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Transparency Tuesday – sharing what I said at Problogger

Transparency is important in any industry.  It is absolutely paramount in rapid growth industries like ours – where the rules are being made as the industry is born, as it flexes its muscles and begins to grow.

I went to Problogger Event two weeks ago on the Gold Coast as a guest and a speaker.  It was my second Problogger Event – I went last year in Melbourne as well.  As always, Darren and the team did an amazing job.  Top quality content, inspiring speakers and lots of opportunities to catch up with the smart, pioneering and colourful characters that make up this space we call the blogosphere.

One thing that saddened me though was that the topic of bloggers’ fees was behind closed doors – with bloggers reluctant to share what they themselves charge brands for partnerships.  This isn’t limited to this event – it’s something I’ve observed constantly in the four years since I first ventured into working with bloggers.

At the end of a Day 2 session, Mrs Woog jumped up and shared some information about her blog.  I then spoke briefly about how The Remarkables Group is structured, and the team and myself have been inundated with emails thanking us since.

I thought it would be helpful to share those points in a wider space – so here they are in black and white (or grey and white).

Tiered system

When I started the business, most of the founding five Remarkables didn’t have a set rate card – so I needed to find a way of structuring them in a fair system that was easy for brands to understand.

We have seven tiers of Remarkables at the moment, which is based on their unique visitors per month.  This figure is based on an average of three months – so it provides a buffer against unusually high or low traffic on specific days/weeks.

These tiers are:

Tier 1 – 140,000+ UVs

Tier 2 – 110,000+ UVs

Tier 3 – 80,000+ UVs

Tier 4 – 50,000+ UVs

Tier 5 – 20,000+ UVs

Tier 6 – 10,000+ UVs

Tier 7 – 5,000+ UVs

What we charge – an example 

Our rate card is very detailed and covers everything from sponsored posts, to day rates to attend events, content creation, social media sharing.  To give you a guide, we charge $1,500 for a sponsored post for Tier 7.  The rates then increase gradually tier by tier to $8,000 for Tier 1.

How our Remarkables pay us

We receive 30% of the fees we charge on behalf of our Remarkables and they pay us a monthly retainer.

Contra deals 

Contra is when a brand offers a product/service/experience in return for content or endorsement from a blogger.  What the blogger is providing can be paid for fully from contra, or else part contra/part payment.  For example, a fashion brand might offer $500 in clothes and $500 payment to make up the $1,000 on the blogger’s rate card.

We trialled part contra/part payment in the early days of the business but we decided not to do it again.  It can be difficult to place an accurate value on the cost of the product/service/experience, and sometimes it wasn’t something that the blogger actually needed originally.   So all of the blogger partnerships we do now are purely payment – that keeps it nice and clear for both the brand and the blogger.

SEO guest posting

Up until a few months ago, we were constantly receiving offers for Remarkables to have guest posts on their blogs for $30-$50 – and often for very big brands.  These posts are purely for search benefit, and often the search agencies managing them are completely separate to the true marketing function of the brand.

We always decline these “opportunities”, and several Remarkables have clearly stated on their blogs that they don’t accept these offers – hence the huge reduction in approaches like these.

It’s OK to say no

Another recurring theme at the session I attended was bloggers being afraid to turn down opportunities that were below their rate card.  As a blogger, you need to decide what your value is and that is your value.

I remember the first time I turned down an opportunity on a Remarkable’s behalf – my heart was in my mouth!  I agreed with her beforehand that it was far below her value, and made the phone call.  Lo and behold, the brand found another $2,000 and we made the campaign happen.

Another reason we don’t drop our Remarkables’ rates is that it’s unfair to clients who do pay full rate.  It doesn’t feel ethical to me to charge Brand A one rate and Brand B another – it needs to be fair to brands.

Repeat after me – it’s ok to say no.

There have been a number of blogger agencies pop up since we launched in May 2012, who could probably read this.  I may be naïve (or even idiotic!) for sharing information about our business.

But as I said at Problogger Event, there are a lot more brands than bloggers.

And a lot more brands than agencies.

We need to have more transparency in this industry we’re creating together, for the good of everyone.  Because by sharing information and working together, we will create something truly outstanding.

I urge bloggers to share your traffic and rates with others – compare notes, figure out how you decide your rates together.  Share brand approaches with them – get their feedback.

Being a blogger is a bloody isolating job sometimes, so lean on the amazing online community you have for support and guidance.  Two heads are most definitely better than one – three is even better again.

As Helen Keller said: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”.

