Writing For “Exposure”

This post might turn away some, quote unquote, potential clients lol.

But I’m writing this because y’all know I’ve always been real/honest in this space. I’m not an influencer or someone with millions of followers/monthly views. This was, is, and for the near foreseeable future, a personal blog that I started as a way to pen down my thoughts, reviews and travels. 90% of the content isn’t sponsored and comes out of my own pocket (the 10% comes from work, but it’s always my personal take on it separate from the stuff I write for work). I don’t even earn enough from ads to pay for annual hosting lol (read about how much I ‘earn’ here).

But I have been blogging consistently since 2009, and the only reason is because I like it. Why else would I invest so much time and energy to craft posts? Contrary to popular belief, it takes time to sit down and write a post, edit the photos to go with them (which I do – not at the level of a Photoshop guru lol but to make them more presentable) and make sure everything comes together cohesively. I certainly don’t pull stories out of my ass. I work two jobs – one full time and one part time, both of which involve writing. There are days I’m so mentally drained I don’t feel like writing anything at all. But this is a ‘baby’ that I’ve put effort into maintaining and some readers (that’s you!) actually find the information useful/entertaining/etc, so that keeps me going.

Now, to the topic of guest posts. 

I have nothing against guest posts. Guest posts are an awesome way to promote each other, especially if you’re new to blogging. I’ve personally done several guest posts for other blogs in my early days. They’re usually those WordPress ‘Blogger Awards’ where you get asked a bunch of questions like “What’s your favourite place to go for pizza?” and you get to answer them so your readers can know you better (I recently did one for Worriless Wanderer which was an interview about life in Malaysia, and I had a tonne of fun doing it) ! Or, people request to re-share your existing content on their blogs – I would consider that a guest post.

What I do have a problem with is companies who request you to ‘guest post’, and by that I mean basically do work for them for free, in exchange for ‘exposure’. In the wild, people die of exposure because they’re exposed to the elements. On the Internet, writers who write for a living die from exposure because nobody is willing to pay them what they’re worth.

I recently got an email from one of these companies, which I will not name here, because maybe they didn’t mean anything by it and are just ignorant/unaware since everyone else is doing it, but bad practice is bad practice and should be highlighted as such. They were polite enough, but the issue isn’t about politeness – it’s about how companies genuinely think that ‘exposure’ is a legit form of compensation for the time/money/effort someone puts into writing.

Opened the email: it was a long one with the usual template – we’re launching our website (it’s a commercial one selling travel bags/accessories), we came across your site, like your work, would like to engage you as a guest blogger.

The red flag came because there was no mention of any form of compensation – be it in affiliate links, payment, or at least a free sample of the product to test out. What they did say was “We can both gain exposure”. 

The cherry on the cake was their list of ‘submission requirements’, ie they needed me to

  1. write new, unpublished content about travel
  2. provide blog drafts with a minimum of 600 words 
  3. provide images per blog in high resolution
  4. include a line in the story on how I relate to their company, a product that I like and put in a link to their website.

K. Let me just break this down point by point.

Point 1: 

You want good content? Brainpower. Energy. Snacks from the pantry while I write. All that requires effort, time, and in some cases, money. On top of my eight hour job, I spend two hours or more a day (including some weekends) writing part time … and I earn from that. Tell me why I should forgo that and do your work for you, for FREE, when a decent company actually values my skills and pays me to do it.

I wouldn’t be so salty if they had simply requested to repost stuff I already have on my blog – but they’re asking me to write new, unpublished content altogether. I don’t pull stories out of my ass.

There’s loads of existing stuff on my blog which I can share, for free. Yep. All you have to do is ask nicely, and credit me in the byline. But nope. You want a brand new piece, an exclusive one. It’s like me opening up a stall giving away samples, you coming up and saying “Hey, I like it, can you make a new one for me?” “Sure, what will you pay for it?”

“How about exposure?”

How about no? 

Point 2 / 3 : 

Sounds like more work for no pay. Ha.

Point 4: 

This was the kicker for me. First of all, you have not even offered to at least provide a sample of what your product is about, so I can do a review or whatevs. Nope. You want me to relate how my travel experiences are and add a good line in for you for no compensation whatsoever, when I haven’t even tested your product. I mean, I’m not sure how good your products are. They could be shit for all I know.


They added this as a parting shot: “If the content is good and fits the theme well, (Company) will want to continue to work with you.” Insert smiley face.

My two cents of advice for companies out there:

Compensate writers. It doesn’t matter how you do it. It’s best if you pay them for what they’re worth, of course, but it can be something as simple as an affiliate link where they earn a little by redirecting people from their site to yours. Or even a product for them to review. Then the writers/bloggers themselves can decide if it’s worth their time and energy to write a post for you.

PS: If this is how you intend to go about your business in your early stages (they told me they are just starting up), I’d hate to imagine how you’d be like when you’ve grown. If you fail to invest (in this case, investing in the right core values)… you’re investing to fail.

PS2: Did you also pay your photographer for your product catalogue with exposure?

PS3: Update Looked up the guy who contacted me and realised he’s a photographer. Wow, I mean, I understand a lot of people who think writers work for free aren’t in the creative industry, but you are one yourself and somehow you have no respect for other creatives? Are you also okay working with clients for exposure? Ask yourself that.

PS4: **A summary of my feelings via Cyanide and Happiness

And for my fellow writers, you don’t have to sell yourself so low. Have some faith in your work, and always go by the rule, “never ask, never know”. If for any reason you do wish to provide free writing for exposure, be sure to measure the returns – if it really is going to be pay off in the long run, or if you’re just going to end up broke and unappreciated.






5 thoughts on “Writing For “Exposure”

  1. I’m seeing a lot of this “write for exposure” phenomena here on WordPress. Content mill sites tap the sheer supply of bloggers here (and they’re a dime a dozen), promising them a wide audience. Heck, I even received an offer – but I ripped the poor soul a new asshole.
    I pity those starting bloggers who give in to these offers, to be honest. They end up working hard for no pay (yeah, exposure will feed you three times a day) while the slave master rakes in the revenue from their published posts.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.