Five Stupid Reasons Mom Bloggers Work for Free

I read a post today on MomCrunch today entitled Five Reasons to Just Say No to Unpaid Work.  The post cautions against the perils of bloggers accepting “exposure” and “opportunity” in lieu of cash for their work. It’s certainly not a new discussion in blogging circles, but it comes up often. Because there are often new bloggers. New bloggers who are willing to work for “exposure” and “opportunity”.

Probably not coincidentally, my inbox has been jam packed with opportunities for exposure this week. That and chances to win a gift card in exchange for a post. Most of the gift cards are not even close to what I’d charge for an hourly rate. I expect these are the some of the same opportunities that prompted the post on MomCrunch.

Yes, this post really resonated for me.

As someone who has always made her living as a freelance writer, I’m sickened to admit that having this blog has had a negative impact on my earning potential.

It seems a little crazy but the moment I became a “Mommy Blogger” (ie: a blogger, and a mother) was the moment my hourly rate nosedived.

The reason for this is simple.

Mom Bloggers are willing to work for free.

As a professional with a mom blog, I’d like to boast that I’ve never been compromised with my writing, but that wouldn’t be true. I’ve certainly been there. I’ve painted myself into some of the same corners as every other blogger, except perhaps my friend Jessica Gottlieb who has an uncanny ability to spot and call brands on bullshit.

I know (and can relate to)  some of the reasons why so many Mom Bloggers  are tempted  to accept the bogus opportunities that more seasoned and self respecting writers find so repugnant.

How can we avoid falling into our own traps? By being aware of the Five Stupid Reasons Mom Bloggers Work for Free!

1. Moms are used to doing all kinds of crap for free. 

When you become a mom you become a person who willingly cleans up someone else’s shit. For free. Literally. You clean crap. For free.  Ask a teenager or a middle aged man how they feel about doing that.

When I add up the number of hours I spend daily cooking, cleaning, shopping and driving for my offspring, I sort of want to cry. I love my children, I truly do. I chose to have them and realize it’s my lot. I won’t give them up. But long hours of (generally) thankless and unpaid work sucks. There’s no sugar coating that.

Long hours of unpaid and thankless work however, are part and parcel of motherhood. If you don’t suck it up and accept that, you are going to be one bitter and unhappy mother.

Which leads to the next concept:

Who better to ask to do a thankless and unpaid job, than someone who has already been conditioned to accept her work will be thankless and unpaid?

Your blog is not your baby. Your blog is the one place you do not have to work for free, you do not have to conform to anyone else’s schedule. Write what YOU want for free.  But someone else’s shit? They have to pay you. Only your actual baby gets you to work for free.

2. Motherhood is lonely.

Many new bloggers get sucked into working for free because they are lonely. It’s sad but true. So many of the worst “opportunities” out there are dressed up as invitations to join a community and “earn perks” for sharing. Once in, you can compete with other community members for even more questionable opportunities. If you are getting “chances to win” in exchange for your work and the group owner is getting paid, you may want to consider how much value this group has to you and your blog.  Blogger beware.

Remember the adage “you lay down with dogs, you get fleas”? Joining needy communities of non professionals ensures that you will never be a professional. If you’re really just looking for friends, join a special interest group that doesn’t ask you to perform tasks for free,  engage in promotional activities for anyone other than yourself. If you want to be part of a group that asks you to work for free, volunteer for a charity you truly care about. Don’t let yourself be used.

3. Motherhood is mind numbing

Hours and hours of programming aimed at two year olds, doctors and teachers who call you “Mommy” in a singsong voice and explain elementary things to you, the brutal reality of momnesia plus sleep deprivation that makes you forget the times table…  Wait, what was I saying?

You were charming and witty once upon a time, right? Or did you just imagine that you used to be a clever and intelligent individual?

Writing is a chance to rediscover your adult voice. It’s the way to prove to the world (and yourself) that you are still a vibrant and opinionated intellectual even though you can’t remember 7×9 and can remember every word to the Spongebob Song.

