How to Price and Value Your Services
Monica Barnett, moderator, www.blueprintforstyle.com @BluePrint4Style
Amy Bradley-Hole, www.freakyperfect.com @amybhole
Ana Lydia Ochoa-Monaco, www.llbloggers.com @LatinaPRPro
Cecily Kellogg, www.uppercasewoman.com @CecilyK
Amy: I've been a blogger and a writer forever and also worked in the corporate world forever. I like to work with bloggers to teach them good sound business principles.
Ana: I am the founder of the Latina Lifestyle Bloggers collective. I have been blogging for over 13 years, and I am the founder of (couldn't hear) Media Marketing.
Cecily: I've been blogging since 2004. I also write for Babble in MomCrunch and Voices. I also work part time with AboutOne.com.
Monica: Our goal is to give you a solid hour of our know-how, and we'll leave it open for questions after that. #bh12pricing is our hashtag.
Our first question is what is the proverbial they looking for when we talk about services and getting out there?
Ana: Imagine you're thinking of a brand, and they have an umbrella. Under that umbrella, we have marketing, PR, public affairs, and communications. Under that, we have the agencies that work at times with each of these departments. A lot of different agencies work with a lot of different departments. There are a lot of brands under Pepsi, for example. Each brand has a lot of departments and each department has a lot of agencies.
Cecily: One of the things we wanted to make sure we talked about is that PR isn't where the money is. PR people generally don't have a budget. It's marketing that has a budget.
We also need to talk about the difference between earned media and paid media. Earned media is a review. Paid media is advertising and sponsored posts. They are totally different people, and different people are in charge of the purse strings.
PR is in charge of earned media. They're sending out press releases. They consider us part of the media, who gets salaries but doesn't charge for coverage.
Amy: When you're thinking about which person or dept you want to work with, you need to think about what your goal is. PR people are looking for a relationship, especially an ongoing relationship, that could turn into something paid down the road when they turn you over to another department for a paid opportunity.
Marketing people are looking for money. If you want them to pay you, you have to be able to show them how you'll make money for them. It's very simplistic and cut and dry. You aren't going to get a fuzzy relationship with that family feeling from marketing people.
Ana: To add to that, when you're working with advertising dept or marketing agency, they're looking at ROI or return on investment. They're treating you like any ad they're going to be buying. They're looking for click-throughs or leads coming from you to them. If you're looking to make money, you've got to speak the language of the people who have money.
PR is concerned with impressions and eyeballs.
Cecily: There can be overlap. At AboutOne, marketing and PR are the same people. There are three of us.
All: Love everybody that you talk to. Relationships are relationships.
Amy: At my last job, I was in charge of marketing, PR, and communications. Don't think you can send a nasty email with one person and talk to someone else. It might be the same person.
Ana: Here at BlogHer, the marketing, PR, and communications people might all be here. Ask who to talk to. Don't try to skip around and go to them later if you know you should talk to someone else.
Monica: There's a differentiation between marketing and PR. Let's talk about numbers. One of the things that a lot of agencies (PR or marketing) want to talk about is stats. How do stats affect your value?
Amy: When we are talking about marketing and ROI, they go to make an ad buy based on demographics. A newspaper says we have this many readers in this part of the country with children under the age of 10. You need that information for your blog. Know it. Can get from Alexa or Quantcast. There's more to stats than page views and Twitter followers.
THe more you know about your audience, the better able you are to sell yourself. If you know about your audience, you'll know what companies are the best fit for your audience.
Ana: Another tool you should be using whether you like it or not is Klout. Make sure you know your number and what areas in which you're an influencer. Another one is Peer Index. You don't have to use them all but know your numbers.
Cecily: There's also Kred.
Monica: According to the industry, there's points of differentiation. In fashion and style, we don't look at Kred but do look at Alexa and Klout.
Ana: Ask reps what do they look for in Klout. What stats tools are they looking for?
Amy: Don't you dare lie about your stats. We find out. A year ago, maybe the business people weren't savvy enough to find out for themselves, but they are now. Give them the stats they ask for. This is not a deep dark secret, it is public information. Give them what they want and don't lie about it.
