Exposure Won’t Pay For My Next Flight

Are you ready to read a rant? Because I’m ready to finally put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!) and have a little rant about something companies and some VERY big publications like to call ‘exposure’.

When you are first starting out in blogging, a little exposure is great. We ALL love to be featured on top blogger lists, our posts to be shared, to be interviewed in big online publications or local magazines. We want our voices to be heard and we desperately seek readers to read the blog posts that we have literally poured our heart and soul into. We want our hard work to be acknowledged and we want to grow our readership. However, there comes a time when we must say NO.

Say NO to exposure

No, no , no. Why? Because, at the end of the day, exposure is not going to pay for our next flight. Exposure won’t even be enough to pay for a Ryanair flight. Exposure, as amazing as some companies make it out to be, won’t even put food on the table or pay our phone bills.

I saw this cute, but painfully accurate, cartoon shared by Gloria from The Blog Abroad and it made me laugh, cry and get quite angry all at once. Mainly thanks to the amount of emails I have received this week asking me to do things for free. Oh sorry. I meant for exposure.

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Cartoon Credit: The Oatmeal

Over the past 6 months, as I started to take this travel blog a little more seriously and work on making the design, layout and most of all the content better than ever, I have received a lot of offers from companies in return for ‘exposure’. Now don’t get me wrong, I have also worked with some incredibly decent companies and tourism organizations who offer a lot more than exposure, and I hope to continue to work with them well into the future.

This blog post, however, is about a whole other brand of people. These guys are like the new wave of Nigerian princes online, letting you know by email how lucky you, that you have won BIG TIME. You have won EXPOSURE…and lots of it. These princes have no clue how hard bloggers work. They think we should work for free and be grateful for whatever opportunities are offered to us. They contact us because they know we are influential and have a wide reader base, but are by no means willing to reward our hard work with payment. Exposure…that should do it. Here’s what these people think, and here’s what we must do to change the way bloggers (and all creative types) are viewed to the outside world.

Ridiculous Misconceptions About Travel Bloggers

Travel Bloggers only want free stuff

Sometimes I believe the older generation has no freaking clue how hard us bloggers work. They think it’s a cute little hobby and thus they can ask us to do things or for us to be their little guinea pigs and that we will be grateful for anything that comes our way. Here’s a an example: I was at an awards night a few months ago and an elderly gentlemen looked down on me and my friend, a fellow Irish travel blogger, as if we were the lowest of the low. He actually laughed in our faces when we said we were travel bloggers and then turned to me and said, “Are you enjoying the free food?” as if that was the only reason I was at the awards. I swear I turned red with anger.

As the evening went on, his comments got nastier, and I had to bite my tongue many times to stop myself from listing off how many hours I have worked and how many late nights have I endured to get to where I am today. I wanted to should at him, to let him know that I had been invited to the awards by the organizers, people who actually valued my work. I honestly wanted to challenge this guy to a ‘Harry Potter style’ duel!

Travel bloggers aren’t good brand ambassadors

I got an email from a lady this week asking me to be an ambassador for her jewelry collection. I must admit her marketing ploy is pretty ingenious, mainly because there are so many young travel and lifestyle bloggers out there willing to do anything for exposure. Not because they don’t value themselves but because, at this stage, it’s almost ingrained in us that we should do whatever comes our way for a bit of exposure. Almost like it’s our duty to help companies in exchange for exposure.

Ar first, I was intrigued by her email. She said she loved my Instagram and blog and thought I was the perfect person to be an ambassador for her collection. She would send me a free necklace of my choice and then I would need to give them shout outs on social media and maybe write a blog post promoting her collection and offering a discount to my readers. Doesn’t sound so bad, right?  

Once I said “Yea, I’m interested”, the icing on the cake was revealed. This lovely lady said all I would need to do is pay for the weight of the necklace and the package and posting…which would come to over 30 dollars. So, wait a second now. YOU you want ME to PAY to be an ambassador and give you shout outs? Listen up lady! If you think my blog and Instagram is so good that I should be your ambassador, show a little respect and don’t ask me to pay to promote your business! If I was a model, would you ask me to pay? If I was a celebrity, would you ask me to pay? No, apparently just because I am a blogger I am valued as less than anyone else.