Brands are very good at coming up with challenges and ideas for you to use your voice to benefit them. Writing prompts, contests etc. But do you really need a brand to tell you what to write about?

It’s a little like a friend who asks you to come over to help clean up her house, and organize her closets. Because you’re so darned good at it. And what the heck, you enjoy it so much.  You don’t mind doing it for free, do you? You should! Perhaps it’s flattering to be asked. The request may get your creative juices flowing. But you don’t  need a brand sponsored excuse to use your voice. Clean your own closets.

4. Moms need validation.

I think this one is the biggie. This is the one that makes grown women cry.

I’ve been one of them.

Earning a salary is wonderful. Hearing praise from your co-workers and being told you are doing a great job, is equally wonderful. Moms are unpaid and lucky though they may be to get a thank you from their kids, it’s just not the same as a glowing eval from a boss and the admiration of their co-workers. Some Moms claim they are content to serve their family just for the satisfaction of serving them well. But for many women, particularly those who have grown accustomed to receiving praise for a job well done, the sudden lack of validation can be somewhat crippling.

We all have a need for praise and recognition.  It can make us do stupid stuff.  It can even make us compete with each other for the chance to do stupid stuff. I’ve seen it happen in blogging communities

Few bloggers can resist the siren call of an established and respected brand who is willing to take them into their esteemed fold and sing their  praises to their untold masses of followers. Suave promises to link to their sites and promote their expertise are heady stuff.

Let me ask you this though: When was the last time Brad and Angelina “partnered” with Sony to make a movie for free? How often do you see chefs running a kitchen in exchange for a tee shirt and a badge naming them best burger flipper? Does you dentist do crowns in exchange for a shout out on your facebook wall?

Bottom line: If you want praise, seek it from a role model, a parent or a professional organization. Do not seek validation from a company that wants something from you for free, that they would otherwise normally pay for. If you’re not being paid  a fair wage for your work, you are actually being INvalidated as a professional.

5. Oh it’s just a hobby, I’m doing it for fun

This last reason is a doozy of an excuse and the one I can relate to the least, unless I think of it in terms of PTA volunteering.

It seems like it would be fun to be the room mom. You’ve got a little spare time. Before you know it though, you’re doing all sorts of work for a few other classes and writing the gala auction catalog. How did that happen?

What starts out as a fun hobby, turns into hours and hours of work and you just do it because it’s your “thing”. Your thing keeps you up till 3 am, and feels a lot like a job. It makes you feel important. Yet since you’re not paid, it’s really not a job.

If you are a blogger who has a hard time saying no, and a desire to please others, then you probably should avoid most unpaid offers, posting press releases (and joining the PTA). Because before you know it, you will have landed yourself in a sweatshop of your own making.

Labeling a laborious pursuit “just a hobby” is not an excuse for working for free. If you are working for free and calling it a hobby, I would venture to guess that you are actually doing it for the validation you seek and/or you’ve been played because of your altered post motherhood expectations of non-compensation for work.

Calling your work a hobby does nothing for you. It demeans you and your effort. Furthermore, many serious hobbyists pull in a serious side income from their efforts and expertise.  They don’t spend weeks building detailed ships in bottles and then give them away. Neither should you.

Many thanks to Momcrunch for getting me thinking tonight and to Debbie Goldberg and Eva Smith for bringing this topic to my attention via MomsLA. It’s a topic we all need to keep discussing. What do you think? What is your writing worth?



  1. says

    This is such a thorough analysis of why many mom bloggers (and bloggers) work for free. I appreciate you putting this together because it’s definitely given me a lot of food for thought.

    I think your first reason though is one of the main reasons I see women working for free or not valuing themselves in other areas of life. We’re conditioned to say ‘yes’ and do for others (and part of this is genetics IMO), and it’s tough to say no for many women.

