On Being Businesslike

I got the call last week, from a friend. It went kinda like this.

Hey girl! I heard your good news! You’re going to Milan to cover Fashion Week! That’s SO awesome!”

Yes, I agree – that would be awesome. If it were at all true. Which it isn’t.

I’m learning some hard and cold facts about the nature of this business that I’m in. And one of those facts is, people will use your name and hard work to their advantage. And sometimes, you’ll even be bamboozled enough to be flattered by that kind of thing.

bloggers-blog

I’ve said it so many, many times but it bears repeating. Blogging takes work. I’ve been steady staying up till 2, 3 in the morning to put together these words and photos and giveaways and special tributes since 2006. It’s my baby. It’s my labor of love. It’s my passion project. And somewhere along the line it became my brand and my business.

I didn’t start out with these goals in mind but I recognize that now, that’s what it’s become. And it’s really interesting, having to learn what professional is in a field that doesn’t always recognize professionalism. It’s been quite eye opening, actually.

Blogs are where it’s at right now. And slowly but surely, advertising agencies, public relations firms, and yes – even mainstream media – are having to recognize that. They’re starting to offer olive branches for not inviting us to the party before but all too often, the overtures made don’t take our skills or capabilities into consideration. So please allow me to make these things plain (and forgive me for addressing this all so publicly).


1 – I am a professional writer. I’ve got a masters degree and years of editorial experience to back it up. I’m interested in paid writing opportunities. I don’t think it’s fair to ask bloggers to blog for free. And it happens ALL THE TIME. Big ginormous megacorporations that can afford to pay you, will ask you to work pro bono. I don’t get it. I’d never consider asking someone to clean my apartment, watch my cat, or wash my car for free. Why do people think writers are so desperate, that they’ll gladly accept free work on a consistent basis? Do they think the love of writing and being published overshadows the need to pay bills? It does not.

Having said that, the only time I’ll consider writing for another site for free is a. if we are really good friends or b. if there’s really something to be gained from the partnership, and a possibility of this leading to better things for both of us. Other than that, I have to respectfully decline.

2 – Communication is KEY. If you want to work with me on something, please e mail me. It’s bella@afrobella.com. Contact me directly. Please don’t go around pitching your ideas and telling other people that “Afrobella is on board.” Because if we haven’t talked and I get wind of that through the grapevine…I’m NOT going to work with you. That’s a shady, weird, backwards way of doing business and I don’t like it one bit.

If you contact me and ask me to write something for you, or to support something you’re working on and I do…then for some reason it doesn’t work out and never winds up being printed/posted/taking place at all – contact me and let me know as soon as you can. That way I won’t feel like I wasted my time, I won’t regret working with you, and I won’t say to myself – now why did I waste my time working with so-and-so?

3 – It’s a new era, a new media landscape, and we’re all trying to figure things out together. It’s important for us to do that with mutual respect. Recently I’ve read some articles where old media has come after young media for the audacity of being invited to sit in the front row at Fashion Week (Team Tavi!), and it’s apparent that mainstream media is ruffled by the new respect that bloggers are getting. Well they’d better get used to it, and it’s about time. We’ve BEEN here, we’ve proven that we can cover events and breaking fashion/makeup/hair/pop culture news just as well (and often more quickly) than the MSM, and unlike big mags which have salaries to pay, offices to rent, and Lincoln Towncars at their disposal to do the same thing we’re trying to do, we’ve got minimal overheads and opinions a-plenty. Bloggers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So we might as well learn to work together and respect what we all bring to the table.

OK, now I can come off my soapbox and I apologize if any of this comes across as rude or entitled or whiny or negative. Lately I’ve been hit by a barrage of news that made me realize, I really need to take this all more seriously. And apparently, I have much more to learn about the business of blogging. But at the end of the day, I’m not angry about any of this. If my biggest complaint is that some anonymous PR firm is telling people they’re sending me to freakin’ Milan, then I really have nothing to complain about. I just want to make sure that everything I’m working on now, is something I’m aware of, and proud to be a part of as well.

I appreciate and respect your feedback, especially from my fellow bloggers. Do you notice a sea-change in how bloggers are being treated, or the kinds of offers you’re getting? What are your views? How are you dealing with it all?