Travel bloggers aren’t travel writers

From now on, I have decided I will have to refer to myself as a freelance travel writer / journalist rather than as a blogger. Why? Because we live in a ridiculous world, that’s why! You see, if you’re a freelance writer, publications wouldn’t dare ask you to do things for free. Would a newspaper or print magazine ever contact a freelance journalist and ask them to write an article for exposure? I don’t think so. And yet I get numerous offers every week asking if I would like to write fresh, high-quality content for websites. For free.

Here’s an example: I got an email during the week from a new luxury website trying to edge their way into the luxury travel market. They have been in touch with me twice now, so they obviously value my skills as a writer and know connecting with me will help them gain access to a whole new customer market. I was, as a freelance writer, very interested in working with them so I asked how much they paid per article. Here’s the response I got from the Head of Marketing:

The way I see this relationship working is that you provide us content of luxury travel and we increase your viewer account on our blog and our social media. I really think we can do some great things together.

In other words, we won’ be paying you but YAY for free exposure on our social media! I was about to delete this guys email when I decided, just out of curiosity, to see just how much wonderful free exposure might be coming my way from their potentially large social media channels. As it turned out, they have a mind-boggling 269 followers on Twitter. Wow, can you begin to imagine how much incredible exposure I would be getting compared with my measly 6,000 followers?!

Travel bloggers don’t work hard

I heard an anecdote on this subject summed up so well by Irish YouTuber Clisare at the recent Blog Awards Ireland event in Dublin. She was saying that people think a bloggers job is so easy. All they need to do is think of something to write about, then write it. Anybody could do that. She actually did our jobs for us at the awards, by giving us some great list posts that we could write about on our blogs in our hungover states the next morning. Job done. She had, she joked, done our entire blog for us.

Now all we needed to do was: take a few hours to write the post, source the perfect images, film then edit a video to accompany it, format and edit the post, publish it. Schedule tweets to promote it, share it on our own Facebook, our Facebook page, Facebook groups, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Reddit and Instagram. Reply to comments, tweets and Facebook messages, emails, and Instagram comments. Work on building our social media channels to ensure maximum exposure. Then simply submit it to other, larger, sites who pay wish to republish it (in return for payment!) and out job would be done. But, like I said, she had already done all the hard work for us.

If you still think exposure is great, then I recommend you read this great post by a fellow blogger entitled, “How Not To Die From Exposure.”

Want to learn how to become a travel blogger and get paid to travel the world? Read my in depth guide on How To Start A Travel blog here.

  • Honestly Aine
    October 30, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Utterly Excellent! How painfully true. I recently had a very long winded back and forth with a brand similar to this. They eventually agreed to pay but had decided I didn’t need the product and could just do a post about it, even though I’d mentioned I prefer not to do this as I’d rather check the product before talking about it…god forbid! I decided to stop it all at that point and wished them all the best in finding the right blogger for them. It’s such a shame!

    • intrepidtraveller
      October 30, 2015 at 2:16 pm

      That’s crazy. How can you be expected to write about something honestly if you don’t have it in front of you! I’m glad you said no in the end, I have decided from now on I will be saying no, no, no a lot more frequently!

  • Susanne Arbuckle
    October 30, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    I’ve often thought of doing a post like this to highlight the realities of life as a ‘blogger’ but I would probably not be able to stop ranting lol!
    Just in the last month I have been asked by a paid journalist to provide a major newspaper with regular travel articles and given the old line ‘sorry there is no budget for this’ and had another journalist tell me that it must be nice to have a hobby that gets me ‘free’ holidays, like you I had to bite my tongue!
    People seem surprised that you are not grateful for their generous offer of no payment in exchange for giving up your precious time, working hard to provide them with content and giving them exposure to your hard earned followers.
    It is so refreshing when someone does offer money up front for a service that I always endeavor to go above and beyond their expectations to prove my worth. It’s a shame that so many people don’t realise the hard work that goes in to building and running a professional blog and I have also started saying ‘writer’ rather than ‘blogger’ as I get so fed up of people instantly dismissing what I do.

