…” especially when you see celebrities hawking everything under the sun. It’s obvious they’re paid, why not make it obvious in print, too.

  19. Good call on taking the moral high road Steph! But it begs the questions, how does one write a positive review on a blog without someone wondering if it is secretly paid for? Should disclosure statement like “I enjoy X and I’m not getting paid to say that” be more abundant?

    1. Well I’ve definitely spotted a lot of undisclosed “sponsored” links out there so sometimes it’s really hard to know!

  20. That’s the problem with a lot of things people need to be more transparent. Why hide? I know when I need advertisement I am more than willing to pay for it. Great job and trust me I think we all under that you enjoy writing but this also helps fund your travels and live as well.

  21. This post actually makes me think back on some posts I have read on other blogs.

    When I hover over the links to see where they go (I rarely click through) and wonder why they click to a 3rd party website and when I scroll to the end I wonder why there is no disclaimer on why the post wasn’t “sponsored”. And this is why.

    As a newerish blogger who really only writes for herself, this post was very informative to maybe how other blogs so business!

    Thanks Steph!

  22. Really respect your integrity on this one. I always believe in disclosures, not because us readers would mind if you left one off, or judge you in any way, but it’s aways nice to know… I duno… just because lol. Well done for sticking to your guns!xx

  23. They want to hide it because Google can punish them – and the blogger – for honesty.

    If you disclose that the link is paid for and Google sees the post (or if someone reports you to Google), then Google can nix your site to zero in search results and do the same for the company that bought the link. Google doesn’t mind you selling links as long as you code it as ‘no follow’. Most advertisers are not interested in this because they don’t really want to advertise to your readers, they’re just trying to game SEO.

    So that’s why they want to be sneaky about it. But good for you for standing firm! I agree that it’s absolutely necessary to disclose all commercial arrangements to readers.

    I also don’t think it’s unethical to sell links if you disclose that fact to readers. But Google can and will punish you for it if they find out so it just depends if you think it’s worth that risk.

  24. Stuck between a rock & a hard place, but kudos to you. Tough choice, but seriously, for $400 bucks they can spend that kind of money getting other links. I couldn’t agree more that it’s 100% necessary to have the disclosure to maintain your authority.

  25. As an aspiring writer I think it’s important we have examples such as you who insist on transparency. The world could do with a little more honesty and a little less profiteering. Excellent job.

  26. Those decisions are always the hardest to make…but then again, not really. It’s almost like you know where the line is drawn in the sand and before the situation presents itself, you already know your decision subconsciously.

    I’ve had to make many similar judgement calls at work. No big ethical connundrums that serve as great examples of how to/how not to handle a situation. I’ve found those decisions that sit well with me at the end of the day are far more valuable than the reward, in your case $400. Values like that are priceless, unfortunately though it’s money that makes the world go ’round. Thanks for the read and take care.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.