Cornered Office

with Mir Kamin

I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.

To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at

Don’t sell out. Which part of that don’t you understand?

Categories: Head hitting brick wall, Now I'm free(lancing), Things you should be reading


I’m going to tell you right up front that this may be a little ranty. (Rants in my pants!) I’m angry and I’m not going to try to hide that. I’m angry because it aggravates me when people who are supposedly my colleagues do things that sell themselves short, and—by extension—reflect badly on our industry. It upsets me when someone makes a poor choice, sure, but it enrages me when those poor choices start coloring how potential clients might view me. To the people who respond to this stuff with “Why does someone else’s behavior even matter to you?” I say this: It matters to me because it affects the expectations projected onto me. No man is an island, they say, and I’m here to say no freelancer lives in a sanitized bubble. What you do does indeed sometimes affect my livelihood. So you’d better believe it matters to me.

There are two (completely separate) issues stuck in my craw this week that I think bear further examination. Maybe you’ll take a look and disagree with me, and that’s fine. For me, both issues really go to the heart of what it means to have integrity. And if you’ve been reading me for any time at all, you know that I believe you can’t make it in this business for very long without your integrity; you may get by for a while, but eventually it will make you unhireable and/or unreadable.

The first issue: BlogHer sponsored tweets and Facebooking.

If you want an excellent rundown of this one, check out Anna Viele’s post entitled How Much Does BlogHer Think Your Trust Capital Is Worth? Five Bucks. The upshot is that the BlogHer Ad Network reached out to its members to offer a campaign wherein four sponsored tweets or Facebook updates a month would earn members an extra $20.

I can’t even begin to tell you how sad this made me.

To put this in context, let me tell you this: I was one of the inaugural members of the BlogHer Ad Network. I love BlogHer, truly. I think a ton of good has come out of the BlogHer site, their conferences, and even the ad network. I have a deep respect for the founders and many women I call friends are BlogHer employees. I’m a contributing editor on the site and I believe in their mission. This is not about saying “BlogHer is bad!” In fact, I think it would be a lot easier for me if that’s what I believed. I don’t.

But this sponsored tweet thing hit me wrong on multiple levels. As Anna points out, you’re selling your trust capital for just $5/tweet. Now—to be fair—BlogHer has always been extremely good about proper disclosure and encouraging transparency in their bloggers. So I feel confident they’re not looking for people to be dishonest about this campaign. But it still feels… icky. $5 for a sponsored tweet?

I have a very vivid memory of being at one of the first BlogHer conferences, talking about Pay Per Post (which has since changed its name, I believe at least in part due to the backlash aimed their way about their business model). A blogger I used to read occasionally had written an entire post about a garden rake (scintillating!); it was a sponsored post, and she was paid $5. I never read her blog again. Later, I wrote an impassioned post about how you shouldn’t be selling yourself short, you shouldn’t give up your writing for just $5, and received a few “How dare you judge me on how I choose to support my family” responses.

No one can support a family on $5. Every time you choose the $5 option, you are:
1) Making it more okay for companies to make those (cheap) offers and expect people will take them,
2) Making more work for yourself (because how many of those do you have to take to cobble together a livable income?),
3) Eroding your credibility. Period.

When I received that email from BlogHer, at first I just deleted it because I knew I didn’t want to participate in that campaign. But after thinking about it for a day, I elected to remove my blog from their network. It bothered me that much. I’m not saying I’m right and they’re wrong, I’m just saying that the idea of tweeting for five bucks makes me think about that post about how awesome this particular rake is… and that’s just not something I want to be a part of, no matter how much respect I have for the BlogHer organization as a whole.

The second issue: “Corn sugar” on blog tour.

Did you know that High Fructose Corn Syrup is lobbying to be officially renamed “corn sugar?” Because that will ease consumer confusion, you know, given that this product is completely natural and good for you and just like sugar, plus a lot of people think HFCS is bad for you for some reason. (And by “for some reason” I of course mean “according to multiple scientific studies.”)

This morning I read Liz Gumbinner’s post about the Corn Refiner’s Association-sponsored blog tour through Mom Central that has bloggers writing about how really, HFCS is just fine, and they know this because the CRA brought them in for a presentation that told them so. Liz covers this so much more eloquently than I ever could; please do read her post. But prepare to be shocked and amazed, and not in a good way.

The best (?) part of this whole debacle is that the participants are being paid in gift certificates. Not even actual money, folks. People are standing up to vouch for a controversial food additive in return for gift certificates.

This one upsets me on a much deeper level, because—in addition to a business model I find questionable, and women not being paid what they’re worth—HFCS happens to be a product I abhor. Liz really says it best, what the dietary and economic ramifications are with this particular industry, but the bottom line for me is that this is a product that hurts our children. And no matter what the Corn Refiners Association tells us, it is not the same as sugar. The fact that they have anyone believing this tripe is upsetting to me, but the fact that they have people in my industry schilling for them in return for gift certificates, on top of that… well, I may need to go curl up in the corner for a few minutes.

