A Food Bloggers Union?

Sep 232010
 

I got an email a few days ago from the daughter of a famous cookbook author, who feels sympathy for how little food bloggers make and wants to do something about it. Here’s what she wrote:

“My mom and I have been traveling for her book tour. My mom is Pam Anderson, she is a food writer and cookbook author and has a new book out called Perfect One-Dish Dinners. I do most of her publicity and travel with her and in each city we’ve been meeting up with our blogging friends along the way.

“You might not be surprised to know that a lot of what we talked about was how bloggers aren’t getting paid anything near what they should be (if at all). The ladies were really fed up and frustrated. We all want to make a career out of this, but the money just isn’t there. We’re tired of e-mails asking for us to promote products for free or create content and photos for a measly $50.

Bloggers don’t know what to charge

“Part of the problem is that many people don’t know what they should be asking for. I think people don’t ask because they aren’t informed and there is no standard. We thought, what if we set up an event for about 50 influential (not necessarily big) food bloggers, along with people who know the food business and know what a fair price should be. We thought we could come up with some standards to unite around, i.e. how much we get paid for writing, recipe development, photographs (sliding scale based on traffic) and how much we get paid to go on trips. …So we thought we could actually even draft something and sign it… in essence, starting a Food Bloggers Union.

“I have not yet (!) read your book, so you may in fact address some or all of these things. I am good at planning events and bringing people together, so if I can get people together to form this union and facilitate the kind of change we would all like to see, I would like to do that. But I realize that all might not agree with us and perhaps it’s not a good idea. And I think we need to get some good counsel before we start stirring the proverbial pot. But no doubt there is strength in numbers and unifying. And in educating people about what they are worth.

“I would love your thoughts. What do you think of creating a Food Bloggers Union?”

Pam Anderson in the middle, flanked by daughters Maggy and Sharon

Legalities of Assigning Pricing

First of all, I was impressed that Maggy Keet (one of the bloggers on Anderson’s blog, Three Many Cooks), was sympathetic to the plight of fellow food bloggers and was trying to help. She made the good point that many people don’t know what to charge for their work.

But here’s the thing: starting an organization to set prices is considered price fixing, and probably illegal. That’s why you won’t see any posts from me about what to charge as a food writer. I give some ranges in Will Write for Food, and I interview people about pay, but that’s about it.

So how to get around this situation? Join an organization like The International Association for Culinary Professionals, which has a member directory. You can call up anyone you like in that directory, and ask what they charge — in a polite way, of course. Just don’t write it down for others to see.

Anyone else have any good ideas for Maggie?

  57 Responses to “A Food Bloggers Union?”

  1. What if there were a “member’s only” website or forum that would serve as a clearinghouse for food writing jobs, specifically targeted at food bloggers? A marketplace, if you will, where publishers looking for specific topics can advertise a job along with a price range, and bloggers can submit samples of their work. Maybe a job board can be added to one of the already existing food blogger resource forums.

    Would that be going too far?

  2. I have often thought about the product review process and compensation. Is getting a free product compensation enough? Should we also be charging for our time to write a review piece? How about if the review is negative? And if I write the review (for free, essentially), does the company have an obligation to promote the post and help drive traffic to my site? So much to discuss, good thing there are food blog conferences to attend :-)

    • Yes, and I have addressed these issues in previous posts as well. Is a free product compensation enough? Here are my answers to your questions:

      Most of the time, no, a free product is not enough compensation.
      Should you also charge to write a review? On your own blog, there is no one to charge.
      If you charge the company, that is unethical.
      If the review is negative, definitely they’re not going to pay you.
      The company has no obligation to promote your post and help drive traffic to your site.

  3. So I’ve been reading this blog for a while now, in addition to several blogs on food and cooking. Also (for transparency) I am a fledgling blogger, freelance writer and self-employed. I’m starting to develop strong feelings (mostly negative) on this issue, so I’d like to get some clarification on what exactly the perceived problem is.

    Is it that there are discrepancies between the rates received by print and online writers? If this is the case, I agree, that is a sham, and I wholeheartedly support bloggers who fight against this inequity.