  2. San Diego Momma says

    An excellent deconstruction of why we work for free. I used to — when I first started blogging — and then something happened. I realized that I was providing CONTENT. Content that the site used to attract advertising and gain readership. And then I thought — hey! That’s worth something.
    Generally, I no longer work for free. I did for a minute — for a friends’ site — but when I was told they were making the site a business and they still wanted me to write for free, I opted out.

    If — IF — I write for free now, it’s for the love of the person who asked me. Love is worth something, too right? :)

  3. says

    I adore this post. It’s amazing that there are other “mom bloggers” out there that are doing things for free. I recently upped my rates on some things. Mainly because I’m kinda sick of writing crap for other people that I really don’t want to do. But give me some nice money and I’ll do it in a heart beat. But we all are in a lose lose situation if the new bloggers or the ones that don’t have a clue keep doing things for free or not as much as they could/should be charging!

  4. says

    What I have never understood, and may never for that matter, is how women can run these ‘mom blogger groups’ and charge brands for their work yet push it down to their ‘community members’ without the trickle-down. Charging Big Brand $X-thousands of dollars and offering your thousands of community members the ‘opportunity’ to share their adoration (which is likely manufactured and inauthentic, but that’s another discussion) for your client’s product/service for a ‘change to win a gift card’ is so hypocritical to me. Building your business on the backs of other women, while saying you’re giving them a platform/exposure/opportunity is bogus. It gets even more disingenuous when these same women gripe that PR companies come to them and expect them to work for free (or, gasp, a chance to win a gift card).

    Thank you, Ciaran, for writing this and sharing logical reasons why bloggers shouldn’t work for free. We are all valuable and so long as we add value to a campaign and are sought out as an integral part of the marketing and promotion vehicle we should be compensated. However, as long as bloggers (mommy, daddy, auntie, or whatever your title) are willing to do it for free it will be an uphill battle to expect just compensation as part of a brand marketing and promotion plan.

  5. Ilina Ewen says

    This is spot on. The other thing is that so many moms who blog are willing to write and provide content in exchange for here. I am SICK of the product shillers who will write for anything. I know a blogger who took a brand up on an offer for a really expesive free stroller even though her kids were out of stroller riding age. WTF?! I admittedly wrote about a vacuum today, but that is rare because I say no to 99% of what comes in my path. I fancy myself a writer, not a blogger, so I value my writing more than I value how I can influence my community (which can be disingenuous from those who do shill anything). My blog has actually led to some freelance writing gigs so the value is there, even though it’s not going to make me rich. At least I won’t have a closet full of useless free crap.

  6. says

    “When was the last time Brad and Angelina “partnered” with Sony to make a movie for free?” <– The heart of the matter. As someone on both sides of the fence, I really work to keep this in mind. So often I've said "enter into a contract and make it a business relationship, for pay." Creating a business relationship sets up a better dynamic, anyway. You know what the expectations are. You know what they give and you give. You both have this neutral piece of evidence to call on — "oh an extra article, that's outside the scope…" or "right, deadline this Tuesday, need to stick that…"

    Really smart points.

  7. says

    I love this post and I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head. I am only now (after 2 years of blogging) pulling myself out of the mindset of “it’s just a hobby so why charge.” Now, I don’t call it a “hobby.” I call it my part-time job because that’s exactly what it is. Making that small change in my vocabulary has changed the way I think about it and has helped me to stand by my rates.

  8. Gigi says

    this is a fabulous post Ciaran, and it helped me distill some thoughts I have been kicking around about this topic. I had written an 8 paragraph comment (no lie!) to this, but then I decided that, rather than boring your readership with my diatribe and perspective, I’ll just write my own post and thoughts and link back to yours. Thanks for the food for thought today. hope you’ll come read it when I publish it next week :)

  9. says

    I also think that free stuff is enticing. But, as I’ve said before, five posts, 10 tweets a few Facebook status updates are worth a lot more than a free refrigerator. Why not charge what you’re worth and then buy the fridge your own damn self, you know?