    • intrepidtraveller
      October 30, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      I totally hear you! It takes months if not years to build up a solid and engaged follower community around your blog. Months and months of hard work! I feel people just don’t realise that!

      Also, I do the same when given a paid gig. I will 100% go above and beyond to impress and prove my worth and have got fantastic feedback thanks to this.

  • Danika Wilkinson
    October 30, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Love, love LOVE this! Although I’ve just recently started taking my travel blogging more seriously (and actually NEED this magical exposure that, according to some websites, will somehow buy me a hot lunch), this reminds me so much of all the unpaid work experience I used to have to do throughout my journalism degree (I’m sure you’ve been there, too!).

    It’s actually ridiculous how shameless people can be when they ask you to write them something, for free, and think they’re doing YOU a favour. Sure, like you said, there are some great places that it’s worthwhile writing for without pay occasionally, but that company with 269 followers – were they SERIOUS?!

  • Shayne Zalameda
    October 30, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    You’ve hit many chords on this post. Wish we could really up the awareness for people who abuse artists in general who basically work hard but get less. Such a painful reality.

  • Keep Calm And Travel (@KeepCalmkle)
    October 30, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Oh my, this article cracked me up for so many reasons. I wanted to leave a comment in here just saying: -The magic word is “delete email”- because that’s what I actually do with all these people.

    I got so good in spotting them that sometimes I don’t even have to open the email. I get your anger. I was like that too not long ago. Now I just delete. That’s it. I rejected monetary offers as well, because they didn’t fit my brand and because they were ridiculously low.

    But lately there was an accident that got me really angry. Maybe it was the first time I seriously got angry at a PR agency.

    They contacted me with an interesting offer. Perfect for my blog (which I wisely now call “travel website” where I am the “Editor” and “travel writer”… as you said, we live in a stupid world).

    Anyway, I immediately said that I was interested in the offer and what my rates were. So far so good. We went on for at least 10 days of back and forth emails to define the details, when we were about to seal the deal I receive this email:

    “Oh by the way, just to be clear, all this is at no cost for us, right?”

    EXCUSE ME?! I stated my rates and you agreed on our first email, you wasted 10 days of my time, and now you play dumb?

    I had to wait one day for the anger to subside to reply to that email in a professional manner. The guy said that he was very sorry, that he was working very hard and missed the email about the rates.

    Now let0s say that what he said is true, he missed that email. That made me even more angry, as he ASSUMED that I would spend my days replying to his email in details…. FOR FREE?.

    Just writing this episode fills me with anger.

    IJust like you, I’m so fed up with this bullshit, but now I simply press delete and my life is much better.

    • Danika Wilkinson
      October 30, 2015 at 5:52 pm

      That’s ridiculous! Even the fact that he just assumed you’d want to do it for free. Not being taken seriously is bloody terrible :(

  • The Time is Write
    October 30, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    So true. Thanks for sharing!

  • MariaAbroad
    October 30, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Janet, you took the words out of my mouth! I saw the Onion article yesterday as well and shared it with my Twitter Tweeps and it really struck a cord with my followers. I absolutely understand your rant and kudos to you for not letting these businesses get away with it.

    Unfortunately, there are more than enough bloggers out there that are willing to accept offers like this and therefore become part of the problem.

    Every blogger should have a mental minimum threshold that they are not allowing to be undercut BEFORE they get approached by their first company. Don’t settle for peanuts. You and your work is worth something, otherwise they wouldn’t have contacted you in the first place!

  • Micamyx|Senyorita
    October 30, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Honest post! I also receive messages from companies saying that they’ll give me ‘exposure’ in exchange of me writing very long articles for them and share it on all my social media websites. I am kind of sad because we all work hard. Writing is just the first step – there’s photo editing, formatting and promotion. It doesn’t end there too!

    I just hope that newbie bloggers learn from this. I’ve also learned to say no as i know the value of my hardwork. Respect begets respect.

  • Marius
    October 30, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    Totally agree. There are quite many people that still think blogging is just a personal diary.