    If this is about bloggers getting paid what they are worth – I’m not sure I agree. I’m starting to get the sense that some food bloggers are developing a sense of entitlement. While I agree that everyone should be compensated fairly for their work – we live in a capitalist society and it should be the market – the demand for a good or service – that sets the price.

    As I see it, the market is flooded with food bloggers. Me, you, the guy down the street, we’re all excited to write about food – and we’d all like to get paid for it. The problem lies in the fact that we are not all created equal. Me blogging about a product, or developing a recipe is not as valuable as Martha Stewart doing the same. Martha can ask a million dollars, while if I have to be satisfied with a new juicer, or simply the satisfaction of a job well done. Is this fair? Maybe not 100%. Maybe I’m actually a better writer than Martha, but the fact remains that her service is more valuable than mine.

    Bloggers (like any working professional) who have built a reputation on the quality, value and professionalism of their services will always get the few sweet (profitable) gigs out there, the rest of us will have to take what we can get until we’ve built up our chops sufficiently to compete with the cream of the crop. It’s like any other good or service – the luxury market is always the smallest and hardest to crack.

    Taking this a step further, I actually think there’s a bright side to bloggers being able to work for very little. Price is the only arena where newbies can compete for work. Working for cheap helps us to build up our readership, portfolios, and experience. To me, this seems like a natural cycle. There isn’t a profession out there which allows you to start at the top. Further, in spite of what our mother’s told us – we’re not all going to be President. We’re not all going to be able to support ourselves as food bloggers – there just isn’t that much demand.

    All this ranting and raving is based on the assumption that if I were a fancy pants blogger who’d worked her butt off the last 10-20 years, who’d paid her dues, who’d polished her craft and marketed herself aggressively – I would be getting paid a living wage. So does this make sense to anyone else, or am I totally naive and out-to-lunch?

    • Alecia, what a thoughtful — and funny — response. Thank you. Now, to answer your questions and comments:
      Yes, there is a discrepancy between pay for print and pay for online.
      Some bloggers do feel entitled, but they are a small percentage.
      Yes, bloggers who were already established as writers do better than the newbies, but that’s to be expected.
      I agree that it’s a natural cycle that newcomers work for less. But now people have been blogging for a few years, and those who contact them still want them to write for nothing or $50.
      Re your last comment, and it is the most serious assertion, that a food blogger could finally make a living wage after several years (blogging has only been around for a few): no, they cannot make a living wage. That is the problem.

    • Very well written Alecia. Makes perfect sense to me, and I agree 100%. In response to Dianne response … life is what we negotiate. If people have been blogging for a few years and companies want them to write for free or $50 and they think they are worth more, they can always say no. If their work really is worth more than the food blogger next door, then they should be able to ask for more and get it! I get a lot of people who ask me how to monetize, and if you really want to make a living at it, you have to treat it like you would any other business and set out a business plan, do market research, find out what companies pay, etc. Otherwise, it is best to just respect food blogging as a hobby.

  4. This is such a tough one. (I loved your talk at IFBC, Diane. Also took one of your classes at Leite’s Culinaria. Good information all around.) My mission is to increase awareness of celiac disease and gluten intolerance and help people thrive. I’m a nutritionist and exercise physiologist first and a food blogger second. Part of what I like to do is help the folks who are creating healthy gluten-free products, so some of the time money isn’t the driving force. I have a group of farmers in MT growing gluten-free grains and I’d like to do all I can to help them be successful. Same with my organic CSA farm here in Colorado. Often, the best way to do that is via blogging and Facebook, so I find myself stuck between two different business models. When to charge and when to give it away for free. Thank you, I appreciate your insight on this topic. We all have different visions of how this should play out in our blogging careers, so it’s nice to have experts like you sharing your knowledge with us.
    Melissa

    • Hey Melissa, nice to hear from you. I’m not feeling like much of an expert on this issue. I wish I knew the answer so that I could make a living wage as well!

      That’s a good way to put it, that you are stuck between two business models. At least you have a business first and your blog second. I assume the blogging is a marketing tool, and you are not trying to make a living as a blogger. That is a saner way to go.