I have a lot more to share on the topic of transparency, so we have at least one more Transparency Tuesday coming up.  Next week: managing blogger financials within our agency 

46 Comments

  1. October 2, 2013

    I used to post my traffic (and even income!) stats way back, just to encourage new bloggers to keep on course and never give up. I stopped doing that because it was quite tedious to do (and traffic from Google these days is pretty much negligible for small sites anyway)

    But I agree there is nothing wrong with rejecting low offers because having to research, take photos, and write can take hours. Bloggers (and brands+agencies) should take these into considerations :)

  2. October 2, 2013

    Hey Lorraine, I love to see a follow up with why you think ‘Transparency is important in any industry.’

    Google don’t share their algorithms, Apple don’t share their design schematics or source code, Amazon don’t share their sales page optimisation results and they’re doing alright. I’m not saying I believe that blogging doesn’t need more transparency but from the perspective of someone who’s been on lots of sides of business, blogging is already pretty open in comparison.

    Thus I’d love to know what upside transparency brings to an industry and it’s individuals. I think it’s good for people to understand why.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Hi Shayne, thanks for your comment. When it comes to pricing, transparency is absolutely necessary – I don’t think we can compare algorithms or code to setting a market value on a commodity. If there is no discussion around what rates are, then it leaves the way clear for enormous imbalances with some charging far too high rates – and artificially inflating the market – and some charging much too low and therefore undervaluing themselves. Transparency ensures fairer distribution of resources to a community, which in turn strengthens that community. Lorraine

  3. October 2, 2013

    Thank you for breaking this code of silence that has pervaded the blogging world since bloggers began charging for and appreciating their value to brands. As you are held up as the market leader and innovator in the industry, and the topic of rates, stats and fees is talked about in whispered hushes around the blogosphere, it was generous of you to share this information and try to demystify the subject. It is hard as a blogger to understand, rate and quantify one’s value in the marketplace, particularly when there is no industry standard and everybody keeps this information so close to their chest. I agree that working together and sharing this information and ideas with each other is the best way for everyone in the industry to benefit.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      We’re either generous or crazy – ha! Thanks for stopping in Mel.

  4. October 2, 2013

    Thank you for publishing this.
    I have always been curious a) how blogging agencies worked and b) what other people charged for their blogging services.
    Despite the amazing blogging community, it can be a very isolating experience and for whatever reason I have found that people aren’t willing to share nitty gritty details like unique views and what they get paid for posts.
    I agree that transparency is the way forward for blogging.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Blogging can be incredibly isolating Caitlin – glad it was of help to you.

  5. October 2, 2013

    Such an important conversation and one I’ve always answered openly when asked. I consider my prices and page views a bit like a menu board at your local pub. There’s nothing to be all hush hush about if you’re okay with what you charge, when you charge it and how often. In fact it’s sort of weird if you don’t talk about it. Really weird actually.

    Can I just say that saying no is always difficult for me as someone who manages their own sponsored content etc BUT worth every single one for maintaining the integrity of my blog and my own personal standards. Great advice.

    And as a blogger, I appreciate the information you shared from your business and your team there.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Totally agree Melissa! Love that you share so openly, I’m sure other bloggers really appreciate it.

  6. October 2, 2013

    Hi Lorraine,

    I found this post very interesting and wanted to thank you for writing it.

    I have been approached a lot lately from various brands and trying myself to negotiate the money factor with them. It has felt very complicated and ended up with me really trying to recognise my value both as an individual blogger and with my site.

    I agree that this discussion of money, brands and bloggers is often kept under wraps and it is so refreshing to see some experienced insight into this area.

    Thank you.

    Julia @ savingmummy.com.au

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Thanks a lot Julia – appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment.

  7. October 2, 2013

    Thank you thank you thank you Lorraine! I was sad to miss your session on day two, but this is as good as being there… nearly!

    As a professional writer, I have found the financial side of blogging to be a complete mystery. I know it’s early days and we’re mostly making it up as we go along, but the figures you’ve quoted are fair for the amount of work that goes into a successful blog.

    Freelance journalists have seen rates go down in some traditional media and part of that is from people accepting lower rates and also from not banding together to set benchmarks.

    Thanks for your maintaining high standards for us bloggers.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Thank you Jo – hope you enjoyed PB. Glad you found the post useful.

  8. wanderlust
    October 2, 2013

    Good on you for stepping forward and talking openly about your rates and how you work with brands! I imagine you will find it only increases your offers, and the quality thereof, and sets you aside as a trusted leader, both practically and ethically. All hail transparency.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Thank you Kristen! Hope you’re very well.

