Why ethical bloggers must get paid for advertisement? We think that the ethical bloggers are still not valued enough and that is why we initiated the #PayEthicalBloggers campaign. This campaign was shared more than 100 times already. Join the campaign.
We are all striving for a better future, fighting for a fair system along the whole supply chain, for fair living wages for farmers, for cut-make-trim workers, for designers. But the many changemakers are forgotten: the ethical bloggers. Ethical blogs drive lots of positive change at the point of sale site and in the end for the industry.
With this campaign, we would like to start a discussion and find a solution to how ethical brands and ethical blogs can work together on an equal basis, that respects the values and policies. Here are 15 Frequently Asked Questions and our answers. Please leave your comments below. Find our editorial policy here.
Our definition: An ethical blogger is a creative person who “works” for a better world by inspiring our society through digital text, images, and communication to live more consciously. From a journalistic point of view, there are differences between bloggers, depending on their editorial styles such as informative articles, interviews, opinion articles, reviews, personal recommendations, investigative articles, reports and much more.
Most ethical blogs, platforms or magazines are started by Generation Y out of the passion to change something and inspire others to do good by sharing tips, opinions, interviews, guides and more. Millennials grew up in an increasingly online and socially-networked world, they are the most ethnically diverse and tolerant generation, they follow their dreams and they want to drive change. It makes sense that Millennials use social media as a voice to drive change in a fast, global and successful way.
Running an ethical blog is no longer a hobby at the moment where you want to earn money with it. No matter whether you want to receive money or goods as payment, in Germany for example, you have to report it to the tax office directly. (If you have more questions on this, we recommend to familiarize yourself with the tax laws of your own country.)
But even if you do not intentionally run a blog as a business, every blogger will come to a point where she/he realizes that it is too much work to run a valuable blog as just a hobby. Most bloggers then want to make this hobby their profession and this is totally fine and sustainable.
Tip: Work out a small business and financial plan to make the right and most ethical decision for your little online business. Thus ethical bloggers must earn money if they spend a certain number of hours a week working on the blog.
– Set up a secure website with a good looking template which is responsive. Teach yourself a little bit of CSS and HTML coding and you can create a more unique look. Make sure the technique and plugins are always updated. Check the website usability regularly.
– Set up a little finance plan.
– Register your self-employment with the tax office and take out health and pension insurance.
– Open a business account and save some money for unforeseen expenses and illness, vacation days, travels.
– Rent an office place. Either in a co-office space or your own office space. We do not recommend home office on a long-term.
– Buy your equipment: laptop, mobile phone, camera, flash, light, office furniture,…
– Think about content ideas. The more innovate the creative direction the cooler.
– Educate yourself and do your research! Make sure the information you publish is correct. Read, watch documentaries, speak with experts, attend events and summits.
– Plan your content production and publishing dates in an editorial calendar.
– Write your texts, copy edit your texts.
– Work out interview questions.
– Produce content: Search for locations, book a model, select products, receive and send back parcels, style products, photograph, take videos and edit them according to your own style. Select images and create collages.
– Edit the text and photos/videos in your blog (mostly HTML/Wordpress).
– Prepare social media postings.
– Prepare the newsletter.
– Analyze the traffic.
– Hire and brief authors.
– Create a media kit and negotiate partnerships with brands.
– Reply to emails daily.
– Write invoices and pay invoices, do accounting and send out your tax report.
First off, working without payment can have many reasons. Maybe the blogger does not want to get paid as she/he wants to keep the blog ad-free. That is totally fine if she/he can afford it to work on the blog without compensation and want to feel independent.
But most of the ethical bloggers want and need to get paid as they see the blog as a job, they believe in it and cannot spend effort and money on a long-term which is logical. But to start somewhere, they still continue working beside their part-time or even full-time jobs late at night or at the weekends to give it a try.
So the consequences for ethical bloggers are the same as for any other person who works his ass off and does not earn any money in reward: existence fears and losing trust in personal worth.
That bloggers should not feel bad or suffer from self-esteem, anxiety, depression or even burnout is a fact we all agree on, don´t we? However, we think there should be a law that sets a minimum advertorial budget for independent bloggers to set an equal reward for them, too.
Blogger Tip 1: View your blog as a business and separate it from your private life as far as possible. Take a co-working or rental office and only work at fixed times. Calculate times and price list for your service. Create a media kit. Research your favorite brands and reach out to them. Create a little finance plan.
Blogger Tip 2: Know your professional worth and this is so important! If you do not know your own worth, how can your clients know it? (Jump to the number to see how to calculate the worth behind your blog.)