  10. says

    When I give seminars I always point out that “working for free” is called volunteering, and if you are going to volunteer, make sure it is for a cause you truly care about. Cereal flakes, motor oil and laundry soap probably don’t rate.

  11. says

    I agree 100%. I actually do work full time outside of the home so I get a lot of the things you mentioned at my actual job. I love writing sponsored posts and doing things with brands on my blog, but my time is very limited and valuable to me. I’m not working for free.

  12. Isabel @alphamom says


    love the potential psychological reasons behind why we are seeing this occurring so often. Psychological traps, i think.

    And, Sara Hawkins, I totally agree. Same tactics.

  13. Anonymous says

    I could not agree more. So many blogger programs fall apart as a result of unclear (and unprofessional) arrangements. A contract for pay saves time, money and do much aggravation in the long term.

  14. Anonymous says

    Agreed Sara. I think many of us with large networks have been asked at one time or another to administer this sort of blogger outreach program and have had to think long and hard about how we want to proceed. I’ve turned this sort of stuff down. I’m super careful in my content aggregation as well to make sure that credit (and traffic and google indexing) goes where it is due. It wasn’t easy building a system to do that. But it’s important.

  15. Sarah Kenney says

    Your very last questions is exactly what I need answered. “What is your writing worth?” I have no idea what it is worth. When a company has approached me to develop/photograph and write an article for their “12 Days of Xmas” for example, I have no idea how much ask them for payment. So, I just politely decline the offer. Anyone have any $$ suggestions for payment?

  16. says

    This post puts it perfectly. The question is, though, how does a mom blogger whose not big & important and doesn’t have a mind-blowing number of unique visitors demand payment? Of course there’s selling yourself as bringing this and that value to brands, but how do you get them to listen?

  17. Anonymous says

    I have to ask… WHY do you want them to notice you? Did you start your blog specifically to make money from brands? Did you have something to say before you started seeing the swag and the $ signs? Honestly, there are better ways to make money. I have no idea what your blogging goals are but no matter what they are, the first thing you should be doing is honing your craft, delving deep into your niche, building your network, working on your following and klout score by engaging in communities that have meaning to you… you catch my drift. If you want to review products, attend events, and be paid to write, you have to build your community first. Hopefully the products you want to review etc are really relevant to your writing niche and interest. Then it will be a happy match! .If you want to be a copywriter however, I suggest you quit blogging and pursue freelance copy work. It’s less time consuming, more straightforward and if you are good at it, it’s probably more lucrative than blogging. Companies will offer you a contract with clear work guidelines.

    Blogging may lead to paid writing work, but it’s not necessarily the best path. Without question the greatest rewards of my own blogging have been the people I’ve met along the way.

  18. says

    Wow, you got in it all in a perfectly covered nut shell. I think these are the reasons that lead many to burnout so quickly. I can personally relate to each point but appreciate how you brought out the the psychology behind those excuses we make for ourselves.

  19. Jen says

    Excellent post! #4 in particular speaks to me. All my life I worked to impress others. Now I’m a mom and it feels like nobody cares. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who misses the validation even if it shouldn’t be everything. I was just in my blog archives deleting and reworking old posts (I began as a deal blogger before changing direction) and was embarrassed by some of the things I used to do for free. Even though I still wasn’t hugely popular, I realized at some point that I was worth more. My writing matured, and the good opportunities started to trickle in. If you feel like you’re worthless, your blog will reflect that.

  20. says

    I have never quite “gotten” why a blogger would write about products and brands without compensation of some sort, whether it be product or payment.

    Next time you are pitched to do a post for a commercial entity, looking for a “charity” post from you… think about this article, and what better things you could do with your time, rather than unpaid promotional work. If you don’t value yourself & your web space, no one else will.

  21. says

    Great post! Don’t forget the newbie bloggers who just don’t know any better and for some reason think that they need to do things for free to get their foot in the door. I think when they connect with the wrong bunch they get sucked into that mentality and just keep on repeating the cycle over and over just to “get a chance” of something bigger instead of connecting with the right people and sources to actually know and do better.