  9. October 2, 2013

    Blogging is pretty open, some bloggers may be quite happy with a lower rate, they have no one representing them – no agency. Some do keep their cards close to their chest when discussing what they earn, there’s so many variables. Are we all underselling ourselves? Seeing the rates you’ve shared doesn’t mean all bloggers will be able to secure a sponsor deal at these rates no matter how awesome their reader engagement or UV’s. These are your agency and ‘The Remarkables’ rates, I believe the going rate is much lower for a blogger who doing it in their own.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Thanks for the comment Nathalie! Our rates may not be achievable for all bloggers, but at least by sharing them and starting a conversation they can work towards better rates. I have been shocked at how low some bloggers are setting their fees so hopefully it will encourage bloggers to share amongst themselves and be confident and comfortable with their rates. Lorraine

  10. October 2, 2013

    Thank you so much for this – I was one of the ones at Problogger that was so frustrated by people who would not answer questions about how much they charged and then complained about other bloggers working for “shitty amounts”. How are we supposed to know what a shitty amount is if they won’t give us any concrete idea of what they charge? Or what they charged when they started out?

    I get around 15000 pageviews a month and have just started offering ad space on my blog. Do you have any advice about how much I should charge and how to approach companies? I am very picky and have already said no to quite a few that I don’t feel I can endorse.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Hi Liz, we look at UVs instead of page views as that’s actual “eyeballs” looking at the blog. I think you should use the rates we have saved as a benchmark and as I said in the post, compare notes with fellow bloggers. Good on you for being picky, I’m sure your readers appreciate that a lot. Lorraine

  11. October 3, 2013

    Congratulations on developing Transparency Tuesday – I appreciate your honesty and willingness to share. We need more small /medium businesses across all sectors to adopt the same approach. It can be a tough market for many at present and sharing never detracts from a brand, only enhances it. Well done for yet again paving the way.!

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Thank you kindly Leanne!

  12. October 3, 2013

    Thank you for sharing this information and great advice. As a new blogger who is considering the future direction of my blog you’ve helped to demystify what bloggers are actually (and should be) getting paid.

    Cheers,
    Lynda.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      That’s my job done then! Thanks Lynda.

  13. October 3, 2013

    Thank you again for sharing this Lorraine. I will share this amongst all my networks and hope that my fellow bloggers take it on board.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Thanks a lot Kerry – much appreciated.

  14. October 3, 2013

    Thank you for this post. I was unable to attend ProBlogger this year – a little matter of sunning myself (and shopping ’til I was dropping) in LA to celebrate my Big Four Oh My Gods!

    I was particularly interested in this topic as I’m a blogger who is looking to make an income from the activity I love most – my blog.

    If we don’t know that X amount of unique visitors per month equates to X amount of remuneration, then it is extraordinarily difficult for new bloggers (and even established ones) to set their rates.

    It’s not so much about the fact that one blogger might be unknowingly undercharging for their own work (although this is important) but also by doing this, it devalues the industry as a whole. It also makes us look less professional as an industry if one blogger is willing to do something for free or for a pair of shoes that another blogger would charge and receive $500 for.

    For the first time, I didn’t write Mother or Office Manager on my customs card. I wrote Social Media Editor – and I loved it!

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      That’s brilliant Kim-Marie! I wrote “entrepreneur” last year, which was very exciting. :-) Lorraine

  15. October 3, 2013

    In response to Shayne I think transparency benefits the blogger over the brand. There are many small bloggers who have no clue what they’re charging and when they ask they either get a cloud of secrecy or widely divergent responses in terms of rates. I actually disagree that blogging is open in terms of what they should be using as their rates benchmark.

    I think given the Remarkables “specialise” in higher traffic bloggers and actually get those rates for them, it’s good practice for them to reveal the rates so bloggers know what they should aspire to. I like to think of it as a blogging community service.

    Personally, I thought Lorraine’s transparency was remarkable (see what I did there?) but I don’t see it often. Seeing an obvious link between UVs and rates per sponsored post just gives us a better sense of how we should pitch ourselves. As a blogger who is slowly rising to the ranks of Tier 7 *splutter* it was an eye-opener for me and actually gave me a sense of where to place myself when it comes to the negotiation with brands.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      So glad you found it useful Kimberley – as you say, it’s just sharing what we do and it’s up to the individual blogger to decide how they set their own rates. Lorraine

  16. October 3, 2013

    Hi Lorraine, I missed your session at #PBEvent, so thank you for sharing this information here!

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      You’re very welcome Janet.