Blogger Tip 3: If there is still no income, don´t drive yourself crazy. Because the worst thing that can happen is to become unemployed and at least we here in Germany have a very good system compared to Bangladesh :)!! Stop your helper syndrome if you can’t finance yourself because otherwise you’ll break yourself and you won’t be able to help anyone anymore. There will come another chance to realize your dream job while helping, we promise!
6. Why not stop blogging?
Some say: “You’re not forced to be a blogger”. If you look at it objectively and pragmatically, that’s true. But it’s easier said than done. Then you could also start asking musicians, actors, writers, philosophers, and artists: why don’t you just stop? It’s part of our culture and this question is counterproductive. Better we look for a solution and try to make everyone’s dream come true- the same as we fight for a fair living wage.
Behind every ethical blog is a lot of passion, talent, and a strong will to make a difference in the world. And we think that exactly these people who have this need deserve a chance. Most of them are born change-makers because they have the talent to inspire people and that’s why they enjoy working on it so much.
There are several ways to earn money. Every blogger has to decide which option is the most suitable depending on the type of content and style of the blog and the readership (target group). Everything should be in line and suit its own ethics and editorial policy.
Banner ads, google ads, affiliate links: as an ethical blogger, you won’t get far with these options, because you earn little to nothing with them and they never reward your enormous effort. Or do you want to create non-stop shopping stories to promote over consumption?
Product cooperation, own products/online shop, consulting service, and the most common are brand collaborations and publishing advertisements such as reviews and advertorials. With this option, usually, bloggers first start to accept products as payment which still does not pay the rent and first of all must be taxed. In this situation, bloggers need to receive monetary budgets. This situation is currently difficult because bloggers are then dependent on advertising revenue and if brands decline to pay, we jump directly back to point 5.
Important: Depending on how the content is aligned, it must still be in line with the honest opinion and editorial policy.
First off, an important question to ethical bloggers: what factors do you use to determine whether you accept an advertising campaign? Set your ethos.
We think as long as the brand partners stay in line with the ethos of the ethical blog and the advertisement is beneficial for the audience and clearly marked as an advertisement, of course, it is ethical to demand a budget/rate for an advertisement. It doesn’t matter if the brand approached the blogger or vice versa.
When we look back 10 years it was discussed if it is generally ethical that bloggers to demand a budget for advertisement. Remember? And then bloggers like Chiara Ferragni made millions in ads out of their blog which became already “normal” to us.
We have to accept that ethical blogging is a very new job type which evolved out of passion, talent, modern possibilities and the will to change the world.
To understand better, let’s ask a few questions:
A) Is it ethical if big mainstream platforms be a huge fan of fairness and eco and then in the next article take money from unethical companies? Or even better: to publish an article that promotes ethical brands and at the same time displays banner ads from fast fashion brands?
B) Is it ethical to run video ads prior to reporting on war, hunger or terrorism?
C) Should all ethical multi-brand online shops and ethical brands shut down their corporate blog so that they not only advertise their own brands and themes as the best because they might have got a good price at the retailer?
D) Do you enter a shop and ask the cashier: “I like this shirt, it suits me very well! Can you please wrap it up, but I don’t want to pay for it, thank you!”
E) Or do you ask a creative agency: “Can you please produce this photo shoot, I need new pictures for my Instagram account, oh and please share it also on your Instagram account and blog because we need coverage from your big valued niche audience I cannot reach them alone. I bet you love our brand as we love your work. Therefore we are not willing to pay for it, Thanks!”
Imagine the reaction from a brand if the blogger agrees on this unpaid advertisement request. Read our little storyboard below:
“Oh, you’re so sweet and you’re doing this? Thanks a lot! Since you said that you like the brand so much, I would like to take not only your thump but your whole hand. please mention us in a 500-word article that includes this and has to link to it and includes these pictures and please share it on the x because we will have a special promotion then. Please tag us with hashtag xyz and name the credits, please send my marketing assistant the link when it is published, thank you very much!”
“Oh sure! I’ll sit on it immediately, it only takes a day to do research and write a 500-word text. But wait, I still have some questions to write my text. Ah, you still need time to send the answers? I like to wait. Hmmm 1 week later no answer. I remind the brand to send me their answers.”
“Oh well, hello blogger xyc, I forgot to forward your questions and now our founder is on vacation, but we will send it to you as soon as possible.”
2 weeks later, still no answer. I’ll follow up again.
“Hello blogger xyz, she’s back now, but if the office is full of e-mails and meetings, can she send it to you next week?”