  22. Aliza Worthington says

    Wow, C. Where to begin? I am new to this and have so many questions, but this post articulates perfectly what has felt vague to me for the last year. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been doing a series on gender issues based on Miss Representation, and I keep thinking I’m almost done. (“The next post will be the final one if it kills me!”) Then someone like you comes along to give me more to think and write about. Thanks so much. I think. ;)

  23. Anonymous says

    Aliza I think that watching Miss Representation has me thinking a lot as well. I loved your post explaining to your daughter why it mattered. You need to come over here and tell mine the same thing. It sounds better coming from you. Meanwhile go and watch this movie. . I’ve had this film on my mind for ages. The parallels to the lives of many mom bloggers are so fascinating. We think we’ve come so far, and that brands working with moms is a new thing… but it is not. That’s going to be my post for next week.

  24. says

    Sara you hit another nail on the head (below), why are the community managers or PR agencies making money and not passing any down. I can tell you from experience, the company would not approve the budget for it.

    There are some interesting challenges right now in the arena. There are campaigns that would never happen and would be cost prohibitive if they had to pay each layer. For example, books do not make enough money to pay bloggers to write about their book.

    I also think we will see a huge transition in blogger outreach in 2012. The opportunity is how to make campaigns profitable for everyone. After running a blogger outreach, I was amazed how tediously maddening they can be on the back side. Very hour intensive as you have to budget for all the things that happen that fall outside of your carefully crafted plan ( because they do).

    Having been on both sides of this coin, the question is how do we go forward as a collaborative group, finding solutions that serves as a win/win/win.

    Great discussion started.

  25. Anonymous says

    Michele raises a great point about the admin of blogger outreach programs. These programs are tedious and time consuming and often not budgeted and planned for adequately. It’s where most programs fall down. Groups that are charging for this feature and doing it well are surely earning the money that they charge.

    In my experience there are three primary things that brands/agencies hire big blogger groups to handle:

    – Strategy and consulting (let me translate the world of bloggers and share some ideas)
    – outreach and planning (here’s who to work with, here’s a time line and and some tactics)
    – execution and follow up (a million emails and spreadsheets plus a few reports).

    Even under the best of circumstances when the group handles all three, and is skilled at it, there is still the issue of multiple marketing layers (in house, agency, pr) all having a finger in the pie. PR has no budget – they want free, marketing wants a buckshot approach – show me stats and ROI, and in house just wants someone to truly understand them. Plus sell a ton.
    The easy way out is the buckshot approach – moms are all already touchy feely and understanding as a whole so why single out any mom in particular
    to pay. Get as many as you can. Note: I don’t agree with this strategy but
    it’s out there. Once you have takers it’s relatively easy to track their
    stats and provide a nice ROI report for the marketing team. When your group
    is large enough you can find someone out there to do things cheap enough to
    meet budgetary contraints. I don’t begrudge groups money for the admin of
    marketing campaigns. It’s tougher than you’d think.


    I don’t think that these campaigns are effective. Not for the brand or the
    blogger. They are creating a legion of shills. Influence is earned by
    authenticity, not by $25 gift cards. Consumers are savvy.

    There ARE good campaigns out there. Carefully crafted campaigns that use
    the right bloggers for the right brands, and eschew cattle calls. These
    bloggers are paid a fair rate for their participation. I look to ground
    breaking agencies like Sway Group to lead in that direction.

    I agree there will be a shakeup in 2012. I believe that brands will begin
    to reach out beyond bloggers (who are losing credibility) to social media
    savvy moms on facebook and twitter, and that the cream of the crop of
    bloggers – those with an authentic message and brand and audience of their
    own – will rise. A lot of people will quit blogging, because it’s not as
    easy as they thought to be a “success” at it.

