Imagine the scenario… You take your partner out to a hot new restaurant, order the entire menu (plus a bottle of champagne for good measure) and enjoy every minute of it. When it comes to the end of the meal and you’re presented with the bill, you reply “but I’ve given you exposure by Instagramming it and telling my mum she should come too!” That wouldn’t go down well. One of the hottest topics in the bloggersphere right now is the concept of working for ‘exposure.’ Back at the dawn of blogging it was incredibly worthwhile for bloggers to collaborate with brands and businesses for a little kick-back, as our numbers were small and it could genuinely add value. However, time has moved on and the roles have reversed – more often than not it’s the blogger that has the larger influence, skill and knowledge that’s in demand more than the products they talk about. Collectively it seems we’re no longer willing to spend our valuable time creating content or endorsing something that’s of no real benefit to us; we understand the value we offer and increasingly demand to be compensated accordingly. In 2016 it’s about time that brands small and large
wised up to the fact that promising us ‘exposure’ simply no longer cuts it, so how about we park that in 2015? 

Let’s break this down. What exactly does ‘working for exposure’ mean, and why can it be a bad thing? Essentially it’s the classification when an individual provides a service (be it a blog post, time out of their day or endorsement of some kind) for no actual monetary payment, instead receiving promotion on (more often than not) a brand’s social channels or website. It’s incredibly beneficial for the brands themselves, as they get oodles of great content created without the usual financial investment; for bloggers it’s just another example of being taken advantage of.

There are of course instances when working for exposure is of genuine benefit, but the key is to understand when an ‘opportunity’ is mutually beneficial and when it’s not. I’ve worked for exposure many times in the past and continue to do so; from speaking at events, taking over a brand’s Instagram account, writing articles or being interviewed, there are lots of instances when I’m willing to give up my time even when there’s potentially little reward. From a selfish point of view I look for opportunities that enhance my credibility, reach out to a new audience or generate an increase in hits or followers. From a non-selfish point of view, I’m happy to give up my time to help a brand out I genuinely love or a fellow blogger who’s simply asked nicely. However, when lines are crossed and it clearly becomes a commercial opportunity that’s being used to essentially sell or promote a product or brand, then I’m out.

I regularly get asked to create a blog post so that it can be shared on a brand’s social channels (who more often than not have fewer followers than me,) or write a 1000 word article for the benefit of a possible bi-line. I quite often get requests to take a whole day out of my time for filming video content, sitting in on a workshop or being part of a focus group – all of which are commercially benefiting from my skill-set and knowledge to a certain degree. ‘Payment’ is often offered in terms of ‘exposure’ or (even worse) a goodie bag full of products I really don’t need. These collaborations should be paid for, even if only a nominal amount, because you simply wouldn’t ask an interior designer to turn up and style your house for free. Just because we’re digital content creators with a virtual presence, it doesn’t make our outputs any less valuable.

That’s where the disparity currently lies: because we’re perceived to be teenagers working from our bedroom surrounded by fairy lights and candles, businesses fail to recognise that we’re actually savvy businesswomen who have evolved a passionate hobby into a career. There’s a very real misunderstanding of the fact that anything digital should be classified as free, with the decision makers forgetting about the skill-set or time involved in creating that webpage, taking that photo or editing those words. It’s incredibly frustrating. Although many opportunities provide great experiences, genuinely do add benefit or can elevate a blogger to a new level, there are equally those that take advantage of us as a way to save money from the bottom line. So, how can we turn a negative into a positive and ensure that any collaborations are genuinely beneficial? Here are some of my tips for bloggers and brands alike:

1. Is it a brand you genuinely love and want to work with?
2. Does the brand in question have a larger social media audience than you?
3. Is this part of a long-term relationship that may evolve into paid activity in the future?
4. Do you believe that the opportunity is a good experience and something you can personally benefit from?
5. Would you recommend the collaboration to a fellow blogger? If not, it’s not for you.

1. Agree on a clear set of outputs, from both sides, so you know exactly what you’re getting. This could be anything from the number of tweets, to the length of a blog post or time investment you’re prepared to make.
2. If there isn’t any budget now, make sure the brand knows this is a one-off opportunity for both of you to test the water, but in future you won’t be prepared to invest time for free. Get that in writing.
3. Ask if the brand can do the majority of the work for you to minimise your time investment. I’ve ‘written’ a double page spread in a magazine before by providing two sentences on each of the pre-selected products and letting the editor do the rest of the work for me. They get a get writer and a two page article, I invest only an hour of my time.

1. Don’t just ask bloggers to create you free content in the hope that it gets shared. Develop an enticing proposal and ensure it includes elements that are genuinely of benefit to the blogger.
2. If you don’t have budget right now, what can you offer? Maybe you have access to spa facilities and can say thank you with a spa day, or are able to offer a hamper of personalised goodies for them to enjoy in their own terms. It’s not all about the money – we just want to feel valued.
3. Work on the basis of a long-term partnership and ensure the blogger knows you truly value their time, effort and endorsement. Ask them questions about what they hope to get out of the partnership and how you can facilitate that.