“Sure! Since I already invested lots of hours to email with you and research your brand to work out my questions, I will reschedule the editorial calendar for you and plan all my other work around your appointments.”
We would love to continue the storyboard but as you can imagine it takes very much time to work on it. Try to use your own imagination and continue the story….
However, the conversation example above shows that this requires a full-time job to answer and organize all emails in a friendly way and timely manner. Imagine the blogger receives a paid advertisement request and has to decline it because she already agreed on unpaid work.
Because of the fact that ethical bloggers receive more and more requests from brands and agencies who ask for “free advertisement” (and this is just the beginning, sustainability will become a “trend” for many companies although it is not a trend but our future), ethical bloggers won´t be able to answer this pile of emails anymore because it takes too much work which nobody pays for and instead of responding they could priorities more important things. If they really want to change something, they should invest in education through ethical bloggers and support them or they’ll be the big losers themselves in the long run.
Ethical blogs play an increasingly important role in the “ethical” industry because ethical blogs entertain a new niche audience which is really hard to reach and they drive lots of change at the point of sale site. Technology makes it increasingly easier for followers to shop via blogs and social media recommendations. Thus, influencer marketing already became an integral part of the marketing mix. Fast fact: The overall economic market volume of the influencers in Germany/Austria/Switzerland is expected to grow by almost double to 990 million € by 2020 according to Goldmedia forecasts. This study shows that influencers are not a temporary phenomenon. We all know that human rights and sustainability is a big thing nowadays and became part of the biggest brands businesses. Learn more at point 13.
Many ethical bloggers confuse no payment with no worth. That is not true, it is exactly the other way around. Ethical bloggers have a high value and they must make it clear!
Also, it can have different reasons why brands don´t spend money on advertising with ethical blogs at the moment.
The brand says they invest all money into production. That labels put the money into production and it stops at online marketing makes no sense. Because the supply determines the demand. And if bloggers don’t have price rates, then it’s free. The factories have price rates and do NOT work for free. The money for the factories can also be paid, why does it then stop with the marketing?
Truly small ethical founders are not social marketers but they are experts in sustainable design. Especially if they are so small they can not afford a full-time social media manager to build a community and produce entertaining content. And then they request ethical bloggers to do this work.
It’s totally ok if small labels don’t have a budget at first and will provide marketing budget later, and they honestly say that they respect it if the blogger can’t work unpaid. You just stay in contact for a future collab. There’s respect on both sides. If they do not respect this they should ask why? Are they paying themselves fairly?
But why do brands with money not spend any budget and demand free ads?
Ethical bloggers mostly are more sensitive and shy to money as they love what they are doing and want to support truly ethical brands from the bottom of the heart. For brands, lots of small campaigns are more effective than a few big campaigns because a small following with friends trust in the recommendations a lot. And the big brand wants authentic content, additionally with a link recommendation which pushes their online shop on Google. But we all know that this is an advertisement and fake content if the blogger does not mark it as collaboration although the blogger does not earn money. The links must be set as no-follow so that Google excludes it from their ranking. If the blogger does not aline with the Google states then the blog might be crawled and won´t get ranked itself anymore.
Often marketing managers, agencies or interns reach out to bloggers who sadly have no idea about ethics or sustainability and can´t answer any questions. This shows that they still have enough budget to hire a bad marketing manager. Big companies often are arrogant enough to think they get free coverage anyway and are not willed to pay.
Brands confuse traditional PR with modern ethical blogger relations.
Figuring out a simple press release is one thing. But specifically asking bloggers for “PR” coverage is another. There are still brands and agencies that confuse blogging with classic public relations and involve bloggers in their press work and think that bloggers have to report their news like a news magazine.all that is recommended is a form of recommendation / advertising, especially if it is required by the brand. and who still works in advertising for free today?
The Ethical Blogger job is very different from the job behind a print magazine because authenticity, transparency, and credibility are the most important values of the influencers. Large magazines are often owned by publishers with investors and financed by advertising campaigns. The 4.5% loss American Vogue suffered in its September ad sales could be the first sign of a reorganization of the fashion advertising market.
Magazines are losing advertising because companies are relying more on social media/bloggers. Print magazines launch websites, but you still can’t compare those websites to authentic ethical blogs. Many high-street brands like TOMS, H&M, Cheap Monday, Veja, Vaude, L´oreal demand advertising for their eco-collections, but do not spend a budget on reporting through ethical blogs. The relationship between bloggers must be completely different if you really want to change something and if you want to convey your brand´s information correctly and qualitatively.