  5. It sounds like much hasn’t changed since Mad Men Working girls…
    Doesn’t the Actors Guild have a day rate?
    How is that price fixing?
    The Graphic Artist Guild has pricing guide lines on offer.
    Surely there is some way to protect creators?
    The buyers have finally caught on to the internet and are getting away with murder IMHO.
    As usual we have to fight tooth and nail for respect & $.
    c’est la vie

    • I did not know that about the Actors Guild and the Graphic Artist Guild. Good question. Maybe Maggie could look into that and see. Excellent suggestions!

    • This reply made me remember a story my brother once told me. During the 80′s he worked as a costume designer in NYC. One job he had was design assistant to the designer William Ivey Long on a Broadway show. My brother told me that at the end of a day of work, Mr. Ivey Long turned to my brother and said “Don’t ever think that winning a Tony Award means that you can make a living doing this job because you can’t!” Enough said.

  6. These are all great comments and suggestions – and I think a lot of people are coming at this from different angles. Some people aren’t worried about the money, they just do it because they have a passion and other people genuinely want to make a career of their blogs which they love and put 40+ hours into a week. And I’m in the second camp. I love our blog. It’s a full time job. But a new juicer and a packet of coupons doesn’t pay the bills.

    I know from experience – rather my mom’s experience – that there is an incredible disparity between what is paid in the print world and what is paid in the online world. What used to pay hundreds and thousands of dollars in the print/TV world, now pays peanuts…or nothing. Recipe development, 500 word articles, photographs, appearances, promotions and spokesperson work, these used to fetch top dollar. Where has that money gone? I think we can all agree that new media – or the online world – is the direction things are headed, so to me it seems that the money should follow. There is a new force emerging – a new online food community – with millions of readers. Companies and brands aren’t stupid – they want in on that. But they don’t really want to pay.

    No, we’re not all the same – but if a brand or company is approaching a blogger asking them to write a review, promote a product or write post/provide photos, they clearly see a value in that person’s voice and platform. So why should we sell ourselves short? I think these companies are taking advantage of bloggers who aren’t really sure what they should be paid or the value of their work. What I was suggesting is that we educate people so that they know what their hard work is worth. I wasn’t suggesting that everyone get’s paid the same or that we fix prices. And then once we establish some norms, we to stand together (strength in numbers!) and ultimately make companies realize that there’s a new way. And we’re not giving content or promotion for free anymore.

    I can’t speak for all, but I don’t feel entitled and I don’t think most bloggers do either. Personally, I just feel taken aback that someone wants to pay me $50 for 12 hours of work. Might as well just work at MacDonald’s at that rate. Actually, I think I’m better off at MacDonald’s.

    • Maggie,

      I agree with you here. As someone who straddles the line between writer and blogger, I see the difference in industry pay scales in my everyday life. While freelance writing pay is not what it used to be, bloggers are _still_ getting paid just a small percentage of what freelancers get – which is sad.

      “But a new juicer and a packet of coupons doesn’t pay the bills.”
      SO TRUE.

    • So okay, how do we go about pricing ourselves and our time? Is it determined by blog revenue, blog traffic, number of posts, number of subscribers? Does having training, certifications, academic degrees, and job history come into the equation?

      Ah, how about “has attended one or more Dianne Jacob workshops / classes” as a measure of ability? ;-)

    • Hi Maggy, thanks for adding to the discussion. But the thing is, many of us would rather get paid $50 for work that interests us than to get $50 for work we hate (McDonald’s). So we do it.

      Your mom is at the top of her game as a cookbook author, freelance writer and TV personality, so you have seen how well she does financially. It sounds like even she has been affected by what companies are willing to pay now.

      We will all never be paid the same anyway, but I admire your notion that food bloggers should be educated about what to charge or accept. Any food bloggers out there willing to give out real numbers?

  7. This topic came up at IFBC, and I think it’s one worth looking into. While price-fixing is a risk, it doesn’t have to go there. Labor unions played a big part if salvaging the American work force and to this day, they’re a useful tool when it comes to making sure individuals in an industry are taken care of fairly. I think banding together would be a good thing! As both a blogger and a freelance writer, I’d be interested in participating in such a union.

    Keep us posted!

    • I like Carol’s idea of looking into guilds to see how they do it. Maybe it’s not even exactly a union.

