Say No to Free Work.

About a week ago, I got an email from a company I had never heard of.  It went a little like this:

"Hi Kristen,

My name is Xxxxx and I'm the Community Manager at Xxxxxxx; an exclusive, curator approved, online marketplace for vintage and used furniture. We understand when choosing a color palette for a room, it can be hard to step away from basic neutrals, and going bold is a big decision. We'd love for you to share your taste for color by creating a styleboard around a vintage rug by taking a room from white to bright!

We'll provide you, and an elite group of other bloggers images of different patterned, colorful rugs from our latest collection- declare your favorite rug from the different styles, then create a styleboard designed around that pattern and color scheme! Once you select a certain one for your space, simply share your design and creative insights on your blog! We look forward to sharing some our favorites on social by Thursday, January 29th.

Interested? Then, just email me back ASAP, and I'll supply you with the images you'll need to get started. If you have any questions, feel free to give me a shout!


What a great opportunity, right?  Wrong.  What's missing in there is a whole piece about payment.  You all know how I feel about sponsorships and sponsored posts on my blog, but I decided to experiment.  I sent this message back:

"I would love to do a style board for your company- it sounds like a really fun project.  My current sponsor post fee is $50, which can be sent directly via PayPal using this email address.  Once that is set, I'll look forward to moving forward on the post.

Thanks so much!

So I waited to see what the response would be, and about a day later I got this:

"Hi Kristen,

Thank you for getting back to me, I really appreciate it. Unfortunately, at this time we are not in a position to partake in sponsored posts. We are truly inspired by creativity, and are interested to learn how you would add your design flair to our products.  Our social team is also looking forward to featuring their favorites from this campaign on our Twitter page!

We hope that you are still interested in participating!

Looking forward to hearing from you soon."

To which I replied:

"Thanks Holly, I appreciate it, but what you are asking for is a sponsored post, which would take my time and effort to produce.  I own my own business and I do not work for free, and the promise of a tweet is not compensation enough for me, or any blogger really, so I'm going to have to pass.


A great social experiment, if I do say so myself, except for the fact that it was no experiment since I knew what the outcome would be.  Companies out there, be it small or big, are asking "regular folks" to work for free.  Except I am not regular- I am running a business.  A business that I want to make a profit.  I am working with limited time as it is between running the house and keeping up with the kids, so yes, of course I want to make an involved style board for you for free so you might tweet it if you like it.

Bloggers and business owners, we have to stand up for ourselves and demand to be paid for our time.  I know you probably read this all up and down the Internet, but I think it needs to be said over and over again because it's happening all the time.  Designers, don't work for free.  Bloggers, don't work for free.  Your time is valuable and you should be compensated for it.

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In case you missed it: Consistency and Grammar No-nos.


  1. It's funny, I think I got the same e-mail and I responded about the same way you did, only that after asking about compensation I never heard of them again. How rude. We should never work for free! No one does! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  2. I've gotten a couple similar emails, and when I responded, similarly to how you did, they vanished. You responded a lot more eloquently and succinctly, though - might have to borrow your example for next time!

  3. Oddly, the number of "collaborative" requests I've gotten since quitting blogging has increased. I turn them down, sometimes they email back, etc.. But a few months ago I got a request to use one of my images, I turned it down, and then they came back with an offer to pay! I was surprised, and ended up accepting in large part because I was appreciative of their acknowledging my work is worth more than free!

  4. Cyn_RiverDogPrintsJanuary 28, 2015 at 2:27 PM

    Yes! to the No.

  5. What a great response! I actually keep an email template response to requests like this. SOMETIMES it's worked, most of the time I don't get a response back lol!

  6. Amen to this! Don't sell yourself short!

  7. Laura LaCasetadePaperJanuary 29, 2015 at 4:27 AM

    You did well in not accepting and replying that to them! I always find it very rude when they try to justify the fact that they ask bloggers to do free job in the name of "inspiration" and "creativity". And the worse is that they they even try to TURN it on the other way, saying that is a big opportunity for you because they'll feature their favorites on twitter! WTF!

  8. This is the new corporate standard, low ball or no payment. Congrats for upholding this important standard!

  9. Good for you! I get those emails ALL the time, and I just ignore them, but your response is perfect. It makes me so mad, why on earth would I waste my time and energy promoting their brand for free? The most recent one I got wanted me to include one of my ebooks in their bundle that they were SELLING to their subscribers with no compensation to me except for a couple of tweets and a FB share. When I asked what the compensation was to the authors of the ebooks because I have never been a part of a bundle where I wasn't paid, she sent this condescending email back implying that I didn't understand the "value" of these tweets and shares and she hoped I would join in next time. What?!?!? So infuriating.

  10. No. There's no reason why you should work for free. It doesn't make any sense. People who started the company, who are building it from the ground up, may end up working for free, but that is because they are personally invested in the business and are helping it grow. There is no reason why another business/organization should expect free labor/work/etc. just because it is an "honor." I've never understood that. Though I'm not an artist, I am a writer, and I've often been approached to do projects for free. Nuh uh. My first writing gig outside of college was for a web-based institution here in Indianapolis. After my six months were up, I moved on. Why? Because I was told that I couldn't be paid for any posts I continued to write. That was upsetting. I would be putting roughly 10-15 hours into research and writing every week. I wasn't interesting in creating in-depth content for someone for free. Way to stand up!

  11. Yes! And sometimes they come in such weird ways too! This last Christmas season I had a woman contact me saying they were wondering if I planned to do a post about Christmas traditions and I replied that I had one scheduled and mentioned nothing about mentioning their name or company - which was odd - so I was inquisitive but nothing of it came up. I thought it was odd but thought maybe they were just collecting Christmas posts since Christmas was their biggest season. I pushed publish and let her know it went live. She shot back with an e-mail asking if at the very beginning of the post I could mention that it was inspired by their business and their products. WHAT?! I nicely wrote back that something like that needed to be discussed up front and that it wasn't discussed in the 3 emails she wrote to me and that it was not inspired by their company so I wouldn't be putting anything like that in my post. Such a weird situation. She was nice about it but what on earth?! Companies just don't seem to get that bloggers don't work for free - why on earth would we write up some post to bring them business for a little "promo" - no thanks.

    Good for you for saying no - and you handled it wonderfully!!


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