Black Bloggers vs. Black Business: Why We Won't Work For Free T-Shirts

As a huge supporter of Black businesses, this was an article that I debated heavily about writing. In the end, I decided that change will never happen if people just don't know.

There is a lot of misconception about blogging and most of it comes from the fact that the concept itself is still fairly new. I know that sometimes it feels like everyone has a blog; however, the art of blogging didn't come into existence until a decade or two ago.

Many people still think of blogging as an online journal, when in reality it is a business and a very profitable one.

When I first started blogging, I thought that compensation if any would come from receiving product in exchange for reviews. This, however, is definitely not the standard yet, there are some businesses that are still trying to advertise based on this archaic model.

Many Black bloggers are making enough money through working with brands to at least pay some of their bills; others are able to live comfortably and even pay others to work for them. Blogging is definitely not just a hobby.
Since most of my audience consists of millennial, Black women, I try my hardest to work almost exclusively with Black-owned businesses. This, however has only come with personal sacrifice and serious monetization struggles. When people find out that I don't blog full time, they are shocked and I am personally a bit shocked too.

As an award winning blogger with half of a million page views every month, I'm surprised that I'm still having to prove my worth to Black businesses.

When I disclose to my blogging friends how little I charge for a sponsored post or an ambassadorship, they are absolutely shocked. It's not because I don't get offered big offers from other businesses. I receive emails from non-Black businesses on a weekly basis that are willing to pay me well over my brand partnership rates; however, because I am so dedicated in only partnering with brands that represent my target audience, I always decline and am sometimes forced to accept that chump change that Black-businesses say that they can pay me.

Don't get me wrong, I have worked with some AMAZING Black-owned businesses that know the value of my services. I mean, just look at the beautiful Black businesses in my sidebar. Several natural hair companies like Shea Moisture and EDEN Bodyworks are also making sure to pay bloggers fairly.

A majority of businesses, however, just don't see the true value of bloggers. You know, I take that back. They see the value but they don't see us as business professionals and expect us to do it for free.

As many great offers I receive from non-Black businesses, I receive more than double requests from Black businesses that want me to do the same work in exchange for a t-shirt or some earrings. This may seem harsh, but I can't take your t-shirt and earrings to my landlord or barter it towards my grocery bill at Trader Joe's. I'm sorry.
I know that a lot of people are going to try to rebuttal back by saying something along the lines of "Black businesses just don't have the budget"; however, I am not just referring to small Black businesses. 

I've been approached by some well known, celebrity endorsed Black businesses that have asked me to do crazy amounts of work (sponsored posts, photo shoots, social media engagement, monthly posts, SnapChat takeovers, giveaways) in exchange for little to no compensation. When I decline or rebuttal back with my rate, I am responded back to with attitude or just not responded back to at all. Some businesses act like bloggers are supposed to help them solely based on the fact that we both share the same pigment. Unfortunately, this shared melanin is not cashing checks.

Black business owners, you know how mad you get when a friend or family member asks you for your services for free or at a discounted rate? It is the exact same deal. 

In the Black community, the idea of "help a brother/sister out runs rampant"; however, it almost always involves one person getting the short end of the stick. Digital influencers are some of the most influential money making machines of our generation, especially since everyone is online nowadays. The thought that an influencer should advertise your product for free or for a rate that is lower than their normal rate just because we are both Black should NEVER cross a true, professional business owner's mind. Ever.

Working with the right digital influencer/ blogger can and will elevate your business to the next level as long as your recognize their value and communicate your needs with them. When I wrote the posts The Ultimate Black-Owned Online Business Gift Guide and 49 Black-Owned Fashion Companies That Cater Specifically To The Carefree, Quirky, Black Woman, I received countless emails from businesses saying how much traffic and sales they received just from being mentioned on my blog. Now imagine how much exposure I make sure that my paid opportunities receive. I know that this post seems like I am scolding Black businesses, but I want it to be seen as more of a learning experience.

Trust me, I also get approached by large non-Black businesses that want something for nothing, but they know the game and try to get over on us. I'm writing this because I feel like many Black businesses just don't know better. Many Black people don't know that bloggers make money, so how can we expect Black business owners to know that they need to pay us?

You would never go to a site like Essence or XONecole and expect that they would advertise your business in exchange for some clothes. Although many bloggers are not on the level of these media sites, we all have a niche and a dedicated following that is looking out for our recommendations.
For Black business owners that want to work with bloggers, this is why we require you to pay us:

1. We have direct access to YOUR targeted consumer!
As Black creators, naturally most of our audience will consist of other Black people, compared to a BuzzFeed or other multi-category site. We were able to catch your attention enough for you to want to advertise on our sites, so imagine the engagement we have with our other thousands of readers.

2. Working with you means that we can't work with your competitor
Let's say that I decide to work with a company that wants to only pay me in gum (nobody ever pays me in gum...). If Juicy Fruit wanted to work with me on a campaign that pays $1500, I wouldn't be able to work with them for another 3-4 months due to their non-compete disclosure.

3. We work hard to make your brand look good
Crafting content around your product in a way that makes sense to our brand and resonates with our readers take A LOT of effort. Many of us bloggers have invested in either a super expensive camera or a photographer and we all have to become amazing wordsmiths to make sure that we don't come off spammy to our trusting readers.

For the smaller businesses that still want to work with bloggers, I suggest either waiting until you have an advertising budget that allows you to work with your favorite larger bloggers or working with smaller bloggers that are within your price range. Don't, however, expect any blogger of any size to work for free and for the love of all that is holy, please don't see exposure as a mutually beneficial trade off.

Unless you are on the level of Oprah, Beyonce or Kanye West, your exposure is not worth it in the long-term goal of any blogger's brand.

I would also say, don't have unrealistic expectations when you are choosing which bloggers to partner with. I know personally of Black-owned businesses that only want to work with bloggers that have 25K followers on Instagram yet only want to offer them clothes...If you could see the response emails to these "offers" you would probably dig their graves for them.
Bloggers can charge whatever rate they'd like. For a reference point, here is a guide of what many are charging.
The disconnect between Black bloggers and Black business comes from the lack of mutuality that comes from Black bloggers being expected to do work for free. I've heard the testimonies of so many Black bloggers that feel like they are being forced to partner with non-Black businesses because Black businesses won't pay them. All the while, these non-Black businesses are growing from all of our publicity, while the Black business owner is staying small because of frugality. The concept of having to spend money to make money could not be more true in today's over saturated market.

With new online shops and businesses opening every hour, you need Black bloggers in your corner telling their readers while you are worth the investment. 

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Quirky, Brown Love is a media outlet for quirky, brown millennials. EST 2014.

Email Bryanda Law, Editor-in-Chief