I want to live in a world where people are paid what they’re worth, and where professionals only endorse products they actually believe in (and which aren’t harmful). Is that so much to ask?

It starts with me. It starts with you. It starts with everyone who calls themselves a writer not selling themselves short. It’s not worth it. It will damage your career and obliterate your credibility. And then at the end of the day you’ll still have… well, your gift certificate or your $5. Is that really enough?

Subscribe to blog via RSS
Share this on:

43 comments so far...

  • Have you seen this? I’m not sure if you travel in the same blog circles so you may not have. :)

    Leah  |  October 5th, 2010 at 7:06 am

  • Leah: Yes, I remember that. I have such respect for her! THAT’s what I’m talking about. THAT is trust capital being used wisely.

    Mir  |  October 5th, 2010 at 7:13 am

  • Very well put, Mir! I think you put into words what many if us are or have felt about all of this for a while. Maybe it’s the hopes of doing enough “small reviews for little to no pay” will bring bigger, better things, opportunities, or notoriety. I don’t know. I do agree it hurts all of us in this industry in the long run, though. I respect you for speaking your mind on this.

    Jenn  |  October 5th, 2010 at 7:21 am

  • I love when you Rant, Mir! And I love how you stand up for the community and for yourself in the name of ethics.

    I am on the fence about sponsored tweets. I decided that if I do a sponsored tweet I’m charging $10k each. A follower hast to be worth a dollar, right? You’re worth two.

    Mom101  |  October 5th, 2010 at 7:32 am

  • I’m so glad you (and a few others) are speaking out on these issues. This corn sugar nonsense is disturbing on so many fronts. Turns my stomach.

    Brigid  |  October 5th, 2010 at 7:49 am

  • Really interesting post. As a book review blogger and the head of social media for a large company, I too have passionate thoughts about paying for coverage of any sort, whether it’s a tweet or a post. I always come out the same in the end - let your product and your messaging speak for itself, so that people write about them because they are inspired to, not because they are paid to. And as a book blogger, I always come to the same conclusion on the review side - all I have is my integrity. If I let my opinion be bought, then what’s the point of anyone reading my blog? I will read Liz’s post - but I found even your summary very disturbing. Eesh. Thanks for the post.

    Gayle  |  October 5th, 2010 at 8:01 am

  • Thank you!!!!!

    Angela  |  October 5th, 2010 at 8:03 am

  • I almost signed up for this, and I probably would’ve if I hadn’t gone to the Type-A Mom Conference just before they sent out the email. This is the sort of thing we talked about all weekend. I don’t mind having ads on my blog, but advertising directly to my friends felt, as you said, icky.

    Nichole  |  October 5th, 2010 at 8:03 am

  • OOOooooooohhhhh, now i gotcha. Writers pimping themselves out for the almighty … um, penny. Believe me i get it. Been there, and didn’t do that. No way, no how. Good for you for having a conscience and backbone, and incidentally the following to make a difference. I’m a copywriter: and when I write marketing copy, readers know it. And when I blog, they know there’s no ulterior motive or incentive. Read Trust Agents and realized, I’m really really good at what I do, and didn’t even know it. Thanks for the confirmation.
    and about that corn sugar: i’m surprised they’re not sponsoring school districts yet. Corn sugar and Joe the Camel. The difference is regulation.

    K.Mayer  |  October 5th, 2010 at 8:06 am

  • I’m not a blogger but I think that the key is to be 100% up-front about whether or not you’re getting something for the promotion. Even if it’s a tweet, and I’m not sure how that would work, since I understand tweets have a limited number of characters.

    I think honesty is a basic value that people either have or they don’t. The internet is just finding out how to tap into the material value of dishonesty. It’s not creating dishonesty. A person who would write a blog post promoting something that isn’t that great would also try to sell her friends a pyramid scheme in the days before blogs.

    The other “integrity” thing that has recently bugged me is that it seems to have become acceptable to “out” commenters, i.e., for the blogger to share personal info that she has only because she owns or controls some part of the site. (I have seen this on popular public sites as well as individual sites.) This is done as a method to prevent others from making statements that disagree with the blogger’s views. Which does not seem healthy for the blogging world in the long run, but whatever.

    In some ways, women are indeed their own worst enemies.

    SKL  |  October 5th, 2010 at 8:23 am

  • I wanted to jump into my monitor as I read this and shake you by the shoulders yelling YES! YES! YES! I walked around yesterday afternoon muttering to myself and asking the question: Why are we giving it away?

    I won’t name the site but I had a situation yesterday: An editor asked to re-publish this piece:

    They had no intention of paying me in cash, and it could be argued that it had already been published blah, blah, blah. That’s not my point. Here’s my point: They told me they’d link back to my site. Yeah. I asked if they would add a kickstarter at the end of the piece, my avatar, and promote it on FB and Twitter. But here’s where I pushed them over the edge…I asked:

    “I do not want this piece, including image, to be shared with
    any other media outlets, including XXXXX’s subsidiaries and
    affiliates, unless you contact me for explicit permission of usage other than XXXXX website.”