  8. As a blogger, free-lance writer and former union member (Newspaper Guild) who has gone on strike, I applaud the concept of asking for what we are worth. The reality is that as long as some writers are willing to write for free or almost and some content users (be they on or off line) are willing to accept pretty much anything as long as they don’t have to pay much, it’s a tough sell.

    I do think that many bloggers don’t really think about how they are part of the money making process for the for-profit businesses they write for. When others make money off your words, you should be entitled to profit as well. Learn to ask what you are worth. I believe that is a combination of education, training and resources such as IFBC, BlogHer, etc. should be addressing this for those bloggers who are looking to provide such content, since, of course, not every food blogger is looking to write for others.

    The good news is we live in a time where being able to express yourself through your writing to others has never been easier. (Sometimes I feel like I did when I was a kid putting out my own neighborhood newspaper using a typwriter and carbon paper.) The bad news is that means the competition for the shrinking free-lance paycheck is intense and that lessens the likelihood of content users doing the honorable thing of paying us what our work is worth.

    The opposing viewpoint, I suppose, is that exposure is exposure and that can eventually turn into a successful food writing career. We all know a few food bloggers that have been sprinkled with that pixie dust. Most of us, though, will remain pixie dust free.

    Learning to ask for fair compensation (which requires learning what is a fair compensation), seeking out and supporting content users (publications, websites, etc.) that compensate their writers and recipe developers fairly, and helping to educate bloggers and content users are all important to become those of which so choose more than hobbyists.

    • Hah ha! PIxie dust free! Hilarious, Faith.

      I have also been on strike. In the 12th grade, I worked full-time for a drugstore that wanted to unionize, and we went on strike. I kept my sign in my locker and walked an 8-hour picket line every day for months.

      Good point that many bloggers don’t perceive that people are making money from their work. Being a blogger does tend to mean you’re less interested in making a living and available for less, versus being a freelance writer for print. We have to work to change that perception. It means food bloggers have to think of themselves as professionals. And many of them don’t want to go there.

  9. Yep, and that’s the situation we’re in now. But there’s much more than the one dealer — there are hundreds of food bloggers, maybe thousands, who will be satisfied with less or a free product.

  10. At the Symposium for Professional Food Writers at the Greenbrier, I tried to bring up an issue in this vein for which no one had an answer. Many of the publishers, editors, agents – people who pay for food writing – were very excited about the world of blogging, but expressed the concern that there are 40,000 food blogs and its hard to tell the wheat from the chaff. Good writing and good recipes will out, but how can anyone possibly read every blog they come across. I was interested in a way to bring good, serious, readable blogs to the attention of the community. No one seemed to know how to do this, but a guild or society one has to be admitted to seems like an idea to me. A way to help separate the chaff.

    On the issue of pay, I think pay for good writing and recipe development is a little different from product promotion or sponsored recipes. If a certain tier of “professional” bloggers unite to demand pay, there are plenty of those 40,000 out there who will be just thrilled to receive a package of goodies from I Can’t Believe its Not Butter, and the pros will just stop getting the offers. A conundrum, no?

    At any rate, I have been blogging for a year and I am not getting the free stuff. What am I doing wrong?

    • Very good that you brought it up, at least, Perre. How do good, serious bloggers get attention? They learn how to market themselves and their blogs. Yes, the good ones will rise, but it also takes promotion.

      Agreed that companies are not going to pay bloggers for product promotion. And they shouldn’t. If they did, bloggers would be writing paid advertorial as posts, and who wants to do that? ( I hope the answer is no one). However, companies can pay to put a blogger’s recipe in their site or in a cookbook. Then bloggers are competing with recipe developers, who might charge $250-$750 to develop recipes. Bloggers will probably charge much less, and they should, as they are much less experienced.

  11. I think we talk about this a great deal, about being underpaid food bloggers. I think the larger part of the problem is this model of relying upon advertising to support our efforts isn’t ideal. This is the real part of the problem. I have done this for enough years to see wide swings in revenue. While thankfully things are better than they used to be, most of us aren’t going to be rich like Martha Stewart, but we to get the chance to do what we love. Until the basic model for compensation changes I spend about 60% of time working on backend issues instead of developing contect for my viewers.

    • You have a huge following, Stephanie, which leads to a decent income from advertising. But the rest of us only make a little bit each month. Interesting that you spend the majority of your time on “backend issues.” Not sure what they are. SEO?