    When someone asks me what do I write for, I always respond that I am running my personal website. However, their reaction is: “Oh, so you have a blog”.

  • Austin Beeman
    October 30, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    There is one sad thing that all bloggers are these days. Bloggers are commodities.

    Commodity: a reasonably interchangeable good or material.

    There are too many people doing a decent job and willing to work for fame or exposure instead of money. It is a sad hard truth, but there it is.

    To make money in writing/blogging in the 21st, get very good at the business side of things. Business people make money, bloggers rarely do.

  • Shandos
    October 31, 2015 at 12:29 am

    Great article! I’m a newish blogger, so I’m not yet in a position of being approached to do stuff for exposure, but am subscribed to a newsletter where I see a lot of requests for this kind of stuff, and have wondered whether to be involved.

  • Nicole S.
    October 31, 2015 at 3:48 am

    Haha I love your rant. About a month ago I had some jackass message me on Twitter asking me to write for his new online magazine in exchange for “exposure” and that he would not put anything on my post linking it back to my blog or even mentioning the name of it or where you could read more of my writing. I thought that was the weirdest proposition. I told him no thanks, and that for a future FYI that it’s common God damn courtesy to link back to the author’s site, and you know say who’s blog it came from. Then he responded with some pissy answer about how a simple ‘no thank you’ would have sufficed. I think I was being nice by giving him and his new online magazine some information on guest post proposition etiquette, and that it’s a total smack in the face to expect to ask a blogger to write for him and literally offer nothing, zip, zero in return. It was much nicer than what I wanted to respond with, which would have been a simple ‘fuck off’ haha.

  • Shilpa Balakrishnan
    October 31, 2015 at 3:51 am

    I love this Janet. I totally agree with everything you said. Just the last week I was pissed off at quite a few people mainly hotels who want me to do free writing for them. My question is if they want to make money out of us, what are the benefits we get out of it. Eventually that particular exposure dies, but the money we could have earned out of it would have helped pay the bills atleast. Honestly, thats one of the reasons I stopped using the term Travel blogger as a whole.

  • vanessa workman
    October 31, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Well said! I also want the elderly gentleman’s name.. ;)

  • John Phillips
    October 31, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Been following your site for a few years now, and enjoyed watching it mature and morph. I can see why you would get these solicitations. I’ve had more than a few of them myself, and like treating as if I am Jerry Seinfeld dealing with the telemarketer on one of the episodes of Seinfeld. Needless to say, these emails don’t hit my mailbox quite as often. Good rant and good advice for the new bloggers out there.

  • Susan Lanier-Graham
    October 31, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    Great article. However, I’ve been a freelance travel writer for 25 years (blogging about five) and I STILL have magazines reach out to me to see if I’ll write for free. Or for $15. I’ve dealt with that for the entire 30 years. It’s probably worse today but my entire career I’ve had people (editors) ask me to write for free. I keep hoping it will change but …

  • Emily
    November 2, 2015 at 10:57 am

    As a relatively new blogger (or at least, new to really making a go of it), thank you thank you thank you. This was a wonderful and helpful post, and rings so true. I haven’t gotten to the point yet of being contacted (or being brave enough to contact others), but I’m going to bookmark this article so that when the time comes, I can remember to value myself more than others probably will. We deserve credit for the hard work we put in!

  • Sher
    November 3, 2015 at 1:40 am

    this article really cracked me up ESP bc i literally got what i think is the exact same email from the jewelry company lady about promoting her stuff… in return for paying for “oh just something small like shipping”. i was so turned off by that! the email was also really long and written confusingly but thats besides the point..

    keep working hard and ignore the haters. i think that’s all we can do! :)

    Sher
    http://www.shershegoes.com

  • The Nomadic Tribes Travel Blog
    November 3, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Such an important topic. As a professional writer and photographer, I can’t tell you how many times people have approached us asking to use our work in exchange for “exposure.” When you are starting out and need publication credits, a little free work in trade for exposure (what is the magazine’s paid circulation?) can help get you established. But once you are somewhat established it is time to say no. If one does not place a value on their work, nobody else will. That’s just a fact. Nice post. Well done. ~ Jett