Cecily: Quantcast is free, and it is one of the biggest tools people look at to quantify your blogs. You can grab a snippet of code and stick it in your blog. We all hate Compete. It's 1/5 to 1/6 of the bloggers' actual numbers.
I want you to not have that "my blog is small" feeling. Let me explain how marketing and the long tail perspective works.
Adobe just made a great new tool that telescopes out to look at what actions lead to sales, and it's much more than the big coupon site that finally led to the sale. Feel comforted by the influence you have no matter how many page views you have.
Ana: I was with a blogger, and one of her followers showed up at the conference to see her. How does that make a brand feel? People Tweet to you. They love you. Make a page on your site to show the influence you have, the Tweets and comments and emails that people have sent to say they bought something because of you. The feedback.
Monica: I wrote a post on MomCrunch about how to create a media company from PicMonkey. It's better than Picnik ever was. http://t.co/ZVvpPtEU
Let's keep going. We've talked about Quantcast, media kits, let's continue on the vein of numbers and ROI and talk about the concept of readership and engagement.
Ana: I can work with a lot of bloggers who come and say, "I have this 50,000 a month blog." But nobody is commenting. She's not on Twitter or Facebook. She's nowhere to be found. Is she really engaged? She's not in my sight. For all I know, it's computer bots and not real people looking at her site.
We're looking for real engagement on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and comments. PR agencies are doing business in a very different way. They used to be worried about numbers but are now looking much more at engagement.
Monica: Where do I put engagement when I'm doing my media kit? What is it that we're supposed to put in there to indicate that we're engaging our audience?
Ana: On Facebook, it's super easy to see that. On your Tweets, you can use Tweet Reach (only does your last 50 Tweets unless you pay) or Hashtracker. On Instagram, you can
Amy: Don't get so wrapped up in yourself and what you want to write about that and your statistics that you forget that your audience is your customer. Pay attention to what customers want. Take the time to engage with the audience. They're not going to comment if you don't comment back. They're not going to talk to you on Twitter if you can't bother to talk to them back. If you just push out links all day, if you want to be able to promote yourself as influential, you have got to make people want to be around you and feel comfortable with you.
It's like Justin Bieber says, "I couldn't do it without the fans." Be Justin Bieber.
Cecily: I am not going to be Justin Bieber.
I just think, if you're wondering about how to create engagement on your site, end posts with a question.
I started blogging in the dark ages, before there was Facebook or twitter, I commented on every single comment I received. That engagement made a huge difference in my reader retention. Ask people for feedback. Have a comment policy. Mine is "I love comments but I hate assholes. Say what you mean and mean what you say but don't say it mean." Ask questions. Ask for advice.
Ana: Don't just push links. Become a resource. If you're gifted in something, put it out there. "I found this great art class. You might be interested in it." (It's not YOUR art class, just something of interest.)
Monica: Back to the purpose. How to price and value your services. How as a blogger do you know when to start charging?
Ana: I do PR and marketing, so I sometimes have a budget and sometimes don't have a budget. When a PR agency sends you a press release or invites you on a press tour or to a screening. Don't expect any money. That experience is your payment. From a marketing perspective, you have to show that you're an influencer in that market. You have to be a match. You have to know that your audience is actually going to purchase what you're writing about. Have examples to play with.
Say, "when I talk about luxury items, this is what my audience does" and take that to the PR person who represents a luxury item. Talk your numbers, Klout score, sales, click throughs.
You can't mix the two. On a PR side, the product is the payment. Marketing is different.
Amy: If you want to work with a specific brand, pay attention to your competition. Which other bloggers are working with these brands already. Look at their stats. Ask if they'd be willing to share. Some people won't share, but some are fine with it. Say, "Am I on that level? Can I approach them? Can I ask for payment?" or "I am above that. I'm going to ask for more." or "I need to work on this and that before I can ask them."
I hate to say competition. Blogging is a friendly and collegial community, but pay attention to the others who are doing what you want to do in the space.
Monica: I want to expand the concept of competition. Look across the board. As a stylist, it is competitive as I look at what I'm charging. I want to get an understanding of all the pricing that's out there to see where exactly I fit. You also get a better feel for what your audience is, what your target is, and what your audience is.