  12. This is a most interesting subject and one that has us all involved. Maybe we are looking at the problem from the wrong perspective? First, is Food Blogging really a career? If so, then who sets the rules? And should we only be depending on the vendors and the good graces of our fellow bloggers for our pay? What about Cable TV? They charge their CUSTOMERS as well as their advertisers. Are there more blog readers than there are vendors? Would a reader pay a subscription fee to read a really really good blog and learn really, really good things? Why do people pay for TV when they can just flip on one of the Big Three? Programming maybe? Content maybe? Star value? Can you think of some more? Maybe we should be thinking about how many different ways we can form this new profession. No one says we have to do it the way it’s being done now. Thinking outside the box sometimes gets you a busted box, but sometimes it results in a real prize.

    • Food blogging is only a career for a few people at the top. For the rest of us, it’s one of things we do, and it doesn’t generate much income. A model exists: we write for free for people who can view it for free. Not a good financial model, is it, Karen? Good point.

      So far when people pay to read a food blogger, it’s because they wrote a book. Most successful food bloggers make money in a variety of ways that come from the success of their blogs: they develop recipes, write articles, write books, consult, make money from ads, take sponsorships.

      I don’t know about subscription. Maybe someone should try it. But I’d need a good reason to pay money for what I can get elsewhere easily for free. There’d have to be some serious differentiation.

      • Ah Dianne, serious differentiation! That is the key. Of course we would need a good reason to pay money for what we could get elsewhere easily for free. And perhaps that is exactly where the term “profession” come into play. Anyone can blog – even I could. But serious differentiation – I would really have to prove myself to the reader for that to occur. Perhaps right now the vendors are using the shotgun technique until there is some serious differentiation in the ranks. And it will come from within, I believe. All 4,000 or 40,000 or 400,000 foodbloggers can’t be at the top of the game at once. It’s just like anything else. Just because I say I can dance doesn’t mean anyone will pay to watch me. I might have a lot of fun, and really enjoy the music, but at the end of the dance card do I walk home alone? And I might pass the theatre next door where the line wraps around the corner waiting for tickets for the next dance show. But wait – that’s not fair!

        • Well certainly, Karen, companies are willing to pay the best professionals for their services. I hope all of us are in that category.

          I am not sure how you would create a blog that’s pay per post.

          • I think I can see a niche presenting itself here, Dianne . With a background in retail I sometimes view situations from a different perspective. Are we perhaps asking the wrong persons what to charge?

            And I don’t know that we are all in the category of “best professional” quite yet – certainly not if there are that many foodblogs hanging out on the internet.

            I actually was reading a blog (I will have to find it again!) where the blogger did in fact have a paid subscription section where the reader could, for a fee, have access to her recipes and other articles of interest. And guess what? I chose to not pay – but she had it out there for me to decide. She was bringing her product direct to the consumer. It just so happened that I was not in the market for her product at that time. This is the only food blog that I have visited that had a paid area and the fact that the blog was a part of a website probably made the logistics easier for “pay per view” arrangements.
            There are certainly enough pioneering individuals out there with fully paid audiences who are using all manner of blogs, forums within blogs, and blogs within websites. Maybe it’s a matter of mechanics.

            I guess my whole purpose is to try to lend some horizontal focus to this issue. If none of us changes our step, the same old dance just keeps on happening (see, I really do think I can dance!) If a foodblogger wants this to become a profitable venue perhaps there needs to be a major brainstorming session going on here. I keep coming back to the famous Willie Sutton reasoning – you rob banks because that is where the money is. Not that I am suggesting highway robbery for any of us, but maybe attacking the problem of how much to ask isn’t the real issue. Maybe it’s who we ask. Just thinking out loud here…. any takers??

          • Interesting, Karen. I hope you remember who had that blog so we can all take a look.

            As for who we ask, just wondering who you have in mind.