I really hope that this year we see a reduction in the amount of pitches we get that are just downright laughable, but realistically I think we still have a way to go. Collaborating with brands can genuinely be incredibly beneficial, even when there’s no financial compensation, but it’s about both parties understanding the value they’re offering to the other – and identifying when there’s none.

What are your thoughts on working for ‘exposure’? How do you hope blogger-brand relationships will evolve over the next twelve months?

Georgina from She Might Be Loved has written a great post with thoughts of other bloggers too. It’s well worth checking out. 
(By the way, this has absolutely nothing to do with Jo Malone – their products just look good in pictures!)



Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.  




  1. Kirsty London
    January 5, 2016 / 6:09 pm

    I'm so glad you've posted about this. I find it a bit insulting when brands ask me to make videos about their product and my pay off is to use it as 'content' or 'exposure'. As you said, I'm not a kid, I'm an educated woman who doesn't just slap together material and hope for the best, I try to write and create worthwhile content that is edgy, different and well produced with fantastic equipment. If they took the time to realise that I'd be genuinely shocked! Obviously not all brands are like this but this was such a great post about this problem. Well done my love. Kirsty London || Kirsty London

    • Hayley Carr
      January 7, 2016 / 8:16 pm

      Thanks Kirsty. I hope to be able to discuss things many of us are thinking, but aren't necessarily always comfortable opening up about… And I know a lot of brands read my blog, so it's a way of educating them too.

  2. Ana @Champagnegirlsabouttown
    January 5, 2016 / 6:48 pm

    I like your no nonsense approach to business. I think that the brands do realise what they doing yet they try to push it to see how far they can get. Or I'm just being cynical…I own a solicitor's practice and the amount of time people try to get free advice by all sort of means…I always feel like saying "Let me just consult my team and ask them if they mind not getting paid this month so they can do your case for free". At the end of the day we are here to run a business/make money and we ought to be compensated for our time, no matter of it's blogging, law or something else. Anawww.champagnegirlsabouttown.co.uk

    • Hayley Carr
      January 7, 2016 / 8:17 pm

      Oh goodness, I can only imagine! I think this happens in all aspects of life, but especially when it comes to 'services' that aren't tangible.

  3. Ashley Elizabeth
    January 5, 2016 / 7:11 pm

    This is an incredibly helpful post, I am definitely saving it. You made some great points about how to consider opportunities and collaborations.Ashleyhttp://www.ashleyelizabethbeauty.com

  4. emmalcm
    January 5, 2016 / 8:36 pm

    I've been approached by a couple of companies asking for that sort of thing and not being willing to offer anything but 'possible' exposure. My answer was a definite no…I wouldn't work for free in my day job so why would I want to advertise your company for free just because my blog (which is just a hobby by the way ) only has a small following?!Em xhttp://themusingsofem.blogspot.co.uk/

  5. Katina Lindaa
    January 6, 2016 / 8:58 am

    This is honestly the blog post that I needed to begin blogging in 2016. I'm so over it and I'm glad that it's not just my mind telling me 'get paid'. The way you've said it, really puts the whole thing in perspective.Thank you, so much! xKatina | http://www.katinalindaa.com

    • Hayley Carr
      January 7, 2016 / 8:18 pm

      Glad it helped!

  6. Ash M / The Beauty Collection
    January 6, 2016 / 9:19 am

    Such an incredible post – I absolutely love your honesty. The amount of times brands have propositioned me promising me 'exposure' when they have a quarter of the followers that I have is honestly ridiculous – I really hope that brands start paying more attention in 2016 and understand that it's a two way street, particularly for women like you that have worked so hard to create a career. I was recently invited to a round table discussion with some other bloggers that L'Oreal Luxe had put together (I'm based in Australia) so they could better understand us and what we would want in return for creating content for the brand. It was refreshing to find a brand that was really trying to understand the changing industry. Ash / The Beauty Collection

    • Hayley Carr
      January 7, 2016 / 8:19 pm

      That's a really good example of brands trying to understand how to work WITH bloggers, rather than trying to get bloggers to work FOR them. I wish more were like that!

