Recently on Twitter I shared a screenshot of an email from someone reaching out to me asking them to review a product. My initial response was to ask their budget. Long story short, the representative of that brand (who turned out to be the owner of the business) got pretty rude about the whole thing.

I found it funny that a simple request for a budget got heated. It all turned out to be a misunderstanding because their original email was worded in a misleading way. They admitted to this, but not without a few abrupt and snide comments along the way.

Anyway, the whole thing sparked a bit of debate on Twitter. A lot of bloggers seemed to initially agree with asking for a budget, and a few stated they would have reviewed the product without cost as it’s not the same as “sponsored content”. But then I ran a poll. The results surprised me.

My view has been overly simplified on this topic – and I am starting to see that now. I felt that if I am creating content, I deserve to be reimbursed for that. Ultimately, it takes time and effort to take photos and write posts/captions/hashtags…whatever it may be. Brands reach out to bloggers to use their influence to promote their products and that shouldn’t be free advertising for them…

But here’s a few other thoughts on it that have made my viewpoint more complex…

My blog is small too, and it’s very rare I do get sent anything/asked to review anything. I don’t really seek those opportunities either as it’s not why I blog.

However, where is the line within the amount of work a blogger should do for free in this situation, and when it would start costing? A simple snapshot on Instagram stories might not warrant payment for some as it can take a matter of seconds, but a blog post with photos (and the time to promote) takes quite a bit longer.

Are there bloggers out there that are charging all the way across that scale, and should we as a community be more consistent in this? Are we too scared to charge, or do we feel we’re likely to get more opportunities if we don’t?

Another grey area is when brands “gift” products – they send them to you with no obligation to share, but if you do decide to promote it can you then charge, or is it expected for free because you aren’t contractually obliged to? Surely a brand is really hoping you’re going to share it in some capacity…otherwise, what’s the point?

This seems to be the most popular caveat. When I first started blogging I just felt honoured to have been chosen, but as my blog has grown and taken shape I have learned to also turn down opportunities that are not products I want to feature or would ever use.

If it’s a brand I love, would I really charge them when that dream email landed in my inbox? Probably not, unless they asked. Is it wrong not to just because I like the brand? Are certain brands able to take advantage of influence just because they are desirable?

Nicola and Rebecca make a similar point here – would it be suitable to charge when it’s something you would buy and post about anyway, and you just got lucky that a PR reached out to you to review it? Would you try your luck anyway and risk scaring the brand away? Again, probably not.

Abigail makes a really interesting point though, that ties into my initial view – the act of photographing products in a way that will get good engagement on Instagram or drive people to click through to your blog is not easy and can take a lot of time. Especially at the moment with this damned lack of natural lighting!

EDIT: After publishing this post, I had the below tweet response from Laura – which I really wanted to share as she makes a good point I hadn’t thought of…

We might assume that PRs are lone wolves that don’t actually talk to each other but like any industry, people do talk! Should we be mindful of this when saying yes to one brand for free work (because really, that is what we’re doing), and then saying no to another? Are we shooting ourselves in the foot and potentially missing out on the chance for paid work with other brands because we aren’t consistent?

I think this garbled, rambling post pretty much sums up the state in which the blogging community is in when it comes to charging for reviewing products. Some of us feel its necessary, some of us think it depends, and others will work with any brand for the opportunity.

It’s this last group that can be the most problematic. Brands start to expect that bloggers will work for free because others have agreed to and it creates an awkward dynamic. In the case of the guy who emailed me, there is a level of defensiveness about paying bloggers. I’m not sure what the solution here is, but it is definitely something to ponder…