I’ve always advocated guest blogging, but lately it’s leaving a bad taste in my mouth
As a freelancer, married to another freelancer (a web designer), I’ve been a staunch supporter of the NoSpec campaign. The recent tendency of successful, lucrative companies to crowdsource cheap or free labour from the web is a worrying one – and one that, I am certain, results in three things: an exploitation of new talent that deserves ample payment for its input, an overall decline in the quality of work that should be top-drawer, and a devaluation of truly excellent creative work.
A lot has been said on both sides of the debate about design spec work (just do a Google search for “spec work” if you want some entertaining reading) but, this week, I’ve been pondering on the implication of this phenomenon for writers and content creators. I willingly offer free content to a handful of small, local businesses and, up until a few months ago, I merrily recommended that all our clients used guest blogging as a means to increase their readership and diversify their content. Lately, though, I’m starting to question the value of certain types of guest blogging.
A familiar shout goes out on Twitter: “Any bloggers want to share their experiences and guest on our blog?” When questioned, it transpires there’s no payment being offered here; just a chance for some exposure to a different audience and a new set of followers. The problem is, this isn’t just another amateur blog site. It’s a commercial site that happens to include a blog, and they’re asking for talented writers to offer their work for free. While the company argues that it’s a fair deal because they’ll guest blog in return for no payment, the phrase “Don’t do me no favours,” springs to mind. It’s not a fair exchange if you’re using free labour for financial gain, unless you’re offering a portion of that financial gain in return, surely?
This is just one example of a growing trend. It stems from this idea that, in a creative discipline – whether that’s writing, music, art, design, acting, whatever – you have to give your best work for free in order to gain the exposure you need to become successful. But I simply don’t believe that’s true and, even if it is, there are plenty of ways to showcase your talents to the wider world without selling yourself short and letting someone else pick up the monetary benefit. With the rise-and-rise of self publishing, blogging, home recording, social media marketing and other affordable, easy ways to circumvent the traditional success routes, I think it’s more important than ever for writers and other creative people to be savvy about exploitation and say no to spec work, no matter how its couched.
In future, I’ll be talking much more explicitly with our clients about when guest blogging is and isn’t appropriate, when it should be paid for, and what constitutes a fair deal for the people generating your content. After all, they’re the people making you money.