  7. Ashleigh D'Mello
    January 6, 2016 / 9:42 am

    Love this post babe – not only is it fantastic commentary on the industry, but it's also a great reminder to bloggers (myself included!) that we need to value our time and the content we create a lot more than we currently do. So well said!Ashleigh xxwww.ashleighdmello.com

  8. Amber Rowney
    January 6, 2016 / 9:53 am

    This amazing, thank you for the insightful article and helpful tips xx

  9. Pam Scalfi
    January 6, 2016 / 10:14 am

    This is the truth! From time to time I too receive these dodgy offers despite my blog being tiny. I see some bloggers jumping at the chance of getting $20 for a post, but I don't love the brand, I wouldn't buy their products, so why should I waste my time creating quality content if I'm not getting anything back? Once again Hayley, you've hit the nail on the head!Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

  10. Secret Style File
    January 6, 2016 / 1:29 pm

    You have made some really valuable points and so has everyone in the comments. It's food for thought definitely, as a smaller blogger though I do still need the exposure. I have stopped saying yes to everything though as you do get pinned down and it makes blogging not fun when you are under pressure. http://www.secretstylefile.com

  11. Humaira
    January 6, 2016 / 3:15 pm

    I've been approached like this as well and in the end, I've said No. Working for free is not an option anymore. If the insta-stars get paid thousands for a picture, why can't bloggers who are creating a community and imparting in-depth knowledge be paid as well? I hope this concept gets left in 2015!

  12. Jasmine Stewart
    January 6, 2016 / 9:44 pm

    I've never heard of this before – how cheeky though! Either there is an exchange of products in return for coverage and both benefit, or the brand pays in order to have more control over the content, but either way it's them getting the exposure for their product, not the other way round! xx Jasmine Talks Beauty

  13. Clbnolan
    January 7, 2016 / 3:51 am

    Surely you just say no if it's a job you don't want to do? Isn't that the only way a blogger can maintain any integrity?

    • Hayley Carr
      January 7, 2016 / 8:20 pm

      Yes of course, but it's not about that – it's about being asked to work for free, regardless of whether or not you want to do it.

    • Clbnolan
      January 8, 2016 / 12:56 am

      I understand that to earn a living there will be jobs that are more collaborative & of course, for these you should be paid. However, once a brand pays I imagine they expect a certain amount of content control. If the majority of posts become paid for, then how is that much different to a regular beauty journalist? Surely your point of difference has disappeared – and more importantly, your integrity & autonomy. Hope this doesn't come off as me trying to be an arse, just genuinely trying to understand.

    • Hayley Carr
      January 8, 2016 / 10:55 am

      This isn't about writing a review or a feature – of course those are editorial and a brand has no influence. It's also not about charging for a post. This is when you get asked to give up your time to attend a focus group, film a video, be part of a photoshoot etc. It's also about the companies that email saying 'blog about this and we'll pick our favourites to share on social media' – so basically write us a free post and we may choose to share it. This doesn't cover day to day running of a blog or what any of us write about; it's about requesting something very specific that should be paid for and not being prepared to pay for it. Hope that clarifies.

    • Clbnolan
      January 8, 2016 / 11:47 pm

      Yeah, that makes a lot more sense – thank you. And, of course, you're absolutely right that your expertise & experience in all those areas should be paid for & paid well for. Thanks for taking to the time to explain. As someone who's an avid reader of blogs but not a blogger, I just wanted to understand clearly. And extra thanks for the work you put into your blog that provides us, as readers, insight, information & entertainment that we get to enjoy for free!

    • Hayley Carr
      January 9, 2016 / 7:43 pm

      You're more than welcome! I think it can be confusing for a reader – and the confusion sometimes creates a negative air as it's easy to misunderstand and think we're all selling out or putting our integrity on the line. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment : )

  14. carrie jackson
    January 9, 2016 / 10:38 am

    Really interesting post. Your 'How do I know whether an opportunity is worth taking up?' section is spot on and is exactly how I operate…xCarrie | What I Love Today x

  15. Nail Pixi
    January 11, 2016 / 10:55 am

    As a beginner in the blogging world posts like these are so essential! It's a scary world out there and knowing how to navigate positivity & properly is invaluable! X

  16. Lubka Henry
    January 11, 2016 / 1:35 pm

    I very often work with a brand with no payment or accurate reward, but it's on my terms and as you said – because I love the brand.Whenever I receive a message in the lines of "We don't have a budget at the mo, but if you write a good article we may give you exposure on out social profiles", it goes straight to my spam box.

  17. Fashion Studio Magazine
    January 14, 2016 / 10:31 pm

    Yes. Finally someone started talking about it. Thank you for this article! Let's leave "working for exposure" in 2015 🙂

  18. Laura Gale
    January 15, 2016 / 10:57 am

    I'm all for working for exposure right now; my blog is only nine months old and is still growing, and I'll take every opportunity to help it along the way! It does annoy me when I spend hours trialling a product, photographing it, editing and writing up a post, and then the brand in question totally ignore my post and don't credit me at all on social media. It does feel like I've been taken advantage of in those situations. It takes two minutes to retweet a link and to say thanks for the hard work!xxLaura | Lala London: Beauty & Lifestyle

  19. Alice Red
    January 15, 2016 / 4:16 pm

    This is a really good post – it really helps out smaller bloggers like me who are new to working with brands and don't know what to expect! I always appreciate your brutal honesty. xalicered.co.uk

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