    “Hi Meredith,

    I’m afraid we will be unable to meet these requirements. We can do the
    link, and possibly even the promo at the end, but cannot do a headshot,
    nor guarantee the other demands.”


    No pay. One link back. In return they wanted the rights to use the piece on all five of their sites.


    I can only assume other bloggers have agreed to their terms, with no pay, in the past.

    Meredith  |  October 5th, 2010 at 8:31 am

  • I really want to be surprised and outraged at all of this, but I just… am not. HFCS is a higher profile product, but the fundamentals of the situation are such that nothing has changed since selling out became the trend in mom blogging. Different product, different day, different year even, but the same discussion. And I sit here more than a little frustrated because while I agree with your sentiment I don’t think we’re getting anywhere.

    Diana  |  October 5th, 2010 at 8:34 am

  • I agree with most of your post — I’m not going to tweet for $5 or write about HFCS for gift certificates — but, your title is misleading. It should say, “Don’t sell out unless the price is right” or something. Because you’re not upset people are trying to monetize their writing/blogs, but that they’ve set the price too low. Which is such a subjective thing (how much someone’s time/talent/trust capital is worth) as to be a totally different (and much more complicated) argument.

    And indeed, the Kelloggs campaign (which I was pitched for but didn’t do) included being paid $75/per post for 12 posts — is that still too low for “selling out” (which I’d say should just be called “selling”)?

    The “believe in the product” thing is also subjective. Everything I’ve read on HFCS versus sugar is that they have the same nutritional value, that studies are inconclusive as to whether HFCS is worse than sugar. I happen to think the hysteria about HFCS is just the latest obesity scare fad, and probably tomorrow we’ll find out that broccoli causes cancer. Or, that both sugar and HFCS should be consumed in moderation.

    You’ve tried to frame this argument as a plea for highmindedness and integrity, but really, it’s an argument for price (or wage)-fixing. In a free market, people can pay (and work) for whatever price they can get, whatever price they’re willing to do so, and I find it tiresome to say that the line other people draw is wrong — and not only wrong, but indicative of their lack of “integrity.” Just because you don’t “sell out” until the price is right (in your calculation) doesn’t make you more honest.

    Shannon  |  October 5th, 2010 at 9:27 am

  • Great post Mir.

    Leah - thank you for linking to my post (which made me aware of this one).

    I also wrote about the social capital issue in general a while back. I think people need to be very careful about the company that they keep and the types of things they agree to get involved in.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting  |  October 5th, 2010 at 9:31 am

  • I love pretty much everything you write (here, and elsewhere) and this is no exception. Thanks for saying what so many of us are thinking, Mir. I sat here nodding my head the entire time. You rule, lady.

    Angella  |  October 5th, 2010 at 9:32 am

  • Shannon, your points are well taken. But I think it’s a little more complicated than “only for the right price.” What I’m trying to say (and maybe I didn’t say it as clearly as I should’ve) is two-pronged, really:

    1) First, that taking very little recompense for this stuff is certainly your prerogative in a free market, sure, but it not only damages the market as a whole (maybe you—and I mean the global you, not you personally—don’t care about that) but it also devalues your own work because you’re not going to get paid more once you’ve made it clear you’ll sell your soul for a song,


    2) There is no price at which it makes sense to sell yourself for something in which you don’t believe. Now, I don’t really want to argue about HFCS; I happen to believe we are systematically poisoning our food supply in this country, but that’s another discussion entirely and you don’t have to agree with me for my point to make sense, here. Liz linked to more than one blogger on that HFCS blog tour who admitted they didn’t understand the presentation and/or they really weren’t sure how they felt about it. Sorry, but to me that’s just not okay.

    So, to be clearer: Yes, I would “sell out” for the right (read: high) price in a case where it was a product/service I truly backed and could feel okay about lending my endorsement, sure. There is NO price at which I will back a product in which I don’t believe, NO price at which I will back a product which I personally feel is dangerous. Now, maybe the folks involved here don’t agree about the danger, but as soon as people are admitting they’re “not sure” it’s clear the train is off the rails. 1) Get paid what you’re worth and 2) don’t lend your trust capital to products/campaigns that make your word less valuable.

    I don’t think I ever said it makes me “more honest.” It allows me to sleep at night and keeps my integrity intact, sure. But on a purely pragmatic level, it makes me more hireable and relevant to businesses that actually care about this stuff.

    Mir  |  October 5th, 2010 at 9:41 am

  • Yes!

    Maria  |  October 5th, 2010 at 9:41 am

  • Annie: Thanks for including that link here, as well. You are spot on. (And I have a little crush on you.) :)

    Mir  |  October 5th, 2010 at 9:42 am

  • I agree with you on a lot of this, but where it gets a little shaky for me is when we try to put a fine point on what amount of money equals “being paid for what we’re worth.” Because the truth is that in the blog world, we’re really not all worth the same. People with higher traffic are seen as more important influencers, so for them a $100 paid post might be an insult but for a smaller blogger with less traffic (and, let’s just say, a need for any extra money she can bring in to support her family), that $100 is HUGE. But in taking it, is she undermining her fellow bloggers? Even more, does she have a greater responsibility to her fellow bloggers than she does to her own financial well-being? Or, to her, is that $100 a fair payment for the job she’s doing?