Above image is from Geek Girl Chic.

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Comments

  1. Amen, Afrobella! I hear you loud and clear, girl. I, too, have faced similar situations. It is especially hard dedicating your time and work to your baby or someone else’s just to be told “a blog is not a known site or an affiliate of print media.” Thanks for taking a stand on our behalf, especially the freelance community. I love, respect and admire every ounce of work and each ticking minute you put into your career, even if the clock on the wall is stuck at 10:45 a.m. It’s still been a productive road, just keep on truckin’!

    MUCH LOVE!

    Tracy

  2. This was a fantastic post. I am soooo tired of MSM getting all bent out of shape about bloggers & how we’re advancing. I agree that they should get over it & like you said, we all need to find a way to work together.

    I also don’t appreciate being treated like I’m less-than or shouldn’t be given the same amount of respect as anyone else just because I am a blogger. I am a writer fist, & blogging is a love & passion as well. A lot of bloggers also hold full-time jobs in addition to wee-hours-of-the-morning blogging & have credentials & backgrounds people can only DREAM about. So I think “people” just need to calm down, & treat others how you would like to be treated.

  3. I completely agree with you. Stated perfectly.

  4. I have been reading your blog since the beginning. I can only imagine how much time and energy you have put into this. Good for you for taking the reigns on your image and name. The internet is a scary place and it’s almost impossible to know everything that is going on even when your name is involved!

  5. Well said Bella and how tacky and unprofessional of the PR company to say you are working on a project with them when you are not. In terms of blogging being embraced by PRs, yes it has become very obvious that the industry wants to jump on the bandwagon with bloggers. I guess they feel they cannot afford to because we are hip right now. Not a day goes by without me opening a newspaper and seeing an article about bloggers. It has affected me in that certain companies are happy to send me products that I want to review but the down side is being bombarded by irrelevant press releases. But hey you can’t have everything right?

  6. Very well said!

    I was just thinking the same thing about Tavi. It’s actually quite hilarious how magazine editors are “up in arms” about this 13 year old girl. They need to recognize the power and influence of bloggers and revamp their magazines/internet presence accordingly. Of course they don’t see it that way. Sad, really.

  7. Well said.

    I haven’t been at this very long but I am starting to get lots of email from PR companies asking me to, or just assuming I’d be delighted to, write about their clients’ irrelevant products/events/giveaways. Sigh.

  8. goldenstar says:

    Go for it and tell the truth!

    I really don’t understand why folks are attacking Tavi. Why not interview her? Or better yet, why not collaborate with her?

    Yikes!

  9. All I can say is I love you for saying this. Right on!

    This post makes me feel like we’re due for a chat.

  10. Hun, I am not a professional blogger, but I completely understand. I feel like lots of pro bloggers are going through the same sea of change and planting their feet on the same solid ground. Should make for an interesting future. I love it every time I visit here.

  11. Hey!
    Glad to have connected with you on Twitter!

    This is a great post and I agree whole heartedly. I was visiting another blogger’s website, and she had a good post that talked about how writers are typically underpaid…and its almost as if you have to accept that fact. My response was that, if writing is your business, why don’t you deserve to earn a sustainable and thriving living? Attitude is everything if you expect to be underpaid, chances are you will be and stay underpaid.

    I develop a lot of tools for creative entrepreneurs to help them earn a sustainable living from what they do. One of the biggest challenges is for the CE to think about their creativity as a business venture!! IT IS…and at some point, CE’s have to start treating their talents (especially those who want to do it full time for a living) not only as a gift, but as a gift in which you can earn your living…i.e. create a business enterprise.

    Blogging is quickly becoming a viable business model because it is the biz of disseminating up-to-date information. Along with cash flow, information is KING and the faster you can get info out there, the faster you become regarded as an expert in your chosen topic of expertise. The ability to brand yourself as a SOURCE is as good as it gets for monetizing your gifts, talent and skill sets. I myself am moving away from providing direct services, and developing more self-help/teaching/training materials using both my blog and my website.