    One more reason to define your goals now and decide what success means to

  26. says

    YEAH!!! I agree that smart brands will find a more sharpshooter approach is effective. You would be surprised when explaining to brands and companies why what I propose is more ($) than the PR agency who will do as (we discussed) is turned down because it is more expensive ( in their minds) because they do not yet see the shotgun approach as not working well. They are pulled in with the desire having “gotten a deal”, gotten something for free from bloggers.

    You and I both know when someone “believes” one thing, it is far more difficult to share insights and even data if they come from a place of resistance. That is where their ego and having made a bad choice before comes into play.

    So in my perspective, when bloggers have a clearer cut guideline for how they participate in blogger outreach campaigns and post that on their blogs, then we can have a solution that comes from both sides to meet in the middle.

    The other position is as consumers, why are we as bloggers not willing to hold brands accountable for how they ask to tap our their audiences?

    Ciaran, I think too many have been taking short cuts and doing the entire process a disservice. And can we get our fellow #WomeninBusiness to value their work more and ask for proper remuneration?

  27. says

    This is a never-ending discussion. We just went through it on BlogPaws, our growing pet community, where we’re trying to teach bloggers how to ask for money for their efforts. Yet, PR firms and brands still think it should be free because…it’s just a blogger. Sadly, too many bloggers agree. Like those who write to me, “I don’t feel right taking money for product reviews – it’s like buying my opinion.” Hello? You can’t be professional and get paid? Hmmm… freelance writers do it, professional reviewers do it, it’s really easy… say, “That’s xx dollars…and I write what I experience. You may get a negative review if I don’t like your product.” Until women (it’s generally women) learn to VALUE themselves and THEIR TIME (we tell them – you’re getting paid for your time, not your opinion)… they will continue to blog about brand products and purposes for free. And, then…come back to the ‘network’ and say, What have you done for me today? Well, I could do more if you’d stop selling yourself for free, folks.

  28. says

    I read this, closed the tab and came back. I feel using the word “stupid” to describe these reasons makes us look stupid. They’re not stupid reasons. They’re legitimate thoughts that I know I’ve had. And, yes, I’m seeing now the impact that my “working for free” has had on others. But I’m sorry, a newbie mommy blogger that has been around for a month is really not going to be able to charge for a review and/or giveaway.

    So, while you may feel they’re stupid, I don’t think that’s really the correct descriptor.

  29. Danielle Smith says

    Ciaran – this is spot on. Thank you for writing this…. for taking the time to share the reasons so many work for free and the logical reasons we SHOULDN’T. The work we proved, the content we deliver – it is valuable and we need to treat it as such.

  30. says

    I chose the word stupid because these valid emotions spur women on to make unfortunate and sometimes demeaning decisions. Ultimately only you can decide whether you’ve made a mistake and whether you did something “stupid”. But I will say this, in the world of blogging there is always someone who will tell you you’re stupid, or that your words or actions are stupid. No matter what you do or say. Knowing yourself and having a thick skin is essential!

  31. Laura of says

    thanks for sharing.. so true and I am sending this to my husand! ha! :) xo

  32. says

    Great post… and like someone else commented Free is Called Volunteering…do it at a Soup Kitchen where you can be a true help…

  33. says

    A strong post — and a message that resonates in the world of photography as well. xo!

  34. says

    THANK YOU!!! I’m not a mom blogger, though I am a mom. But, I am a blogger.

    I’ve found that most women bloggers in general seem more interested in “networking” and “building community” than building a business.

    It drives me absolutely batty and I refuse to join the “community” and work my ass off for free.

    I’ve been struggling horribly lately feeling marginalized because I just flat out won’t do ANYTHING for free.

    I get countless solicitations, and I mean countless, from advertisers and sponsors wanting to honor me with “opportunities”

    When I respond that I don’t work for free, they skedaddle. I even had one answer me back with the condescending tone of….”we don’t pay bloggers”

    Yeah? Well, THIS blogger isn’t your bitch either.

    Thank you for this post. I plan to launch it every place I can. Maybe other women will wake the hell up.



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