    Obviously $100 is a lot different from a $5/tweet in terms of the difference it can make in a person’s financial situation, but again, I think the whole “integrity” question is really a lot more complicated than it seems. For some people, sponsored tweets really would affect their trust capital in a negative way because their readers expect certain things (i.e., a certain level of integrity) from them on Twitter. For other people, though? Twitter isn’t all that important and isn’t something they use other than as a tool for self-promotion. If they want to tweet for $5, does that impact the way the rest of us use Twitter? No, I don’t think so.

    Leah K  |  October 5th, 2010 at 9:48 am

  • Shannon, I think there are actually two issues Mir is addressing–separate and distinct but both are at play here.

    There IS difference between doing ad/promo work for an imperfect corporation (because none of them are perfect) and being a shill. Using HFCS as an example: I avoid HFCS like crazy in bread and other foods we eat regularly. Sometimes that means shopping at special stores and often it means paying a higher price. But it’s important to me to keep it out of our regular diet. However, I also drink Coke and Pepsi every now and then, and my kids have been known to have a Sprite or root beer on special occasions.

    So would I allow advertising for Coke on my blog? Maybe, because I believe there are products that while not good for you as a regular part of your diet, I do think there can be a place for Coke without your health going all to hell.

    Would I say I thought Coke was no worse for you than Hansen’s natural soda, even if I were being paid to? Nope.

    If Coke invited me to a blog tour and then sat me down in a room with some of their paid representatives who told me that Coke is, in fact, no worse for you than Hansen’s Natural Soda, would I believe it? NO. I’m smarter than that. At the very least, I’d do my own research.

    I have no problems with somebody being a company spokesperson. I’m a company spokesperson myself. I represent products I have used and would recommend to friends. But for no amount of pay would I make statements *that aren’t true* about any product.

    Possibly all these bloggers actually *believe* they are making true statements about HFCS, but if they’re getting all their information (information some of them admit NOT BEING ABLE TO UNDERSTAND) from the company itself, how on earth can they know that what they’re “reporting”–and influencing other people to believe–is even true?

    The fact that they’re willing to do it for such a small amount of money is just the icing on the cake, as far as I’m concerned.

    Meagan Francis  |  October 5th, 2010 at 9:57 am

  • And to your point about being paid to write for something we don’t believe in/don’t understand/think is harmful, yes, I totally agree that that’s the real danger here–that people are indeed being paid to say things they wouldn’t normally say. THAT is absolutely about integrity, no question, and THAT’s what we need to focus on, not how much people are “worth.”

    But back to the $5 tweet thing (and I said this on Anna’s site as well), one of those campaigns was for an organization that supports afterschool programs for teens. For every comment left on the targeted post, the organization gets $.50, which I think is great no matter how you look at it; it costs readers 30 seconds to leave a comment and money gets donated to a worthy cause. With this campaign specifically, I’d tweet about it for nothing, so why wouldn’t I also tweet about it four times for $20 (especially since every $20 counts to me)? I think this is a lot different than some giant, rich corporation asking people to tweet for pennies and no greater return, or the HFCS people asking people to spread suspect information that some of them didn’t even really understand.

    For me, one of the questions I ask myself when approached to do sponsored anything is “Would I say these things if I weren’t being paid to?” The answer HAS to be yes for me to feel good about being on the campaign.

    Leah K  |  October 5th, 2010 at 10:02 am

  • Mir,

    First, thanks for the shout-out. This means more to me that you can possibly ever know. I am not being facetious.

    Secondly, there are two issues at work here, both trust capital and social capital. With HFCS, this has to do with social capital and trust capital, depending on who you ask. Personally, I’m not really too worked up about HFCS. I mean, it’s bad, don’t get me wrong. I don’t really want my kid eating to much of it, and I’m certainly not going to promote it on my blog, but not so much because I think it’s Teh Big Evil or because the price isn’t right (I don’t even know what the price is, actually). I wouldn’t promote it just because, umm, what the hell? When did my blog become about promoting stuff like that? If I wrote a blog about yummy junk food and it really fit and it didn’t seem icky then maybe I’d do it, but as I’ve been talking about in my posts on trust capital, *even in those cases* product placement and sponsored posts still come off bad. There’s something about them that just doesn’t work, even when they are well done, and that’s why I’ve been questioning whether they are EVER worth it for the blogger, ethics and morality of the product to the side.

    Now when you’ve also got a small price tag, like $5 per tweet, or an evil product like HFCS, then, yeah, it becomes so much easier to rant.

    ABDPBT  |  October 5th, 2010 at 11:42 am

  • So, first, I love you. Know that. So that when I disagree with you, as I’m about to do, you’ll know it’s nothing more than that; a mild disagreement.