    Keep doing what you do because your great at it!–Keep working to create your business model around your blog…you are going to be SO SUCCESSFUL!!! Let me know if I can be of some help! :-) Thanks
    -E
    http://eabplanning.com

  12. I couldn’t have said it better myself. MSM’s response is to be expected though. Change makes people uncomfortable; especially when centuries-old tradition is being affected. All the more reason to keep doing what you do, ensure that you’re part of the Vanguard that’s leading this sea change! Keep up the excellent work, and brush the dirt off your shoulders ;)

  13. Keep up the fantastic work, Afrobella! I’ve turned many friends on to afrobella.com. You’ve set the standard. (I’m raising a glass to toast you.) Here’s to hoping you’ll remain steadfast and continue to be my favorite in the future!!

  14. THIS!!!! Just… THIS!!!

  15. On the one hand, it’s wonderful being able to talk about what you love and receive opportunities for it. On the other hand, it can be disappointing when others (whether in the real world or on the internet world) don’t place the same amount of value in your creative work as they should.

    The good news is that some companies do recognize the power of how much weight your opinion holds and are willing to compensate accordingly. Those that may not offer the same courtesy haven’t yet done their homework and don’t really know what Afrobella is really all about.

  16. You don’t come off as whiny or entitled at all. You put your all into this and it’s more than reasonable to expect compensation and respect for what you do.

    Photographers face the same challenges. People ask me to work for free all the time, not taking into account how much time, energy and effort goes into shooting and editing an event. It’s more than showing up and pressing a button; much like blogging is about more than throwing up any old thing and hitting “publish.”

  17. Here’s my take: the print media is still reeling over having lost revenue and jobs due online media…and the corporations, event planners are in on exploitation of bloggers. in other words there are many who don’t respect bloggers and the print media is just waiting for it to fail;so they can retool and charge us all for access to articles and news by the print media outlets. everyone knows bloggers in real time can influence millions of folks and everyone wants to make money off these bloggers.in other words they want free advertising. i think if i were in your shoes i would only charge for my time. you see as you get older you realize time as precious commodity for which money can’t buy. Charge for your time. And you will find that those who are serious and want a win/win relationship are the ones who will want to do business with you and the ones who will respect your product and services. this said for from a sixty year old who has been around….charge for your time. money exchange is a symbol of respect. as long as the price is fair you’ll do fine

  18. Great points!

  19. Excellent points made with grace, eloquence and Afrobella style. THANK YOU for being a trailblazer in the blogsphere, and know that you are a SHERO in my book!
    GF

  20. I do think that blogs/bloggers need to be taken seriously and realize we’re not trying to replace magazines. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in digital publishing (which is how my blog was born 2 years ago). I know right from wrong and I started my blog as a creative outlet for myself but would one day love to do this full time like you do. I think a lot of times it’s the the 1 bad blog or blogger that is trying to get something for free that seems to ruin the reputations of everyone else. Blogs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

  21. I definitely feel you. Feelings that you are being exploited, used or being taken for granted can really hurt. It is really a form of disrespect and lack of appreciation for one’s talent, skill, expertise and indeed their time and effort. What you are doing is breaking new ground and standing up for bloggers everywhere. We continue to be very proud of you. You are an excellent writer. Be firm, stand tall and continue working hard. Professional bloggers will soon reap their just rewards.

  22. As a new blogger, I certainly learned a thing or two from this. Thank you for this candid post.

  23. SPOT ON!!!
    Well put, dear heart!

  24. Mignonette says:

    As a photographer your 1st point really resonated with me. Why do people think freelance means you’ll work for free?

  25. I am new to blogging and this was an incredible resource. Thanks You Bella.

  26. Comment #17! Sandra speaks nothing but THE TRUTH. It’s the same sentiment that I have for the makeup artistry industry.

    My Skill has taken Time.
    Time is money.
    Money is Power.
    The Power to keep doing what I love and pay the bills.

  27. Thank you Patrice!

    You have opened my eyes to alot through this post and yes, just let us blog and be great at it!

    Your points were spot on we’re so grateful you’re spreading the knowledge you’ve gained as an O.G. blogger!

    Again thank you…

  28. Great ideas here. I wish there are more and more articles like that.ray ban aviators has become the hot fashion in the modern trend.

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