          • Dianne – rather than talk to one another about what each of us might receive as compensation for work performed (and we would then have to trust the truthfulness and honesty of the answers) I was thinking of going directly to the bank. If I have a blog and it is a study of a particular niche and i can present statistics that affirm a given readership on a recurring basis, don’t you think I might start looking at what companies want to reach this audience? Might I not ask the COMPANY what they pay for advertising, PR, media mentions, etc? I would much rather be talking to the movers and shakers than standing around whistling in the dark with the rest of the crowd wondering what everyone else is getting (if indeed they are “getting”.) Marketing is what happens when a professional decides to take their own show on the road to the buyers rather than waiting for the customers to “maybe” knock on the door. It just seems like the natural extension of the very reason the internet and blogs exist – we don’t have to wait for someone to agree to publish our words. We get up and start moving things around ourselves. I know someone has said “if you build it they will come” but they didn’t say just who “they” are and when they’ll get here. I could grow a beard just sitting around waiting! Or wear out a perfectly great pair of dancing shoes waltzing in circles.

            I found another blog/ site today that is subscription based. It is http://baking911.com.

            I also did the google thing and found that there is a multitude of companies that will sell you lists of vendors and sites and blogs and companies that pay for blog posts. So someone out there is thinking outside the box already….

            My good friend Holly Clegg, author of many successful cookbooks and spokesperson for LARGE companies, food councils, and health associations told me a long time ago that the whole secret is in marketing. Nothing happens if you don’t get out there and market yourself and your products. And she is right, I do believe.

  13. These comments bring up so many questions. My biggest questions are what defines a professional food blogger, and as stated above, is blogger really a career? The more I think about it, and as Dianne suggests rather frequently, blogging is a marketing tool to get other work that pays. Rather than gather together as food bloggers, I think identifying as a professional food writer or professional recipe developer might be more helpful, professional being the key word here. The sad reality is many food bloggers don’t deserve to get paid, as they don’t have professional level skills, and their work has little commercial value. It’s a wild west out there for writers of all kinds as new media models emerge. I don’t think you can call yourself a professional anything if you don’t value your work.

    Part of valuing your work is sometimes saying no. No, I don’t develop recipes for free, my fee is normally $500. Sure, I can provide you with content – my fee is $1 word. And then either walk away, or barter for something that has real value to you. You can’t expect someone to value your services if you, yourself, don’t value them. At some point the “clients” are going to see that free providers are not as valuable as the professionals. Sadly, it may take a long while to get there.

    • Great message here, Anastasia, about valuing your work. And thanks for putting in real numbers of what you charge.

      There are some situations that apply only to food bloggers: ex. someone wants to put a post into a company newsletter, or on a website. In that case the post is already written, so it’s hard to know what it’s worth. Or a company wants a recipe in exchange for free product. I suppose if the free product comes to $500, it might be a fair trade. That, however, is hardly ever the case.

      • If a post has already been written, it still has value as intellectual property — enough value that someone is asking to reprint it. I don’t think a barter has to have a strict monetary value, but I do think you should receive something you desire. It may be exposure (my work has appeared in XYZ Corp newsletter), a contact that will benefit you in the future, free subscriptions or conference admissions, or cases of food product or equipment that you would actually use. If they have nothing you value to offer, then you walk away. I guess what I’m getting at is that this is a business decision. If the intent is to be professional, it is helpful to think in business terms.

        • I agree. I wrote a post on recipes and got paid $50 for it on BlogHer, then BlogHer asked if they could put it on SheWrites, for no further pay. I agreed because it exposed my book to a whole new audience of women writers, and when it posted on the home page, the artwork was a copy of my book. I thought that was worthwhile.

  14. Don’t know if this makes anyone feel better or worse, but the venerable former Sassy editor Christina Kelly is facing the same dilemma: $50 pay rate for an online column. If there’s no hope for Christina, I fear for the rest of us. Say What? indeed.
    http://christinamkelly.blogspot.com/2010/09/indignity-of-day.html

  15. Definitely, Karen, marketing is part of being a professional food blogger.

    Just looked at the premium membership for baking911 and saw that they charge $19.95 per year to access around 2000 recipes. Interesting model for a recipe database. I hope it’s working for them. You’d have to have a LOT of takers to make a living out of it. Ex. 25,000 to make $50k per year. That’s for two people. They’e also written two traditionally-published cookbooks.

    Re paying for blog posts, I hope you do not mean that people pay you to write promotions on your own blog. I think these are the ones that pay you a small amount to post positive reviews on websites. Tell me if I’m wrong!