There has to be a realistic match between the brand, your reader, and you.
Ana: There's another term called added value. When you go to an advertising agency. In addition to advertising and sponsored posts, companies are looking at added value. Are you part of a niche group? Are you part of an Indie designers? Do you reach a special demographic? There's a huge need for hair bloggers. That field is huge, especially in the African American market. There is an influence. If you're part of any niche, that can be added value to a brand. They're not just buying an ad with you but reaching an extended audience beyond your blog.
Cecily: Here's what I don't do for free: I do not run press releases on my blog. There's no value for me or my readers. My readers don't give a shit. I am not traditional media in that I have space I need to fill. I'm not a hyperlocal blog that talks about events in the neighborhood. I don't ever run them.
I don't ever write for anyone for free. I support my family. I have a mortgage, and I have to earn a living. Some products are nice, but they don't pay my bills. I don't do reviews because they're a lot of work and most review items are not high in value. When sleep number called, I said, "hell yeah! I will take that bed."
I do email them and say, "Thanks for reaching out. I'm not a good fit for this," when I get a press release or a product review request.
You have to decide what you're willing to do for free. I wrote about the Obama campaign for free. I do social good stuff for free.
Monica: The bottom line is that you have to value your services and make other people value your services.
Amy: Anything given away for free does not have value. One of the things I obsess about is that if you want someone to pay attention to you and treat like you like a professional and give you money, then you'd better be worth it. There are a lot of bloggers who aren't. Their content is crap or they don't blog enough. What makes you stand out from the crowd? YOu have to own it and you HAVE TO SELL IT.
Cecily knows exactly what she does, and because of that, she gets attention and people want to work with her.
I get very little attention from companies, but the ones who do love me. I know what it is about me that makes me special. I know what my audience wants to hear. You've got to find out what sets you apart from every single person doing the same thing.
Ana: I've heard this from bloggers before. We all have bills to play. If you're treating this as a business, treat it as a business. Tell the business why you deserve money. If you want to make a business out of this, you have to be a business. IF you don't get an opportunity, it's your brand, not you personally.
Get your blog ready for this level of earning.
Monica: Blogging is a business if you want it to be.
Cecily: My blog is my fun place. The other stuff I do is my business.
Ana: Some people just want to go to events. Their readers just want to know when they go to events.
Monica: So it's the concept of blogging as a business. What are the other ways of earning money besides just blogging?
Cecily: The way I earn my living is I write. I write for other sites. It's a great way to make money. You have limitations that the other sites put on you. I also do social media consulting. I am good at this little sliver of social media consulting. I am good at doing outreach for products mom like to moms.
Just because you know how to run a Twitter account and you know how to blog, you can't say that your' a social media consultant. I've got 15 years of marketing and PR experience, but I know just this tiny amount.
Ana: I think it's very respectful and will open more doors if you're very realistic about what you can do. Quantify. "I was able to take a Facebook page from 0 to 500 fans in 3 months." Make sure that you can open up a door with some experience to back it up.
Amy: I make my money from writing. I got an English degree and I use it. I write for BabyCenter and places that aren't even online. You can also be a paid ambassador and have a longterm relationship with a company..
Cecily: Make sure it's a brand you want to be associated with. Choose wisely.
Amy: I look around and see way too many social media gurus. It's hard and chances are you don't know what you're doing. You have to constantly prove your value. You have to think about 3 things. You have to be able to write. You have to be good at customer service because companies are using Twitter for customer service. You have to be good at marketing. You have to be good at sales and marketing.
Cecily: That doesn't mean you don't have skills. You probably are awesome. Know what you are good at. Know your niche and work within that niche to expand it.
Ana: If you want to do social media, you have to have PR or marketing background. If you don't, you are going to fail miserably.
Monica: Stay in your lane. Know your services. Know what you're good at. When you think of how to price and value your services, what are the takeaways you want to relate?
Cecily: One thing I did when I talk about consulting, I figure out my flat rate for a package. I Figure out what I want to get paid per hour and how many hours it will take. That's my project cost. Or I might work at an hourly rate.
Ana: What is your added value? Remember to include networks and what else you're willing to do and what you're willing to offer the brand. Make sure your brand matches the brand you want to work with.
