Should Dog Bloggers Work for Free?

I’ve decided to reposition myself online, moving away from opportunities relating to my blog and focussing on the dog friendly photography and content creation services I offer to clients. I’ve always been a photographer, however more and more businesses seem to think I work for nothing. This begs the question, should dog bloggers work for free?

Creating things has always been incredibly important to me. I was practically glued to my craft table as a child and its manifested into my photography career today. I’ve invested a lot of time and money into growing my expertise over the years. I studied Photography at Falmouth University and used the previous salaries to purchase my equipment. The truth is, I’ve never been a fan of the term ‘blog’ and have never seen myself as a ‘blogger.’ I didn’t start The Cornish Dog to receive freebies or to become a social media influencer. I started it to share my passion for dogs, our new walks new walks and to document my experiences as a first time dog owner in Cornwall.

Should Dog Bloggers Work for Free? | The Cornish DogShould Dog Bloggers Work for Free? | The Cornish Dog

How Do I Make Money?

Woody and I work for The Cornish Dog full time. I include Woody here because realistically my business wouldn’t exist without him! The majority of my income comes from working directly with clients. I create photographs for dog friendly businesses to use on their websites and social media accounts. Often these images are used to promote products or services and I use my network of Cornwall’s Next Dog Models to choose the perfect pups for each brief. I also write blog posts to help clients build their dog friendly content catalogue and industry expertise. I write about a variety of topics, from product reviews to advice for owners and dog friendly travel guides.

A small amount of income comes directly from The Cornish Dog website. I make and sell a variety of dog bandanas and I’m going to be releasing a variety new products via online shop very soon. I’ve also been paid to create a handful of posts on both my website and Instagram profile, however I like to keep this income stream to a minimum.

Should Dog Bloggers Work for Free? | The Cornish DogShould Dog Bloggers Work for Free? | The Cornish Dog

Should Dog Bloggers Work for Free?

There’s plenty of debate online as to whether bloggers/influencers should work for free or whether brands should pay them. Fundamentally, I don’t think dog bloggers and influencers should work for free and share my thoughts below:

Following and Return of Investment (ROI)

Recently I received an email from a PR and social media agency who represent a well-known dog accessory brand. They were interested in sending products in exchange for a review on The Cornish Dog. The subject line included the word ‘collaboration,’ a term often used to imply an unpaid partnership. Technically, the definition of ‘collaboration’ doesn’t disclose whether it’s a paid or unpaid partnership and the word is used interchangeably through the industry. Whenever I receive emails from brands looking to partner with us, I reply with my price guide and questions about the project they have in mind.

As predicted, I received a reply stating my prices were far too expensive. The brand pointed out that my following was too small and that plenty of other accounts with higher followers were willing to work for free. The Return of Interest (ROI) was too low, despite previously telling me they loved my work and our lifestyle. In the space of a week, I’d gone from suitable to unqualified all because of a number at the top of my profile (which hadn’t changed drastically in that time frame of course.)

I have major respect for influencers who engage tens of thousands of loyal followers through their work. However, I don’t feel it should be the determining factor for whether dog bloggers should work for free. Our follower count is one thing we can’t control. It’s unfair to solely use it to compare the suitability of accounts for a project. There are plenty of other factors that ought to be considered. For instance, some bloggers blog full time, while others create content alongside their 9-5 job. It’s also important to consider how long the account has been running. Like I said, it takes time and skill to grow a following, it doesn’t just happen overnight. Resources needed to create the project should also be accounted for, mileage (particularly if you’re travelling to multiple locations,) equipment maintenance and other expenses.

Should Dog Bloggers Work for Free? | The Cornish DogShould Dog Bloggers Work for Free? | The Cornish Dog

Budgets and Freebies

Whether it’s a complimentary biscuit with your hot chocolate, or mega cheap products in the reduced aisle of the supermarket, we love a bargain! There are plenty of people, influencers and businesses alike, looking for freebies. Everyone is striving to receive the most value for the least amount of money, I get it. However brands, particularly big household names and international businesses, often assign a budget for marketing, photography and content creation. So why are they so reluctant to spend it?

The ‘free product in exchange for a x, y and z’ is a common arrangement in the industry. If you’re new to blogging or influencer marketing, it’s a great way to network with businesses and create content for your blog.  However, no number of free collars and leads will ever pay your rent! Don’t get me wrong, creating reviews and posts in exchange for free product is a great tool. However it shouldn’t be the industry standard. It’s important for dog bloggers and influencers to understand their value, so’s not to fall into the trap of always working for free. Resources such as time, creativity, equipment and expertise go into every piece of content we create. Over time, this is how we build and refine our personal style. Once a blogger has proven their experience and built an impressive portfolio, they should be paid just like any other professional.

Credit Where Credit’s Due

Exposure is another great way to increase your following as a dog blogger. This can be through featuring on larger social media accounts or having your work published in magazines. However like freebies, it’s not going to provide for your family in the long run. It’s important to give credit where credit is due. Once you’ve built your portfolio, style and personality online, you shouldn’t be expected to work for freebies or exposure alone.

A great example I’ve experienced was when a local lifestyle magazine asked to use my photographs. The opportunity sounded perfect. However once again, when I sent over my prices the publication were no longer interested. Even if I had agreed to send my photos over for free, they couldn’t guarantee I would be credited. I’ve gone into depth about how to credit your photographer online and it’s really not that tricky, especially if I’ve given my work for free!

Should Dog Bloggers Work for Free? | The Cornish DogShould Dog Bloggers Work for Free? | The Cornish Dog

When Do I Work for Free?

There are times when I work for free. It would be dishonest not to disclose this. My relationship with free work has changed and developed significantly since starting The Cornish Dog back in March 2018. At first, I accepted a lot of opportunities to create photographs and blog posts in exchange for freebies. However, as time has passed, I’ve become more selective.

Woody and I are very minimalist in nature and I we have everything we need. Occasionally when I do receive freebies, I often pass them to friends or local organisations who will find more value in the products. We do however, accept free experiences from time to time, such as hotel/accommodation stays and invitations to local dog friendly events.

Last but certainly not least, I create 99% of The Cornish Dog’s content for free. I enjoy sharing our adventures with you and love getting to know you and your dogs. I take pride in providing valuable content for you each week.

Do you think dog bloggers should work for free? It’s a topic that really interests me, I’d love to hear your thoughts and continue the debate in the comments!

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