    First, the agreement part: I don’t care how much someone is offering to pay me…I would never agree to shill HFCS on my blog. And I don’t care even if there ARE solid scientific studies saying it’s fine to eat…it’s not fine for our planet. I’m trying to cut way down on all things corn and corn-fed and such, hard as that is to do. So that one’s not about money to me. It’s about right and wrong. HFCS is wrong, by my standards. Done.

    On to the disagreement: Mir, I make maybe (MAYBE) $20 a QUARTER on my BlogHer ads. $20 a month for TWEETING? Is actually something. It would be (if I’d been selected for the program, which I guess I wasn’t, though I did indeed apply) the money I’d give to charity, since my income doesn’t allow for charitable giving, normally. It would be the money I’d put in my mad money account so I can actually do something fun for the kids once a year or so, something that isn’t about paying for therapies or clothes. It would be the money that would let me stop finding excuses for not attending my friends’ Girls’ NIghts Out, though probably only once every couple of months or so. It wouldn’t change my life. It would make it slightly more fun.

    Now, understand…I make my living as a writer. If this was about $5 blog post–even $5 blog posts for my review blog and not my ‘real’ one–I’d be LIVID. As it is, I know for a fact that the underbidding done by freelance writers–be they bloggers or print journalists–is the reason that I can’t make a living at that job any more, since I’m my family’s sole income. It’s why I resentfully spend every day in an office. So I GET feeling angry about people who make what you do worth less. But this is about TWEETING. It’s about $5 for 140 characters. With a tag that says it’s sponsored. I write several hundred tweets a month; they are not part of an ad network, and that’s fine by me. But I really, sincerely doubt that having four ‘ads’ in there would make that big a difference to the few dozen folks who follow me. I may be wrong. And clearly you see it differently. Maybe I’m naive in thinking that Twitter isn’t my blog, and my blog isn’t Twitter. Maybe I’m missing the point. But for now, this one just doesn’t get my hackles up. There’s plenty that does, but this doesn’t.

    TC  |  October 5th, 2010 at 12:04 pm

  • I just left basically this same comment over at WCS, before deciding it made more sense to have it here. So…

    I’m a journalist and a blogger, and the “we expect you to work hard for a pittance” mentality isn’t new to me. What is upsetting and new, though, is how so many people think it’s OK to auction off their credibility to highest of the still-way-too-low bidders. And PR and marketing people — and management at many companies — increasingly think that we’re all willing to sell ourselves short, or even work for free.

    I guess if someone has never earned a reasonable wage for your work, it seems like getting a deal ($5, a gift certificate, product, a giveaway) for something you would have written about for free. Or you’re getting for free (advertorial content for your blog) something that you would have had to create on your own. But really, the end result is that working in this industry becomes harder for everyone.

    TC, that’s a really interesting point. Is the $5 per Tweet still offensive if you break it down into money earned per word written? Probably not. A Tweet doesn’t take much effort or research. The disturbing part about the tweet issue, for me, is when marketers want you to spread their ad message without weighing in on it — a tweet-for-pay campaign is more of an endorsement than a review.

    Lylah  |  October 5th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

  • The idea of price points is important. When Kobe Bryant is offered $30 million for promoting some product like Sprite or Nutella, do we ever bother to wonder whether or not he approves of these products? Whether or not he actually believes in Nutella as a product probably becomes irrelevant to him when $30 million is waved in his face.

    By that same token, if someone is just scraping by, and barely able to feed her family, is $5 per tweet such a big deal? If it buys food for her kids, I say go ahead and Tweet away. The price point for integrity gets lower and lower the worse off you are.

    God knows that there’s very little to be proud of when you’re digging through a dumpster, but when you get hungry enough, pride and integrity become luxuries.

    simon  |  October 5th, 2010 at 1:25 pm

  • I think you are amazing. Your words could not convey my thoughts any better. I HATE HFCS… and SOY. To me those two things should be banished from the universe. I am so honored to know you are willing to stand up and speak out….

    amanda  |  October 5th, 2010 at 3:34 pm

  • Mir, I admire your integrity. I’ve seen you write about freelancing integrity many times, and this is one of the reasons I have decided against freelancing right now for myself. I don’t have the time and energy to figure out my true worth in regard to my writing savvy, and I don’t want to be someone who hurts the industry by selling myself overly short. Maybe in the future I will be able to take the time to figure out where I am on the freelancing scale and figure out where I could market my talents in an appropriate way, but for now, I don’t want to hurt what you and others are trying so hard to build up, i.e., a living wage to pay for what your skills are truly worth.

    I’m trying, at all costs, to avoid HFCS due to the controversy surrounding it. I have medical issues that make it very difficult to lose weight and that also increase my risk for insulin resistance. I also have strong family history of insulin resistance and diabetes (all grandparents and their siblings have diabetes as well as one parent), so when I’ve read in several places (and through further research) that HFCS could play a part in insulin resistance, I figure “better safe than sorry.” I know that sugar has been around for years and years, and I know how that affects my system and that of others on a very large scale. I don’t know that about HFCS now. Changing the name (by the way, when we went to Canada on vacation and bought groceries, I noticed it’s called glucose/fructose there) of HFCS to “corn sugar” just goes to show that they are trying everything they can to assure us that it is okay. Until I know more and see more in the way of reputable studies not sponsored by the corn/HFCS industry, I choose to stay away from it in all forms. I have too many other risk factors I can’t control, and if this is one I can control, I’m doing it.