    • I am just looking at any of the options for paid bloggers. I don’t really know if the folks here want to be paid to write for others, write about others, or just be paid because they think they are great writers and someone should pay them. Looks like there are lots of ways to receive payment for your online blog writing – just depends what you are looking to do as a profession. What exactly are we asking people to buy from us? Recipe developers are developing a recipe and that has a different life than writing a blog or writing about a product or service. If you want to be paid to write for companies, they are generally paying for advertising or public relations. I am just not sure what the folks above want to be paid to do and for whom they want to do it . Ghost blogging? Writing advertorials? Reviewing products? Writing recipes that use specific brands and products? What exactly?

      The following is a link to just one of the articles I found on Google search. It has old numbers (2008 I think) but it may give someone a ballpark in which to strike.

      http://www.blogherald.com/2008/07/15/blogging-jobs-how-much-are-bloggers-paid-to-blog/

  16. Dianne -
    It is not a blog, but rather a website that I first saw that had a subscription option. I have just found it again, and I see now that it is the website of someone who is a well-known (?) published author. So perhaps she could give some insight to how this is working for her. I don’t know if the fact that it is a site and not a blog would have any relevance. I wonder if the the fact that she is a published author is a part of any success. Either way, she is going direct to the consumer.
    Here it is: http://www.betterbaking.com/subscribe.php

  17. Such a timely post, Dianne. I have no answers, just lots of questions.

    I was on deadline for a breaking story Thursday that three online outlets wanted NOW and FIRST and FREE. It was another one of those “What the &%$#@#%^ ( has happened to my profession?” moments.

    I’ve been a career journalist for 25 years, when I started out the rate for magazine assignments was $1 a word. Guess what? It hasn’t changed much — with the exception of some of the national mags that offer $2 a word. — in some cases rates are slipping. I hear this from all my writer friends, who make a living (or used to) from their craft.

    A Bon Appetit editor at a recent blog conference noted the online version of same initially paid mag rates for web copy. No longer. They realized other big names weren’t paying so they cut their fees. The Huffington Post doesn’t pay for food coverage, nor does The Atlantic Food Channel. Both attract heavy hitters from the food writing world.

    Just a few years ago I was paid handsomely (mag rates) for web work, including blogs. These days, with a few exceptions, outlets offer a measly $15-75 for blog posts — and I’m not talking about a photo with a caption — I mean a reported story with quotes from multiple sources and a word count of around 750-1000 words. Sort of piece that would earn you a thousand bucks or more in the good ol’ days of print.

    Not that we realized they were the good ol’ days at the time. While I like the idea of a food bloggers union in theory — and heartily agree with the sentiment behind it — I’m doubtful it would ever really get off the ground. Feels to me like the horse has already bolted. What do others think?

    • Sarah, this is shocking: $75 for a heavily reported story that you would have gotten $1000 for in the good old days? Wow.

      And more shocking: are you saying the piece you wrote recently for the Atlantic was free? WTF?

      Please don’t write another well-reported piece like this for free.

      And thanks for reminding me of what Victoria v B. said at IFBC.

  18. This is an AGE-OLD topic amongst consultant food professionals, so your readers shouldn’t feel bad about this. To start, think like an individual, not as a member of a giant pool. Blogging may be “new,” but food consultants for generations included recipe developers, food writers, food stylists, photographers, prop stylists, event planners, trade show work, author tours, editor visits, public relations support and on and on. Professional organizations such as IACP and the (now gone) Home Economist in Business recommended exactly as Dianne does– price fixing is a no-no. Self-employed individuals, it is part of the job to charge YOUR rate for YOUR services.

    Build your own reputation and your rates can grow bigger. Someone undercuts you (aka “competition”) and your rates may have to adjust. A great gig comes along that you’d LOVE for your portfolio? Ask your gut. I once was contacted by then-gangbuster company Mrs. Fields; the pay was insultingly low. I huffed (read: “attitude”), ran it by my husband and he said, “Are you KIDDING? It’s MRS. FIELDS – market the bejesus out of that gig.” He was right, I took the assignment, bonded with Debbie and used the case study for probably 15+ years to grow my PR business. Work creates work. Good luck!