  17. October 4, 2013

    I think sharing our knowledge is a good thing, but it’s a double edge sword. Setting tiered rates based on UVs alone does not provide the answer everyone is looking for.

    In fact it can be setting unrealistic expectations and entitlement. Two blogs with the same UVs could be like comparing apples with organges. What is the main source of traffic for each of those blogs? If one is all search to a few top ranking pages and the other is regular repeat subscriber traffic – which one do you think has the most influence and value to a brand looking to leverage word of mouth?

    The value of a blog and a blogger’s influence is about more than just audience size. Reach does not equal influence in many cases. Comparing ourselves on impressions alone relegates our blogs to the same level of many other increasingly ineffective one-to-many broadcasting mediums. If we go that way, we’re not making the most of our ‘new media’ opportunities and our two-way platforms at all.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Hi Laney,thanks for reading and congratulations on the new venture! This is an excellent point, and one that needs to be raised. It’s easier for us (and I’m assuming for AOI) as the level of engagement and “quality” traffic is a requirement for representation. So we can set the rates as per UVs as we know that the engagement is there. It would be more difficult for individual bloggers to judge this without comparing notes with fellow bloggers, which comes back to the issue of transparency. Lorraine

    • Laney Galligan
      October 8, 2013

      Thanks for the reply Lorraine. I agree it’s important that everyone realises that rates are set on more than just overall reach or audience size. Many factors come into play, including ones of personal value. Like Nuffnang, are you basing your tiers on Australian UVs or overall traffic? For other bloggers that is something worth considering if they are targeting brands wanting to reach Australian audiences. It’s great to have these discussions, thanks!

  18. October 4, 2013

    I read this post with great interest. I haven’t been to any blogging conferences and don’t often read much about blogging as such. I find this approach about transparency interesting as for me, I find what I charge to be quite private. It is a little like me telling people what my income is when I had a non-bloggin job. That is just always something I have kept private. I do share with anyone who requests my media kit and is genuine and also with blogger friends who need some guidance.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Thanks for sharing Sonia. Lorraine

  19. October 5, 2013

    Congratulations on once again leading the way for our industry Lorraine. You are such an inspiration and give us confidence that there is value in every blog. I get so angry when brands are not prepared to pay for it. Clearly brands see that value, otherwise they would not be constantly approaching bloggers with all their back handed schemes for unpaid “mutually beneficial relationships”, which are usually of very little benefit to the blogger at all.

    And I agree, that offers of product which the blogger often does not want or need, favour the brand much more than the blogger in most instances.

    Your transparency in relation to stats and the prices you charge are most enlightening and much appreciated.
    Carolyn Darragh.- Desire Empire.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Thanks so much Carolyn – your words mean a lot! Lorraine

  20. October 6, 2013

    Wow, this is fascinating and I really appreciate you sharing. I’m at the point where I really want to think about setting rates but have had no idea where to start – thank you for starting this conversation.

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Thank you – good luck with it. Lorraine

  21. October 6, 2013

    Thank you so much Lorraine! As a blogger who is devoting hundreds of hours a month to building my blog/readers/traffic, I am so stoked to have some idea of what I can aspire to! I’m at the beginning of the journey of working with brands and earning income for my work, and it can be very frustrating to write, photograph, and create good content for a pittance. Blogging must become sustainable- our income from our work must become equal to (or greater than) a wage at some stage, or else good/great/exceptional bloggers will start to drop off the blogosphere. Thank you for your transparency. It is very much appreciated! xx Amber

    • Lorraine Murphy
      October 8, 2013

      Thank you for reading Amber – and for your kind words! Lorraine

  22. October 10, 2013

    Great article Lorraine! Thank you!! I’m impressed to see you represent bloggers with lower UV’s. I have been guilty of underselling myself way too often. I must put on the big girl panties and say no more often.

  23. October 10, 2013

    Lorraine, thanks for sharing this information. I can only speak for food bloggers, but know that this conversation is shrouded in mystery most times and it’s great to see it getting an airing. I have shared it with the members of Food Bloggers Australia & will be spreading through my own social media accounts too.
    You’ve done us all a service.

  24. October 10, 2013

    Fascinating, thank you very much.

    I look forward to more being shared and commented on regards this subject.

  25. October 19, 2013

    A friend just shared this in a UK Facebook group I belong to because she knows my views. I recently spoke at Britmums about transparency, and offered to share my rates card with fellow bloggers. People were amazed, suspicious, grateful, and negative in equal part, but secrecy will do no-one any good. Transparency will formalise the industry and make blogger:brand relationships more professional.