    I respect your speaking out on these two issues. I hope people can see you are trying to help and not hurt, because it’s obvious that you truly care.

    jessica  |  October 5th, 2010 at 4:25 pm

  • My girl crush on you grows stronger still.

    I have nothing intelligent to add that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll just nod my head and agree with you.

    Redneck Mommy  |  October 5th, 2010 at 4:37 pm

  • I understand your anger and frustration. I no longer read blogs which rave about products for five bucks. I do, however, have friends who do paid endorsements for companies they believe in.

    Shoot, I still occasionally do unpaid endorsements for a toffee company which sent me a box of free toffee eons ago. It’s just that good. *sigh* I stoop so low as to blog for toffee. Made with real sugar, though. ;)

    Flea Christenson  |  October 5th, 2010 at 6:58 pm

  • Hmm, don’t agree with you today. I feel like your job as a quality freelancer is to convince clients what YOU are worth, not convince your competitors what they are worth. I don’t see the freelancing industry as that different from law or accounting firms in that there is a wide array of quality and lackthereof and price points out there.

    Lawyers hav to convince people that maybe that will in a box kit is not a good idea. A professional accountant needs to convince a small businessman that Quickbooks does not have all the answers.

    The cheap way to do something will always be there,and no amount of internet rants by anyone in any industry will ever change that.

    lindsay  |  October 5th, 2010 at 6:58 pm

  • Oh, P.S.? You’re pretty.

    Flea Christenson  |  October 5th, 2010 at 7:02 pm

  • GREAT post, Mir.

    I was weirded out by the $5 per Tweet email recently sent. I want my statements on Twitter and Facebook to mean something. And I believe those statements are worth more than $5 - these are my FRIENDS reading my dribble, after all. Anna made some very valid statements about trust capital and the loss of goodwill a person can cause by cheapening her voice.

    Yes, I like the BlogHer organization and am normally in their camp. But in this case? I had to rethink my having ads on my blog. I am still torn. I make very little money with the ads, but I do like being a part of the network. But at what cost?

    cagey  |  October 5th, 2010 at 9:23 pm

  • I used to be very firmly standing on that soapbox with you, but recently something happened that sort of shifted my thinking. Another blogger whose blog makes my head explode because of all the free and bargain shilling she does tweeted one of my links. She has well over 10,000 followers–four times as many as I do. I was irritated that she had tweeted it because I don’t want to be associated with that side of blogging, and I really didn’t want the traffic that her tweet would send.

    Except, her tweet didn’t send any traffic.

    None at all.

    If I tweet a link, over 100 people will click it pretty much every time. A carefully crafted tweet with a link can get 200 clicks. Not bragging, just saying that despite the fact that I have far fewer followers, some of them are actually listening to me. No one is listening to that other blogger.

    Once I connected those dots, I realized that those people who spend their days praying to the PR gods may have numbers that seem like something, but really their blogs and twitter streams are full of nothing. There are no connections, no influence, nothing. They’re all following each other and are all talking, but kind of like a room full of 3-year olds, no one is actually listening.

    If no one is listening, then all of those PR gods who utilize that type of blogger are basically just throwing money into the wind. It may only be $5, but it’s still $5 wasted. Smart PR reps are taking the time to create effective campaigns, and they know that they’ll have to pay more than $5 to make it happen. There is a danger of companies not understanding how it all works and deciding social media is a waste of time when their campaigns don’t work, but they will eventually be outnumbered by the effective campaigns.

    I think the real danger is when those crap bloggers decide to heed the call of demanding more for their time and manage to get away with it.

    burghbaby  |  October 6th, 2010 at 7:19 am

  • Oh Mir. This raises so many more questions than it answers-for me anyway. I just spent my entire morning reading link after link and I’m just not sure what to make of all of this. I’m mad, I’m conflicted, I’m confused. And I have a deadline. Crap.

    Headless Mom  |  October 6th, 2010 at 12:22 pm

  • From what I see, those bloggers who “sell out” earliest and for the least amount of money tend to put in the least effort. They don’t mind being paid $5 plus a few perks because they didn’t work hard enough to generate a good work product. Bloggers that link up to a campaign for actual money tend to put in more time, effort, and thought. You can tell which ones are more persuasive and effective. Hopefully marketers will learn to identifty the good campaigns from the bad and realize that freebies and de minimis gets you freebie effort and de minimis thoughts.

    elz  |  October 6th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

  • Mir and I have already spoken offline about this.

    I am not tweeting about this particular BlogHer campaign, but am blogging about it. I am getting paid, but would do it for nothing. Why? Because what you are all talking about is promoting a *non profit*—not Coke, not Nestle, not HFCS.
    a non-profit who needs money.
    All the paid tweets/posts are asking is for you to take your intelligent and persuasive argumentative skills to this group of articles:

    discussing teen texting. For every comment left, gets fifty cents. That’s all that was asked, to help generate comments for a good cause.