Tip for brands: Never pay a PR agency which is not familiar with ethics and sustainability to do your pr work or ethical blogger relations. There are so many nice agencies focused on ethics, the same for ethical bloggers!
11. Is it ethical if brands offer products as payment?
Product payment is a cheap alternative to paying a blogger. And yes, it is a payment which must be declared in the income tax as mentioned above. It is not a present but a deal. And then it is an advertisement. If the blogger needs a certain product it is fine but this can not be the solution instead of monetary payment.
It depends on the service the blogger offers to the brand. brand awareness, attention.. text, photos, connection, traffic, new followers, on long-term sales and loyal customers.
Brands must have a marketing strategy. They must work with the blog on a long-term to gain a high-quality image. Because the audience needs trust in the brand. Bloggers are not responsible to drive sales. They help brands to gain popularity. And to drive sales there is so much more work needed. It depends on the online shop, the collection itself and so much more…you can not lay this into the hand of the bloggers. It can be that the one brand drives sale through the blogger very well and the other not at all. But the blogger has the same amount of high-quality work. It does not depend on the blogger. And if you as brand wish to know why, the blogger can consult you and analyze traffic and the audience in detail but this is so much worth than paying a consulting agency.
Several factors play an important role in determining the value of a blog and thus also the price of advertising. Authenticity, transparency, and credibility is ethical bloggers´ most important value and the more expertise the blogger has the more trust it will receive and this turns out into reach, relevance, and resonance.
Reach: The reach is measured quantitatively e.g. in followers or number of subscribers and evaluated qualitatively in image and credibility of the person.
Relevance: The degree of thematic authority of a person in a certain subject area as well as the trust of the “followers” in the statements of the “influencer” define the factor Relevance.
Resonance: The resonance describes the commitment, i.e. the number and intensity of interactions and comments that “followers” make.
Mostly the ethical bloggers are nano-influencer as an opinion leader in a limited social group to whom special knowledge or experience is ascribed in relation to certain topics and have a strong influence on smaller bloggers, all of whom look on. The nano-influencer, therefore, has only a small or limited reach, but a high authority and very often also a very high level of commitment in its social group.
However, as much as ethical bloggers want to support sustainable and fair fashion from the heart, not all ethical bloggers are experts within the fashion industry and can distinguish truly ethical brands from greenwashing which is going to be crazy in the next years. Ethical bloggers must be careful with what kind of brands they are working with to not lose the trust of their followers. That being said, the continuous growth of this “ethical” fashion industry requires further professionalization of players, standards, and processes.
Companies seeking to work with ethical bloggers should be aware that they create a real connection between people and brand through high authority and commitment and this has a certain value.
The ethical bloggers work effort depends on the style and type of content creation.
Blogger tip: To calculate a budget, we recommend to count the work hours, the expertise and the reach, relevance, and resonance. You should calculate how much money you need and how much work you can do alone in a month. It is also important that you calculate your long-term goal because if you have plans for the next year for what you need money or you need more expenses for staff, office, other computers etc., you should include this in your budget. You then divide the budget you need between the advertising partnerships you need per month. please don’t forget to include the time of the research and sales acquisition and always some more buffers if you get sick or need more time. This is all part of the job and has to be calculated in the budget.
Why should it not be allowed to politely contact a brand you would like to work with? Each big publishing house has its own sales department. As a self-employed person you have to be able to offer your service and you can’t keep your fingers crossed in the hope that all of your clients reach out to you. Most brands love it if you reach out to them. If they do not yet have a budget, that is totally fine as you can stay in contact.
It’s the reason why ethical bloggers help ethical brands. They are happy if they can support brands and give brands the chance to match their ethos. Not every brand suits them as bloggers also want to build a certain image so that readers know what to expect and trust in the quality of the companies they recommend.
Basically, paid content, no matter whether it is payment in the form of money or product, it must be understood as such. Unfortunately, there are still no worldwide recognized laws for equal international social media law. But there should be media laws in your country. Please ask your local lawyer, because we can’t give any details about this.
As a conclusion of this FAQ article, we think that all ethical bloggers must be more aware of their own value so that brands understand that this is a job and they will spend more esteem with a monetary payment. We would like to see your opinion on this topic in a comment below or on social media.
Antonia is the founder and creative director of MOCHNI. Her goal is to create an ethical future of consumerism by introducing authentic people, brands, and products and by sharing inspiring content with more than 250.000 women yearly. She loves a slow lifestyle and the Californian summer breeze.