Amy: Know your product. Know why your product is superior to other similar products. Know what the market value of your product is. If you don't ask, you don't get. Don't be afraid to start asking brands if they will work with you. Don't be afraid to ask a fellow blogger to help you promote yourself.
Monica: Consider different pricing strategies. Everything from tiers to hourly to project-based. When you price, price so that it hurts a little. We undervalue ourselves. If you don't value yourself, no one else will value you. Make it a little uncomfortable.
A question from Twitter is - where do you go to get someone else's blog stats?
Cecily: Compete.com (1/5 to 1/6 of the actual numbers), Quantcast, and Alexa
Audience: For ads, when you're saying know what people around you are making, how do you find out what other bloggers charge?
Amy: Just ask for their rate sheet. Don't tell them that you're a blogger. Just ask for their rate sheet.
Ana: If you're part of a network, ask within your network.
Audience: I've had people asking me to do guest posts. Do I talk to them and ask if I can be paid?
Cecily: Guest posts on other sites are a great way to drive traffic and get awareness. IF you're willing to take the time to write the posts, it can be fun.
If someone offers you a guest post to publish on your blog, they're fishing for free links.
Ana: Get it in writing. "I'll do 2 free guest posts but my 3 will be $whatever."
Small Business Development Center has free lawyers. You just have to reserve time for them to help you review a contract.
Cecily: @DanielleLiss is a lawyer with experience in digital marketing. She's a blogger who understands that bloggers need lawyer help. She's working out a business where she will consult with bloggers.
Google assigns page rank to every site on the internet. You can Google how to find Page Rank. It's a number between 1 and 10. Wikipedia is a 10.
Audience: I have an hourly rate for the B2B field. I am a professional writer, but do I charge different rates in blogging?
Monica: Absolutely. I charge one rate for style and fashion. You might charge a different rate to write about mouse pads. I might discount if I'm writing in something that's not my area of expertise.
Cecily: Online only places pay 1/4 to 1/8 of what print media pays.
Amy: The price I charge at a huge international corporation versus the price I charge for a review post are VASTLY different. You have got to price for your market. Charge what the market will bear.
Ana: Go to Freelance.com and check out the competition.
Monica: Would you post a rate card on a blog or insist that people ask for it by email?
Cecily: YES. It's totally your preference.
Amy: Companies don't laugh at Klout, so we all need to stop.
Ana: You can change the topics you're influential about. If Klout says you're influential about prostates, delete that! Add whatever topic you want, and then ask people to give you +Ks.
Cecily: You can form a Klout group and give each other +Ks in what you want to be influential in. It's gaming it, sorry brand people. You can help it along.
Ana: You don't even have to do a group, just give each other Klout in things you've written about.
Amy: Klout is a new tool. It's not gaming the system at all. You're just helping Klout to get smarter and better.
Audience: If people aren't clicking on ads, why would you want to have an ad network?
Cecily: Are you getting paid?
Cecily: People who have a ton of traffic get money from ad networks. I took network ads off of my blog because it wasn't worth it to me.
Audience: What are the key things to offer in exchange for going to a blog conference?
Cecily: Don't ever tell them that you're going to bring your kids.
Ana: Be as professional and concise as possible. What is your added value? What can you offer? In PR, we quantify an ad with a potential value. If the brand is going to place an ad, what is the value? How are they saving money by sponsoring you?
Cecily: Respect the conference's rules on being sponsored. You can't hijack the conference's hashtag. Respect the rules and know the rules. Don't show up with bags of swag to hand out or you'll be escorted out of the conference.
Audience: I come from a magazine background where editorial and advertising are church and state. How can bloggers accept money for coverage?
Ana: Bloggers are not journalists. They do not abide by the same rules that journalists do. Don't ever position yourself as a journalist. If you do, you're lying.
Cecily: The key to taking money for coverage is to have 100% authenticity.
Monica: Tell the truth (even if it's bad). If it's something that you wanted, tell why you wanted it. Tell why you liked it. Have a good fit with the brand.
Amy: If someone is giving you a product for free, you can write whatever you want about it. If someone pays you to write about something, they get to dictate some of the content. It might still be a review, but it might be a different kind of review.