    I GET THE TRUST capital thing. I really, really, really do. I got offered $75 today to post a link in support of legalizing pot. I turned it down because it wouldn’t be a good fit for my audience. Would I like $75? sure, but unless I saw at least 4 figures it wouldn’t be worth it *for me* to write about it. And then I’d have to find a way to grow in in the crockpot. or make a stew or something.

    The big thing that bothers me about all of this, is the “I really like BlogHer but…” thing. If you’re supportive, be supportive. If you’re friends with the founders and employees, be friends. Take the 5th if you don’t agree with certain practices. Friends don’t drag friends through the mud.

    xoxo steph

    Stephanie O'Dea  |  October 6th, 2010 at 8:20 pm

  • Life crept up and dragged me out of this loop, yesterday, but I want to say thank you to everyone who’s chimed in on this—I appreciate all the comments, even (maybe even especially) the ones which disagree with me.

    As Leah has now pointed out on Anna’s site (are you confused yet? I am), this entire discussion is, for me, aimed at people who are looking to be professionals in this space. It was never meant to be a blanket indictment of anyone doing anything; I speak here at Cornered Office about the business of writing as a career. If that wasn’t clear before, I hope it is, now.

    Stephanie, I am so glad we have mutual adoration and can disagree and still be friends. You and I have talked about this some more, but I do want to make 2 points in response to your comments:

    First, that I did not get from the email I received that they were paying for tweets about charity. I just went digging through my trash to reread the email about the tweeting and FBing for pay, and it said nothing about that. Personally? I’ll tweet for free about a charitable cause I believe in. But the approach we were given about this program didn’t say what it was for; it said “various programs” and I maintain that it felt weird to me. That doesn’t mean it has to feel weird to you. Or that charity is bad. Just sayin’.

    Second, I think referring to what I said here as “dragging my friends through the mud” is unfair. Being supportive is not the same as always agreeing. Disagreeing—even publicly—is not the same as attacking. I was respectful in what I had to say, and I am still a BlogHer supporter. Just like you and I can agree to disagree on this and still be okay. Thank you for speaking up, and thank you for letting me respond, both privately and publicly.

    Mir  |  October 7th, 2010 at 9:09 am

  • Well, I agree with Leah and Stephanie. I am a small blogger (itty bitty actually, as bloggers go) and I was happy to be asked to do this promotion. I don’t have thousands of followers, and make pennies compared to most “big” bloggers out there. Even though $5.00 doesn’t sound like a lot of money to most bloggers, it’s huge for me. I don’t have sponsors flooding my e-mail asking to advertise on my blog, nor do I have enough followers to feel like I could ask someone to pay to advertise with me. Hopefully, that will be different in the future. For now, however, I take whatever leftover crumbs are thrown my way…as long as I believe in the campaign. The truth is, I would have done this campaign for free if asked because it is a cause I believe in. Any parent with a special-needs child that is in a school environment, has had to deal with bullies in one form or another. Since I do believe in the campaign, how does that “erode my credibility?” I’m sorry if my jumping at the chance to do this campaign makes other bloggers feel like I am decreasing their worth, that is not my intention at all. I’m just trying to grow my blog and increase my monthly income.

    Robin  |  October 13th, 2010 at 2:11 pm

  • Welcome to the business world. It’s called capitalism. I’m sorry that some bloggers can afford to offer services for less than you…but, for better or worse, that’s what it is: capitalism.

    If you’re worth more than $5/post, then you must prove it to the companies. Show them what you can offer them that the $5 bloggers can’t. Then, you’ll get your $20…or whatever you’re looking for.

    Until then, the companies are going to use the bloggers who can afford to work for $5. And you can rant all you want…but the truth is that the $5 bloggers are thankful, grateful!, for the $5 and the exposure. They don’t feel entitled to more. And, if it’s working for them, if it’s all that they need, then why shouldn’t they be thankful and grateful.

    You say they’re worth more than that, but who are you to make that qualification? Are you willing to pay them more than $5 per post to write for you?

    And I know you say it’s a community and that their work affects your work, but I think you’re forgetting that this is business. This isn’t some sort of communal living arrangement. I rarely see the big bloggers sharing their offers with the little bloggers. I rarely see the big bloggers sharing their audience and exposure with the little bloggers. When is the last time you got paid more than you needed for a blog or a review and you offered it to a fellow blogger who wasn’t given the opportunity to review the product?

    So, what do the little bloggers gain by looking out for the big bloggers? Why should it go one way, but not the other? Are you going to share with them if you start getting the payment you want? Are you going to give them the exposure they desire, if they don’t take it from the companies?

    I don’t get all these rants about the BlogHer network. It sounds like ungrateful, entitled whining to my ears.

    If you’re worth more than $5, then prove it. Until then, your service is only worth what others are willing to pay for it.

