Are You a Slave to Your Blog Sponsors?

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on February 10, 2010 in Blogging, Freelance Writing Business
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One of the topics we cover here quite a bit is blogging. More specifically, I share tips on how to use blogging to get freelance writing jobs and how to make money blogging directly. Let's talk more about the latter. Some writers want to make their blog a serious income stream, and others simply want to earn a little bit of money while their blog works for them to attract clients. Either way, blog sponsors often play a role in monetizing a blog.

Blog sponsors can lead to problems though (it's why we turn down all private sponsorship here at All Freelance Writing). Sometimes sponsors make completely inappropriate requests, trying to control the editorial aspect of your blog, and in turn damaging your credibility with your audience. But what is going too far? When do they cross that line and take you from a mutually-beneficial partnership to becoming a slave to your sponsor?

While everyone will have their own standards (and let's face it, some people's standards are pretty low), here are some of the things I would personally say are inappropriate actions or requests from blog sponsors:

  • The sponsor wants you to review or write about their company or site, but they don't want your honest opinions -- they insist on positive comments only (this behavior played a role in the problems with pay-per-post sites in the past).
  • The sponsor tries to dictate what you can write about on your blog (or even worse, they try to tell you what you cannot write about, like mentioning a competitor). Remember, you're the blog owner.
  • The sponsor expects your blog to become a platform for their news, causes, etc. Unless you're an actual employee of that company, your editorial integrity depends on you maintaining independence from sponsors. Otherwise you've basically sold your blog and your words, and you're simply writing for them now. It's even worse when your sponsor's messages start invading your other networking efforts.
  • The sponsor tries to change the terms after payment. They'll occasionally act like they have a right to more than they've paid for after the fact. Get your sponsorship deals in writing before any money or promotion changes hands.
  • The sponsor encourages you in any way not to disclose the relationship. The relationship should be disclosed each and every time a sponsor is mentioned within the editorial content of your site (in fact, FTC guidelines recently put in place mean U.S. writers have to pay special attention to their disclosures -- while they've always been important to readers, now the government has a say too).

Remember, it is very possible to make money blogging (even good money) without whoring yourself out to the highest bidder. What other kinds of blog sponsor behavior do you deem inappropriate? What line do you draw when approached with an offer?

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.

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