    • Yes, I heard all this before blogging commenced, that’s for sure. Before there were people who worked for cheap. Now bloggers are competing with hobbyists who work for free. A little different, but not much.

      How great that a low-paying gig from Mrs. Fields turned out to have good name dropper cachet for your business.

  19. Blogging without a goal in mind, be it money, PR, fame and fortune together, selling your book or other products, doesn’t make much sense, unless you love to write for free. If so, then there’s no issue.
    The odds of blogging and getting a great book deal aren’t so good. It seems to me that it makes the most sense to write the book, publish it yourself or get it published and then blog to sell you book (or insert podcasts, DVD, app, etc.).
    Or, you can choose to write and get paid very little. We all have choices.

    • Agreed that if you don’t have a goal for your blog, it’s just a hobby.

      Sorry Jill, but I’m feeling crabby about the rest of your points. None of these are necessarily lucrative choices either. People self-publish a book and lose money because it doesn’t sell enough copies to break even, or make a profit. Or they get it traditionally published and don’t earn enough money to live on while doing so, and the book never earns out. Blogging to sell your book is still blogging for no pay. If self-published, you still have to recover the investment; if traditionally published, you’re not going to see any more money until the book earns out (about 30 percent of books).

      • Dianne,

        I understand why you’d feel crabby about my other points but what I really meant to say is that if you undertake writing a book that has no market, it won’t matter whether or not you publish it yourself or have it published. Before you write, you need to know that people will buy your book because you’ve got a hot topic or a good platform, or both.
        If you must write the book anyway, then just “publish” an ebook as it’s practically cost-free to do so. What you make is all gravy.
        A good business plan is quite helpful, too. You can gain some business savvy that way, too. Publishing is a biz and it needs to be taken seriously.
        Enough said…

        • Aha! Thanks for the clarification, Jill. Yes, you must do your market research first. While it’s low cost to publish an e- book, it is a time sink to write it and produce it properly — you must still learn how to do it.

  20. Look in any industry, who makes the best profit margins? Not people who sell goods, but the people who produce them. As Jim Rohn says “Wages make you a living, profits make you a fortune.”

    Food bloggers are never gonna live off their sites because they made the ‘right’ choice between Foodbuzz, BlogHer or Platefull ads. Never. First of all, we need to think of our sites as businesses and ourselves as business people if we expect to make a living off this.

    I’m glad to see these comments moving from ‘the system is broken’ to ‘we need to just go out and make it happen.’ Perhaps many food bloggers would learn a lot working out a business plan. If you think about it we are positioned perfectly to have two totally different markets; the companies that pay pay for ads, services and affiliate commissions PLUS our readers many of whom would buy from us if we offered the right product.

    With a unique approach and a solid market we can create digital goods and start making profits (just taking about actual costs-not our time) in one or two sales.

    I think the change we need is to stop thinking like employees and start thinking like entrepreneurs.

    • Michelle – I think you and I are on the same page. It strikes me as strange that not many others are seeing things from our perspective. Perhaps you have been “on the other side” as I have and know that it is up to us to make our fortunes. We have to work smart – not just work. If we look at our work as our product and work our business plan, we should be a few steps ahead of those who just put it out there and wait for something to happen. You have to be in the business of making things happen if you want some action!
      Karen

    • Brava Michelle. I like your ideas.

  21. [...] about (read: obsessed with): blogger compensation. This particular post was about food bloggers struggling with the issue of compensation. She floats the idea of a food bloggers union, but quickly backpedals and points out that [...]

  22. [...] Food Blogger’s Union. Interesting idea…. [...]

  23. Maybe someone here mentioned it already, but have you heard of that new site foodcolumns.com? The owner is just starting it up and approached many bloggers about contributing– I declined, but it’s interesting to me as a blogging issue. She has created a site where people who need to buy content can pay for food articles/recipes/content. She kicks back about 30% of the sale back to the blogger. I don’t know how much the content costs– I think about $30 though. This could be worthwhile to smaller publications, but I think that people with very good content/pictures probably wouldn’t be wanting to sell their hard work so cheaply.

    • Yeah, it’s a bind. People in start-ups don’t want to pay for content. Do you think this is a good deal? I wouldn’t want my content to appear somewhere I don’t know about or approve. Just sayin’…

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