    In my opinion, blogging is still a privilege. The fact that we can make *any* money out of doing what we love each day is astounding to me! If blogging cannot provide enough money for your family, then it’s time to do what millions of other people do each and every day: Find another skill that you can perform that will earn you the money you need. No one is entitled to doing what they love and making money from it. Especially not writing. Just because the internet has brought us instant publishing privileges doesn’t mean we’re entitled to instant profitability. Some people are lucky enough to be able to profit (and profit well) from their blog, but it’s not an inherent right.

    That’s my $.02…or $5…worth. I’m a hobby-blogger, so I’m sure I’ve got an entirely different view on this. However, I think it’s a view worth considering.

    Lindsay  |  October 13th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

  • Lindsay, I’m going to guess this is your first visit here.

    For one thing, I do get paid more than that. Regularly. And while I have never just handed money over to a smaller blogger (ummmm… really?) I have benefitted from the wisdom of those kind enough to mentor me and have for the entirety of my career worked to pay it forward similarly. Which is why I wrote this blog for Work It, Mom!, and why I always answer emails when someone asks me for help, and why I refer work I don’t have the time for (or don’t feel I’m a good fit for) to other writers I know could use the work. As I have now stated numerous times, the point here is that if you want to be a professional earning a living wage, this is not the way to do it. And I do get emails from folks where they tell me they’re writing for $5/post, wanting to know how they make more. (Hint: The first thing they need to do is… stop writing for $5/post.)

    My words here aren’t intended for hobbyists. If you want to tweet for $5 or hula-hoop on the White House lawn for $5, fine. You’re certainly allowed and it’s none of my business. This blog is about writing as a career. You want to equate apples and oranges, and I think that’s rather silly.

    As for your comments about the BlogHer network, I have a hard time believing you even read what I wrote.

    Mir  |  October 13th, 2010 at 3:10 pm

  • Thanks for sharing - it’s great to see freelancers standing up for themselves, and the industry as a whole. You are worth so much more than $5/post!

    JenHuiz  |  October 14th, 2010 at 11:59 am

  • I agree with both points: don’t sell out by endorsing everything that crosses your desk and also value your time and talent and influence appropriately.

    As to the specifics mentioned, I don’t really know that much about the BlogHer campaign so it is hard for me to say…are you just retweeting pre-written tweets? what sort of client?

    Four isolated tweets spread out over a month? I’m not sure how much that is really worth. I guess that it has some sort of search value. It probably isn’t going to trend or saturate.

    I don’t think this amount would motivate me to apply…but not because I think my four isolated tweets are worth more but rather because it seems sort of…pointless?

    Maybe a year ago I would be able to put a clear value on my tweets but there is SOOO much noise now on Twitter.

    As to the HFCS, I won’t get too much into the MAJOR issues I have with the campaign but I would like to point out that a $100 Gift Card to Walmart (or Amazon, or Target, etc.) is pretty much as good as cash for a lot of people. True, you can’t pay your electric bill or tuition with it…but you can get groceries, clothes, furniture, etc.

    Another few points I’d like to add:

    People are talking about the “worth” to the companies here as well and I think SEO is often left out of that conversation. Yes, if you are looking at real social media capital, one trusted blogger is worth more than 100 blogs that reprint press releases, etc. But if you are looking to dominate search results, you might find the quantity over quality useful to your end.

    I’m glad to see some bloggers pushing back on this.

    Finally, as someone who has been a professional writer for about 15 years, online publishing has really changed the equation.

    I’m all for market capitalism but we also have to realize we are in an era where cheap content is dominating.

    Optimized word counts drive traffic. And traffic brings ad revenue. So buying your words cheaply makes business sense in a lot of business models. You get what you pay for but for a lot of online businesses, that is just fine by them.

    Ultimately, I am hoping that the advertisers do realize that the traffic driven by poor quality writing is not doing them any favors…and readers will demand better writing…and hopefully different models will gain ascendancy.

    Not sure where I fall on the optimist / pessimist scale on that one.

    Candace  |  October 14th, 2010 at 9:10 pm

  • The only time I have ever reviewed a product so far, is when I liked the product. I always bought it myself and chose to write about it on my blog, because, well, because the product was THAT good. Or bad.

    I can see what you are saying. I understand most of it and agree with much of it. I have to question the selling out by writing for 5 bucks though. We all know kids are expensive and families (many of them anyway) live day to day. Five dollars is a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. Five articles written at the rate of five dollars a piece is $25.00, which, for a family struggling, is more than one meal.

    I agree pride in your work is important. I agree, five dollars for something you wrote is nearly an insult. But so is working a 9 to 5 crap job that doesn’t even offer benefits because choices are limited and jobs are scarce. I’ve written stuff that earned only pennies per hits. And I was very proud of what I wrote. But I have to say, when I finally got to the 25.00 mark, and then the 50.00 mark, I was even prouder to be able to put food on the table when we would have otherwise gone without.

    Anyway, this was a great write and again, I agree vehemently about making false claims about a product you didn’t even research for a gift certificate. THAT IS selling out.

    Thanks for a great read. Sorry my response was so long.

    Bella  |  February 26th, 2011 at 1:19 pm