  • Jack Scott
    November 4, 2015 at 11:29 am

    I get contacted all the time. These days I usually politely decline. Early on in my blogging ‘career’ I provided quite a few articles in the hope of getting some exposure. It was a lot of effort for limited return. I even became a columnist in a well-known expat website (who shall remain nameless) for a while on the understand they would review my book when it was published. Well, publication date came and went and I’m still waiting. Lesson learned! :-(

  • The Tiny Book
    November 9, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Oh God! Am I laughing out loud? Or am I crying out loud? Brilliant!

  • Jennifer Campbell
    November 11, 2015 at 2:33 am

    All the high fives to you!

  • Fashion Matters
    November 17, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Thank you for this post! Im a communication graduate and therefore QUALIFIED as a writer after taking several journalism classes
    AND YET I was never successful in getting paid for my articles,
    so I made my own blog as a hobby, and have made to myself another unrelated career.

    The Fashion Matters- Fashion & Travel Magazine

  • Claire Kane
    January 8, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Great article. I take a little issue with the ‘Won’t pay for my next flight’ – it makes me go ‘Oh boohoo, one less city break’, but your sentiment is totally, utterly 100% spot ON! I’m a qualified journalist, I’ve writing credited and non-credited, paid and non-paid, articles since 2008 for all kinds publications. Unpaid work for collective blogs/websites is a good way to get some practice but at a certain point you have to question the value. The amount of times I’ve firstly been asked to write things for free because they haven’t got a budget, and secondly been asked to feature sponsored items from national publications on my own blogs FOR FREE ‘because it will look good to be tied in with our well known brand’; I’ve actually lost count. Sometimes I don’t even decline, I just ignore. How insulting that talented writers, photographers and illustrators are expected to work for free. It completely devalues the artistry, skill and time spent on these things. You would be tempted to ask these editors to edit your blog for free and see how they like it!

    Once again, great post!

  • Stephanie Buckley
    January 11, 2016 at 11:15 am

    My blood is boiling! I get those “have I got a great opportunity for you” emails all the time… when you mention payment you hit a brick wall! Great post as always

  • Mirela Surghie
    June 13, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    Great article Janet, it is the same everywhere. And with the elderly guy that really offended you I think you could of just said something, not defending like explaining your hard work, but that you considered that YOU make them a favor to be there, instead of visiting something or work on your blog, as the free food does not pay your bills either and the time you take to attend an event and prepare for it is also money, money you don’t make (like writing a paid post for other blogs, websites that pay). Really weird people

  • Karla
    June 17, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    This is so true Janet!

    It is simply unbelievable how some people “professionals” try to take advantage of us bloggers and thinking that we’ll gladly accept their terms and conditions while they charge hundreds if not thousands for their clients!

    I am pretty sure they don’t accept a thank you or brownie points or good karma in exchange of their time and for the promotion, so why should we?

    Some go as far as negotiating or barter and I just tell them not to contact me again.

    We do work really hard and this is not just a hobby, it is a full-time occupation and we must not accept just any freebie that comes our way!

    Glad you spoke openly about it, thank you ;)

  • Vyjay Rao
    July 1, 2016 at 4:20 am

    So very true, we are going through all this right now. We are getting so many mails from brands wanting to hitch a free ride on our articles/website, all in the name of “EXPOSURE” :)

  • worldinsidemypocket
    July 18, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Absolutely love this article! Yes yes yes, so sassy and perfect!

  • Keith
    August 2, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    I’ve been reading your stuff for a while Janet but I’m only stumbling upon this article now.

    It’s refreshing to see someone actually speak openly about it! It’s absolutely infuriating.

    It’s people in the fitness industry who put time into creating quality content that I really feel for. Every 18/19 year old with a couple of thousand followers on Instagram is plugging every crappy protein bar and supplement they can get their hands on.

    It’s only natural that these brands then go on and think they can apply the same approach to influencers that actually produce great content.

    Anyway – rant over. Love the site. Constantly jealous!

    Keith