Know Your Worth: Is It Always A Bad Thing To Be “Paid In Exposure”?

Woman holding out lining of pocket, mid section

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

Every so often, a tale goes around social media. They’re usually a version of a modern-day fable; something we can all learn from. They tend to go like this: “I’m a blogger. I have had contact from a well-known company who wish to promote their product through my blog. They have said they will promote me on social network channels, but I will receive no monetary payment.”

And then, the outrage descends. You can’t pay rent with exposure! (which is true.)” Someone inevitably responds. Disgust comes in from all corners. Articles are written about how wrong it is, such as this pop up and then campaigns – such as Fair Play For Bloggers – often get involved. 

This is not the only example of the idea that exposure is bad. You’ll see plenty of outrage when companies offer interns a chance to work at their offices. Or when people want to promote themselves, but the way they are doing the promotion is more beneficial to the host company. The end result is the same. Exposure; experience; making connections are good, but not enough to build a business.

Payment in exposure is not always good or always bad, it more depends on what your end goal of the interaction is and how you plan to leverage the relationship particularly early on in your business.

The theory against exposure is if everyone refused to do things for no monetary gain, eventually, no one will ask for freebies anymore. The opportunities that would have once been free for a company to offer will now be paid. 

The other side is more complex. If you are a small fish in a big pond, then you have to get noticed. It’s the only way for a business to start the brand recognition process. That means you have to find ways to reach new audiences, explore opportunities and make connections. As a business owner, you’ll likely have to learn about blogger outreach for SEO  and other ways of promoting yourself. By refusing a chance to do this, you could be severing a connection forever – and the chances it might have brought you.

The crux of the argument against a blanket ban on payment in exposure is there’s no guarantee that if everyone demands payment, payment will be forthcoming. It’s more likely that the same brands will keep cross-promoting, creating a monopoly or “inner circle”. As a result, there’s no way for you to get in and promote yourself or your company.

If you are in an employment situation rather than promoting a company, you need a set number of skills. If you don’t have the skills you need to advance your career, why should someone pay you to learn them? If by doing work experience or an internship you are ultimately the one gaining the most, then it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it.

Real exposure is worth more than fake moneyYou have to evaluate each opportunity on its own merits. Maybe the promotion will be worth it; maybe the new skills you will gain will pay off in years to come. It would be close-minded to just dismiss something out of hand. So while you should always be aware of your worth and what your time costs, it’s good to have an idea of what you’re worth to others and if the opportunity is mutually beneficial, then don’t be afraid of payment in exposure.

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